Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's the beauty of match play golf

That didn’t take long.

Tiger Woods played exactly 34 holes over two days and he’s already been dispatched from the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, throwing a pile of NBC television executives into a sobbing heap with their sure-fire ratings bonanza blown up before someone named Ross Fisher could be eliminated.

Far too much will be read into the fact that the great comeback ended so suddenly but, the bottom is, that’s the nature of match play golf.

It doesn’t mean there’s a reason to worry about Tiger. He’s gotten knocked out of this tournament far more often than he’s won it. Just ask Nick O’Hern or Peter O’Malley or Darren Clarke.

The beauty of match play is if one guy plays well and the other doesn’t, that’s it. There’s no playing to make the cut and seeing what you can do on the weekend.

And for the all the surprise about Tiger losing 4 and 2 to Tim Clark, it’s not a huge surprise.

Clark is among the better players in the world, even if he can walk into any McDonald’s in the world and not be recognized. The former N.C. State golfer had played Tiger in this event before, knew what he was up against and knew how to handle it.

“You either let it get the best of you or you thrive on it,” Clark told reporters after his victory.

He didn’t thrive on it.

He glowed like a Las Vegas night.

It helped that Clark played well and Tiger didn’t. Clark won two par-5s in the decisive portion of the match, something you never expect to happen against Tiger. But it did and now Clark is suddenly more famous.

“That’s big but at the end of the day, it’s still just the second round,” Clark said.

True but for a guy who keeps being forced to answer questions about why he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour, this win gives people something else to talk about.

As for Tiger, he’ll be fine.

Before the event, he said he wanted to test himself in competition again and he got his answer. He’s not as sharp as he wants to be.

He’ll look at this week for a while but his attention is focused on April. When he rolls into Augusta National, that’s when he wants to be ready.

I’m guessing he will be.