Wednesday, February 23, 2011

On Tiger's Loss, Rory's Little Jab and Seeing Dove Mountain

   Observations from the first day of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, a little bonus day built into my assignment covering the NASCAR race in Phoenix this weekend:

   -- No sooner had Tiger Woods given us an old Tiger moment -- making an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to extend his first-round match against Thomas Bjorn -- than he gave us another moment, this time with the new Tiger.

    After seeing him do a baby fist pump after holing his birdie putt to stay alive at 18, it was shocking to see him blow a tee shot into the desert along the right side of the first hole. The reason he was in trouble against Bjorn was primarily due to his short game, which cost him a couple of holes, and then his driver deserted him again.

   If he's truly on the way back, Woods needs to produce a tournament that makes it easier to believe. It's one thing to hope. It's something else to believe it. I'm not sure how much he believes in his game right now. He needs some positive feedback and he's not getting it right now, not in tournaments.

  -- It's the nature of a match-play bracket that the field gets whittled away in a hurry, still it's odd to see Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Ian Poulter and Dustin Johnson, among others, dispatched immediately.
   And what's up with Furyk's suddenly shaky game?

  -- Rory McIlroy wasn't trying to rip anybody but he got a dig in, anyway, when he was asked Wednesday about how comfortable the young players seem to be facing Woods and Phil Mickelson, among others.

   McIlroy said, "Phil hasn't gotten any worse (but) Tiger's not as dominant as he used to be and Phil won the Masters last year."

   It drew chuckles in the media room and a sheepish shrug from McIlroy but he's not wrong.

   -- I'm interested to see what happens in the Mickelson-Rickie Fowler second-round match. Fowler is one of those young players who plays with an older head on his shoulders. This could be a big moment for him.

   -- The golf course at Dove Mountain is striking to look at, framed as it is by mountains and cactus but it's the epitome of target golf. Miss a fairway or many of the greens and your ball will wind up in the desert. Just ask Tiger.

     It's so different from what we see and play in the Carolinas. It can't help but have an artificial look about it because there's no grass in the desert except the fairways.