The Gallery course favors him, but . . .
It’s really a ridiculous concept. Would you collectively take 63 of the world’s best golfers or would you take one single, solitary guy named Tiger Woods in an unpredictable match play format?
That’s the burning question as they all prepare to tee off Wednesday at one of the premier events of the year – the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Tiger or the field?
Tom Tatum, the head pro at the Randolph Golf Complex, paused before answering.
“Uh, that’s close,” he said. “I think I’m a little favoring the field right now. Tiger is awesome in match play, but I would still have the take the field.”
Well, sure, that’s the smart play, and there aren’t many dummies in golf.
Sixty-three versus one isn’t normally a fair fight. Picking the “one” usually is a bit nuts.
But consider that the past seven times Tiger has taken on the field in an official PGA Tour event, albeit in stroke play, he has ended up pumping his fist and holding a trophy at the end.
“But if there is one event that might be tough to win, if not the toughest, this is it,” said J.J. Henry, who has the honor of playing Woods in the first round.
Clicking around the gambling underbelly of the Internet Monday afternoon didn’t reveal any betting odds posted yet on who is going to win this match play tournament at The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain, but check out the early odds on the Masters:
Woods is a 7-5 favorite on one site and an 11-10 betting proposition on another. That tells you what you need to know. Give or take, he’s nearly 50-50 to win in Augusta.
Tiger or the field? It’s about a tossup.
“You can never bet against Tiger and really be able to explain your position with any kind of logic,” said Wade Dunagan, project manager for The Gallery.
“The field is very strong, but I think Tiger wants this one because of a couple of less than Tigeresque performances in match play in the past.”
Woods, after winning this event in 2003 and 2004, lost in the second round in 2005 and was sent home in the third round last year.
Woods got his first look at the South Course at The Gallery on Monday afternoon, teeing off about 1 p.m. for a practice round. Fans who braved the windy, chilly conditions scrambled to follow as word spread of a Tiger sighting.
Most of the world’s best played the course for the first time Monday, and the newness of the venue is yet another variable this week.
The layout, expected to yield bushels of birdies, isn’t exactly Tiger-proofed – yet what course is? And we’re not talking about one of those tricked-out fantasy courses on his video game where you have to hit through ancient ruins and over lava.
Neither should be an issue this week. Let’s see . . .
The South Course at The Gallery is said to favor long hitters (Tiger, check) because the par 5s are reachable in two shots for the longest hitters. Tiger, and other power players, can bomb for the green on the par-4 seventh and 12th holes.
The course also is said to favor golfers who hit high approach shots (Tiger, check), the better to plop the ball gently on the fast, turtleback greens that could repel shots hit to the edges.
Still, it’s not as if everyone else out here is Joe 8-Handicap.
“My impression is that European players are more conducive to the match play format,” said Michael Haywood, the director of golf at Tucson Country Club.
“Their style of play is based on playing conservative and then being aggressive when needed. I’d say the Europeans would be the ones to watch.”
Paul Noonan, the golf pro at Silverbell Golf Course, is another who, somewhat reluctantly, took the field over Tiger, who would have to win six matches in five days to win the tournament.
“It’s going to be really tough to go through the entire field,” he said. “At some point, he might have a poor round or the guy he’s playing might be really hot.
“But I never doubt Tiger.”
I’ll take Tiger.
No. 1-seed Tiger Woods: This is only the second PGA Tour event he has played this season. He won the Buick Open at Torrey Pines and is on a seven-tournament winning streak on the U.S. tour. First round: vs. J.J. Henry
No. 12-seed Charles Howell III: Finally broke back into the winner’s circle, besting Phil Mickelson in a playoff Sunday at the Nissan Open for his second career victory. Also has two runner-up finishes this year. First round: vs. Stuart Appleby
No. 9-seed Robert Allenby: Has played in four events this season and has been in the top 10 every time. Could face Tiger Woods in a super second-round matchup. First round: vs. Tim Clark
MORE GOLF, Page 4C
No. 8-seed Tim Clark. Was second at the Masters last year but has yet to play this season because of a neck injury. First round: vs. Robert Allenby
No. 8-seed Michael Campbell. The 2005 U.S. Open winner suffered a shoulder injury this month and withdrew from the final round of the Malaysian Open after shooting a 78. First round: vs. Justin Rose
No. 12-seed Arron Oberholser. Has been battling bulging disks in his back and has played only one competitive round all year, back in early January. First round: vs. David Toms
Where: South Course at The Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Marana, par 72, 7,466 yards.
When: Wednesday-Sunday (practice today)
Who: top 64 players in world rankings
TV: Wednesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. (live, Golf Channel), 5:30-9:30 p.m. (replay, Golf Channel. Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-noon (Golf Channel), noon-4 p.m. (NBC). Purse: $8 million