Tiger Woods likely will face Brendan Jones of Australia when he returns to competition for the first time in more than eight months. If a golfer drops out, Woods would face Australia’s Richard Green.
Either way, it’s not the greatest omen for the world’s No. 1 player at next week’s Accenture Match Play Championship.
Three of Tiger’s six losses in Match Play have come against Aussies, two of those to Nick O’Hern in the second round in 2005 and 2007. The other was a first-round loss to Peter O’Malley in 2002.
“I don’t doubt his game will be ready,” Stuart Appleby said Thursday. “Unless he plays an Aussie.”
Aussie Appleby laughed when told Woods was set to face Jones, who played one year on the PGA Tour and finished 144th on the money list. Jones has played most of his career in Japan, where he has won eight times.
Woods is 5-3 against Australians at the Match Play, beating Stephen Leaney twice, Adam Scott, Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley.
The other top seeds are Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh, who has missed the cut in his last two events since returning from minor knee surgery in January.
If Woods were to win his opening match, his next opponent could be the winner between Tim Clark and Retief Goosen.
Just Goose being silly
A Woods-Goosen match might be interesting based on the South African’s comments last year. A few days after Woods won the U.S. Open, where he winced and limped throughout the weekend in what ended in a dramatic playoff win, Goosen questioned the seriousness of the injury.
“Nobody really knows if he was just showing off or he was really injured,” Goosen said on the day before Woods announced he was having season-ending knee surgery. “I believe if he was really injured, he would not have played.”
Goosen later said he was only joking.
What has Britain atwitter is the possibility of Woods’ match against 19-year-old Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in the third round, if they both win their matches – and if the brackets are not changed.
If you believe in momentum, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson could come into next week’s Match Play with a chance to do some damage.
Both players are in contention for the title this weekend at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.
Stricker trails leader Scott McCarron by two strokes, and Mickelson is three back heading into Saturday. McCarron (10-under-par 132) birdied No. 18 on Friday to finish with a 3-under 68.
“This is the first time I’m in contention heading into the weekend, and I’m excited about it,” said Mickelson, who shot a 72 after a first round of 63.
Stricker had a 66 to get into contention, which was important for his psyche. A month ago, he had the lead at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic on Sunday until a quadruple bogey at No. 10. And the next week, he missed the cut.
“I’ve had to pick myself up a number of times out here on tour, so I’m used to it,” he said.
Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old sensation from Japan, had a 71 to finish at 2-over 144 and miss the cut by three shots.
In other tournaments:
• Vicente Fernandez and ex-Arizona Wildcat Don Pooley shot 4-under 68s to share the Champions first-round lead in The ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla.
• American Anthony Kang, the Malaysian Open winner last week, shot his second straight 5-under 67 for a share of the second-round lead in the Johnnie Walker Classic with Ireland’s Damien McGrane in Australia.
They treat you right
There are reasons far beyond golf to go to Marana’s Ritz-Carlton Golf Course, which will be open to the public through next January after the Match Play Championship.
They treat you right. The $225 current rate includes a caddie. They have valet parking, quick service at the bar and locker room attendants ready to meet your every need. Including tips, you probably will shell out a cool $300, but it’s worth it.
Easier to walk course
The gallery – and reporters – at the new Ritz-Carlton will have a much easier time of it this year at Match Play.
The Gallery course plays in one huge loop, leaving the turn back toward the clubhouse a long hike from the start. The Ritz course is laid out in three loops, with open areas for the gallery in between. Getting from place to place on the course will be much easier and less time consuming, but bring your walking shoes. It is still a golf course.
By Wire Report, Staff