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Gimino: Match Play’s luster dims without Woods

There are great golfers and then there are golf stars, and the Accenture Match Play Championship is running short of the latter.

So, who do you want to see in Sunday’s final now?

Phil Mickelson vs. Jim Furyk?

I suppose a 36-hole match between two venerable Americans would work just fine – especially around these parts, given the Arizona State vs. Arizona subplot – but NBC might want to have tape of last year’s final ready just in case.

And that’s the best-case scenario.

With three more rounds to go before the final, and Tiger Woods sent home to the wife and kids Thursday by the precision of Tim Clark, there are, regrettably, increasing chances for many of us to get yard work done this weekend rather than watch golf.

Clark vs. Peter Hanson in the final? Could happen.

Cue the Tiger replays from his championship last year!

Clark’s 4 and 2 victory was thoroughly deserved, no flukes about it. But his defeat of Mr. Nike Swoosh created a big whoosh – the sound of the excitement being sucked from the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain.

This is a truly international event, with 19 countries represented at the start of the 64-player tournament, but Woods has been the worldwide lead from Japan to Europe to Australia since he stepped out with the sun for a practice round Tuesday morning.

About 150 of the 525 media credentials issued for the event were handed out after Woods announced last Thursday he would make this his comeback event from last summer’s knee surgery.

With Tiger, the Golf Channel had record-breaking ratings Wednesday for a first-round Tour event.

Without Tiger, does everybody head back to the airport at the same time?

Instead of the Golf Channel beginning its noon coverage with the start of Woods’ round, it will go with Ian Poulter vs. Sean O’Hair. Oh, joy.

It’s like tuning in for Oklahoma-Texas football and getting Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Arkansas State.

In the fickleness of match play, you get what you get.

Some years you get Tiger in the final. Some years you get Kevin Sutherland.

Where’s Keifer Sutherland when you need him to save something?

What we don’t have after two rounds are any of the tournament’s four No. 1 seeds.

Woods, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh. Gone, gone, gone, gone.

Only two No. 2 seeds remain – Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy.

Only one No. 3 seed – Camilo Villegas – is still standing.

Twenty-one of the top 30 players have the weekend off. Just because golf has parity doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Mickelson is now the big draw, but he’s as reliable in match play as the stock market in a recession. He has played this event nine previous times, navigating his personal roller coaster to the quarterfinals just once.

The right side of the 64-player bracket – just like an NCAA Tournament – is a disaster.

Only one of the top 10 players in that half of the draw is still playing. That would be Furyk. Steady, good-guy, major-winning Furyk. The TV-viewing public might suggest he’s as bland as bran.

That said, he’d be a rock star compared with the status of Englishman Oliver Wilson, who, unless you’re a true golf-o-phile, you’ve never heard of.

I’m now rooting for Rory McIlroy, who looks every bit as young as his 19 years. The teenager from Northern Ireland beat a star-filled field earlier this month at the Dubai Desert Classic for his first pro title.

In what would have been the match of the day, McIlroy could have faced Woods in the third round, throwing down his bid to be the new, true challenger to the throne.

Instead, McIlroy gets Clark, a South African who lives in Scottsdale.

“I’ll be the first to say if I stood on the first tee with Tiger I would be intimidated because he has been a hero of mine for the past I don’t know how many years,” McIlroy said.

“It would have been great to play him, but maybe another time.”

Let’s make it a date for next year. It can’t come soon enough.

Accenture Match Play Championship second round

Tiger Woods lost to Tim Clark at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain Thursday afternoon. Woods lost in the second round of competition. Woods was competing in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana.

All four number one seeds have been eliminated. Phil Michelson and Geoff Ogilvy, who are both number two seeds, are still in the tournament.

Producer: VAL CANEZ/Tucson Citizen

Slide 1 of 18 [Next | Previous].
Tiger Woods leaves the No. 16 hole after losing to Tim Clark at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain Thursday afternoon. Woods lost in the second round of competition. Woods was competing in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in Marana.
Source: VAL CANEZ/Tucson Citizen



When: Through Sunday

Where: Marana’s Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain

Tickets: $45. Available at Welcome Center (take bus from parking lot) at Tangerine Road and I-10

Purse: $8.5 million (winner gets $1.35 million)


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