The eye of the Tiger prevails at Accenture Match Play
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2004 Accenture Match Play Championship | Wrap | 01 Mar 2004
It is often said that the match play format in golf is the ultimate test of one on one golf. It allows one player to look the other in the eye as early as the first tee and make a statement.
Certainly Tiger Woods has indicated previously and again this week that he loves the match-play format. He is very much the type of individual who would look his opponent squarely in the eye on the first tee and just like the man he is challenging for the greatest ever golfer, Jack Nicklaus, most opponents would already feel on the back foot from that point.
His win in today’s final came at the expense of the number five golfer in the world, Davis Love III. It was vintage Woods in so many ways, fighting a wayward tee to green game but finding a way to make it happen with a short game to die for. Woods’ putting today was outstanding, that aspect of his game eventually wearing down a determined opponent in Love.
An early Love birdie at the very first hole saw him take the lead and it would take Woods until the 25th hole for him to edge ahead for the first time. There were never more than two holes in it until that point, the match see-sawing between a narrow Love lead and all square.
When Woods birdied the 25th and 26th he drew ahead for the first time and when Love was unable to match Woods’ par at the 27th, he had allowed the defending champion a 3 up lead that would not be narrowed. They would match strides from that point until the match was brought to an end at the 34th with Woods winning 3 and 2.
For Woods it was a brilliant victory. Everyone wants Tigers’ scalp but wanting and getting are two different things when it comes to the games current best. His first round win over 2002 Canadian Open winner John Rollins highlighted early in the week that he would find a way to win irrespective of the circumstances. Two down with just four to play, he fought his way back squaring the match at the 17th, then winning the last to get ahead when it counted.
Woods admitted he was not yet at his best especially when his ball striking in the final was ordinary. He spent the lunch break in today’s final working on his game but it took only a few minutes to sort it out. He said later that he went back to basics ensuring his posture was correct and his alignment was correct and then it would be just of case of letting rip.
An incident at the second in the afternoon may well have had an impact on the match. A heckler targeted Love at that stage and the impact was immediate with Love losing that hole and appearing a little shaken. The heckler was eventually moved three holes later, but if the culprit’s agenda was to ensure a Woods victory, then the damage had already been done. To Woods’ credit he consoled Love and was sympathetic to his predicament conceding a putt to him at the 21st that, in other circumstances, he may have been made to finish out.
In the playoff for third and fourth, Darren Clarke continued his success at the event winning 2 up at the last hole of his 18 hole match with Stephen Leaney. Leaney was up early but the man from Northern Ireland and previous winner of this event, discovered his swing and said by the end of the round he was swinging the club as well as he had all week.
Leaney’s giant killing run, which had included the scalps of Mike Weir and Colin Montgomerie, had been brought to an end but for the rookie on the PGA Tour this was a performance that already has him within striking distance of full playing privileges for next year. His cheque for $US430,000 now has him at $503,000 for the season and he will likely only need another $100,000 to be back again in 2005. It is a fair bet however to suggest that he has higher goals than that. Following on from his good finish at the Buick Invitational, it has been an impressive start to his USPGA Tour campaign.
He said later that he could now look at revamping his schedule for later in the year in the hope that he would not need to play as many events as he initially thought.
The event has gained much since its shaky start back in 1999 when two rather obscure players in Jeff Maggert and Andrew Magee, fought out the final. Having the world number one win the last two years has given the event a great boost and the final between the world number one and four, a fitting climax to a great week.
Of the other Australasians, Michael Campbell was out in round one to Chris DiMarco, Peter Lonard made it to round two before losing to John Huston, Allenby and Appleby both out in round two also and Adam Scott making it to the third round via his win over Allenby, before losing to Davis Love III.
The PGA Tour now heads to Florida for the Ford Championship, the European Tour heading to Dubai for the Dubai Desert Classic, which will feature this week’s winner, Tiger Woods.