Tiger Woods ready for WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play after six-year hiatus
AUSTIN, Texas – The eyes of Tiger were upon Austin Country Club the last two days as Woods readied himself to play in Texas for the first time in 14 years.
Woods saw the home of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play for the first time Monday when he played the front nine. Tuesday, he took in the back nine with Bryson DeChambeau, intently studying the course each day.
“Well, it’s not flat, I’ll tell you that,” Woods laughed. “It’s got quite a bit of movement to it. And it’s a great match-play course. I can see why the guys like it.
“You’ll see some high numbers here, and you’ll see a lot of birdies. That’s exactly what a good match play course does. It’s an interesting golf course.
“There’s going to be a lot of interesting lies and shapes. It’s a good walk.”
Tiger Woods plays a practice round on Tuesday ahead of the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Warren Little, Getty Images)
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While Woods was one of four players in this year’s field who played in the inaugural WGC match-play event in 1999, the others being Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Lee Westwood, he hasn’t played in the tournament since he lost in the first round to Charles Howell III in 2013.
How Woods has missed it so. He showed his dominance in the format when he won the event in 2003, 2004 and 2008. He also won three consecutive U.S. Junior Amateur titles and three consecutive U.S. Amateur titles. So as he tended to numerous injuries that curtailed his play starting in 2014, most notably with his back, Woods missed the strategy and mano-a-mano style of match play.
“I’m looking forward to the fact that I just get to focus on one guy,” said Woods, who has won a record 18 WGC titles. “Each and every shot is different, and you don’t really care what the rest of the field is doing. I just have to beat the guy standing in front of me.”
And there are so many ways to beat just one guy.
Tiger driving the 13th green ?#DellMatchPlaypic.twitter.com/G09pLE9tFW
“That’s the beauty of match play because there is no definitive answer” on how to play, Woods said. “You can’t put blinders on and play your own game, but also I can’t look at my opponent the entire time. It’s the ebb and flow of each and every shot, and each and every hole is its own match.
“And that’s something that for the better part of most of my career I’ve been good at. To feel what I need to do in that particular moment. Some moments it’s just put the hammer down, we’ve got to be aggressive. And other times it’s we’ve got to play conservative off the tees, conservative on the greens, because my opponent is in trouble. That’s all ebb and flow.
“It’s a very fluid environment.”
Woods, ranked No. 14 in the world, said the neck strain that forced him to withdraw from the Arnold Palmer Invitational three weeks ago is gone. He finished in a tie for 30th the following week in The Players Championship, and said he’s coming off a good week of rest and practice.
So he’s in good spirits and in good health heading into his first start in Texas since he missed the cut in the 2005 AT&T Byron Nelson, which ended his record of 142 consecutive made cuts, a stretch that spanned seven years.
The winner of 80 PGA Tour titles is hoping to make the cut out of pool play in his last tournament before the Masters. He has to get through Aaron Wise, Brandt Snedeker and Patrick Cantlay to move into the elimination rounds.
Woods, who won his three match-play titles when the format was single elimination, faces Wise, the 2018 PGA Tour rookie of the year, on Wednesday, Snedeker on Thursday and Cantlay on Friday.
If Woods and Rory McIlroy were to advance out of pool play, the two would face each other Saturday morning.
“This round-robin format being here for three days is a little bit different,” Woods said. “Also, the fact there’s no 36-hole final is a little bit different. So this is a new event. A new format for me.
“I don’t really know the intricacies of it all. I just know that I need to win all three matches, and I move on. It’s not real complicated. Play well and take care of the guy in front of me.”
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