Buick Invitational round one: Troy Matteson shines but Tiger Woods is on his tail
Not only was Troy Matteson’s seven under on the south course the most surprising round of the day, the manner of it was even more startling. No one else among Thursday’s leaders came close to his stats - top ten in all the key disciplines.
But he is by no means an unlikely leader - he was the choice of at least one prominent tipster for the Hope last week because his record shows a predilection for the pro-am format, including his win two years ago at Las Vegas. A week ago he never recovered from a horrendous opening round of 78 and missed the four-round cut. That round no doubt helped to put him outside the top 100 for putting coming into this week. Thursday he was seventh.
Of course we all know what happens after a great round, but what distinguishes Matteson’s is that it is one of only two in the top 12 to have been done on the tough south course, playing more than two strokes more difficult than the north. In the two years he has played the north, Matteson has carded a 68 and a 67. With the kind of game he is displaying at the moment, maybe he can go even lower.
Joining him, of course, will be the only other in that top 12 from the south course, Tiger Woods. He might moan about his tee shots only finding half the fairways, but the rest of his game looks in rude enough health, so there is no reason to expect him not to break par on the north Friday. Mind you, he hasn’t always overwhelmed it in the last eight years - 71 70 66 70 68 63 71 66.
Phil Mickelson for one might be in for a tiny shock Friday, because he seemed under the impression the poor weather had levelled the difficulty of the two courses somewhat. Like a lot of players he squandered the opportunity the north gives even in bad weather to bang home a good score.
I would expect the pack to reshuffle quite a bit Friday. I suspect Rory Sabbatini for one might find the south a handful. Only once since 2000 has he broken 70. What might be worth a punter’s while is to look at some of those switching to the north with a chance of playing catchup, like Chris DiMarco, who had the makings of a solid round until undone by a couple of bogeys towards the end, Jeff Quinney, who was 7th here last year, and Robert Allenby, 9th last year.
As for the weekend, the weathermen are predicting gloom and doom so it’ll probably be playing even longer and softer.
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