WGC Accenture Match Play round three: Scintillating Tiger looks well on his way
Out Tucson way it ain’t over till the Coyotes howl, and then some. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in wondering what household chores I should be doing as Vijay Singh and Rod Pampling trudged round those extra holes in seemingly eternal stalemate. I’d picked the American to win, but was just glad someone finally had the nous to finish the job before everyone was engulfed in desert darkness.
Otherwise, what a(nother) splendid day’s golf. Tiger Woods’s tense tussle with Aaron Baddeley will live long in the memory - 12 birdies and still he almost failed to get the job done. That’s the great thing about match play: a superb game by one contestant often brings out the best in his opponent. A pity Paul Casey wasn’t reading the script though. K J Choi was there for the taking and he flunked it. So much for English hearts of oak eh?
Now the extra component is battle fatigue, not just for the quarter finals, but the semis that follow straight after. That’s why, in looking at the quarter-final lineups, I’m paying close attention to each player’s vital birdie count, but also how much golf they already have under their belts. With this in mind, you might find this little table a help.
Jones bracket: Tiger could probably do with a break and he should get one here, relatively speaking. Only in the accuracy of his drives does Choi have the advantage. But from just one more hole played in this tournament, Woods doubles Choi’s birdie count. The Korean has faltered down the home straight twice already. He should be buried Saturday.
Hogan bracket: Henrik Stenson is the clear favourite, but I’m not convinced. Woody Austin loves this format and has proved so good at it that he’s only had to play 48 holes to the Swede’s 61 - and yet he’s equal on birdies. Stenson has a huge ability to grind out victory when defeat would be the easier option, but if there’s a match to catch him out, this could be it.
Player bracket: Vijay Singh’s gritty determination has already seen him go further than I expected, but he’s now played 62 holes, the most in the tournament. Justin Leonard has quietly dispatched his opponents in 12 fewer holes, yet easily beats Vijay’s birdie count. Vijay will have to dig really deep to win this one.
Snead bracket: I don’t like to call this one because on paper it’s the closest of the lot. Angel Cabrera and Stewart Cink have played the same amount of golf (a hole different) and are just about level on the birdie count. For no particular reason other than a reckless desire to buck the trend, I’m going for the underdog to make it an all-American sweep.
Meanwhile, they’re off and running in Mexico again: I can’t keep up! But this is where it gets interesting for leader John Merrick after two bogey-free rounds. He was doing nicely early on last year - just a shot worse off after two rounds in fact - but went into the 70s on both weekend rounds.
His stats so far are pretty good - top 20 for everything, a sign that he’s been working on his driving. But he’ll need to reconnect with the putter that deserted him Friday. If he does, there’s not a whole lot of people behind him I’d be too frightened of.
Perhaps his toughest opponent will be the Mexican wind, which looked fairly troublesome on Friday. The day’s stroke average was the highest to par on the PGA this year.
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