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Preview: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship

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By Michael Williams

Special to GolfWRX

The 2012 WGC-Accenture World Match Play Championship gets underway today at the Ritz-Carlton Club in Marana, Ariz. and this year is sure to provide all the drama and unpredictability that is a part of single elimination match play. Three-time winner Tiger Woods joins a powerhouse field that includes World No. 1 Luke Donald, all four current major championship winners and slew of young guns and accomplished veterans all vying for $1.4 million and 550 FedEx points. Notably absent from the tournament is Phil Mickelson, who lost in a playoff last week at Riviera in the Northern Trust Open. Mickelson, who would have been the first golfer to win in consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour since Woods in 2009, withdrew from the field due to a previously scheduled family commitment.

Opening round play includes some exciting matchups including Donald versus No. 16 Ernie Els, No. 3 Dustin Johnson against No. 14 Jim Furyk in the Snead bracket, while No. 8 David Toms meets No. 9 Rickie Fowler, and No. 3 Graeme McDonald takes on No. 14 Y.E. Yang in the Hogan bracket.

At a whopping 7,849 yards, the Jack Nicklaus-designed desert track will have the distinction of being the longest layout in  Tour history. With generous fairways and a number of forced carries, the course would seem to favor the longer hitters in the field. But a hot putter is more important than ever in this format, and the field contains some of the most clutch putters in the game. Whether by land or by air, every participant knows that in match play there is only one objective; get to the next round.

“It’s a sprint, not a boat race,” noted Woods regarding the match play format. “Generally if you get down early, two or three down, you rarely come back. It’s hard to make up ground when you’re only playing 18 holes. It puts such a premium on getting off to a good start, and the guys that do generally win the matches.”

Woods, the only No. 1 seed ever to win the event, is seeded at No. 5 and is matched against No. 12 Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in the Snead bracket. Fernandez-Castano raised eyebrows earlier in the week by commenting that Woods was “beatable.” In response, Woods quipped, “I feel exactly the same way he does. I think he’s beatable, too.” Woods inflicted the worst defeat in tournament history on Stephen Ames in 2006, a punishing 9 and 8 opening round drubbing that came on the heels of Ames making similar comments about Woods’ vulnerability. Woods lost in the third round that year to Chad Campbell.

Defending Champion Luke Donald is looking to join Woods and Geoff Ogilvy, who has won the event twice, as the only multiple winners of the event. Last year’s Accenture Match Play win was a kick start to a campaign that saw Donald become the world’s top ranked player, in addition to being the first player to win the money title on the PGA Tour and European Tour simultaneously.

In his pre-tournament press conference, Donald commented, “[I have] a lot of great memories here last year, a lot of great things happened to me after I won here. I gained a lot of confidence from my win and how I went about winning it. And I’m excited to be back. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of match play, and hopefully I can have another good week.”

The fact that 2012 is a Ryder Cup year will give some extra incentive to players who are assured of a roster spot to establish their match play reputations. It will also be a chance for those who have not fared well in stroke play events to impress the coaches who must make wild card selections for their respective teams. Significantly, all four No. 1 seeds (Donald, defending U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy, and former world No. 1’s Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood) are likely members of the European team that the U.S. will face later this year. 2012 marks the first time in event history that there will not be an American among the No. 1 seeds.

The first of four World Golf Championship events on the golf calendar, the Accenture event is the only one that has a match play format. This year also marks the second in which the final match is 18 holes. The final match was conducted over 36 holes from 1999 through 2010.

The first three days of the tournament on will be televised on the Golf Channel, with NBC picking up the coverage on Saturday and Sunday. Check local listings for air times.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.

You can follow Michael on twitter — @Michaelontv

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

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REPORT: Tiger Woods to play in the Genesis Open on Feb 15

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Last season, Tiger Woods withdrew from a press conference at the Genesis Open due to back spasms. This season, Woods will reportedly play in the 2018 Genesis Open at Riviera C.C. in Pacific Palisades, California from February 15-18.

By withdrawing from the 2017 Genesis Open — an event which his Tiger Woods Foundation hosts — Woods ensured that a promising comeback was not to be. At the start of 2017, Woods committed to play in the Farmers Insurance Open, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Genesis Open and the Honda Classic… an aggressive schedule for Woods, who hadn’t played much competitive golf in the previous year due to back injuries and surgeries. Things didn’t go as planned, however, as Woods missed the cut at the Farmers, withdrew after an opening-round 77 in Dubai, and withdrew from the Genesis Open and the Honda.

Since then, Woods has had spinal fusion surgery, and he recently finished T9 at the 18-player 2017 Hero World Challenge. It was there he showed the golfing world — and probably himself, too — that he can still compete among the world’s best golfers when he’s healthy.

At the Hero World Challenge, Woods was consistently hitting 179 mph of ball speed off the tee with his driver, and despite some early concerns with the wedge, he showed prowess around and on the greens. He was yip-less, fast, healthy, and finished 8-under through four rounds. A Tiger Woods comeback seems more plausible now than it has in three years.

Woods will continue to test his game at the 2017 Genesis Open — a start that will come 26 years after competing as a 16-year-old amateur in the 1992 Nissan Open at Riviera. Much like 26 years ago, Woods comes to Riviera as a golfer who needs to prove himself… it’s just that this time around, he has 14 majors and 79 PGA Tour wins to his name.

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Thursday’s Photos from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2017 PNC Father/Son Challenge at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida.

The 20-team field includes some of the game’s legendary major champions, and their sons. Notable teams include John Daly/Little John Daly, Nick Faldo/Matthew Faldo, Tom Kite/David Kite, Bernhard Langer/Jason Langer, Greg Norman/Greg Norman Jr., Jack Nicklaus/Gary Nicklaus Jr., and Lee Trevino/Daniel Trevino.  The teams will compete in a scramble format over 36 holes to decide the winners of the Willie Park Trophy.

Last year, David Duval and his step-son Nick Karavites took home the trophy, and they are back in the field this year to defend.

Check out our photos below from this year’s event!

Thursday’s Photos

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos

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An instructor’s perspective on the Chamblee/Dufner Twitter controversy

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If you have not had a chance to read the latest exchange on Twitter between Brandel Chamblee and Jason Dufner — and his teacher Chuck Cook — you have missed a wonderful controversy brewing. As you may know, Brandel is never one to hide his feelings on his views of the golf swing (he’s against The Golfing Machine teachings). And when people disagree with him (Jason Dufner), he’s not hesitant to tackle his opposition head on.

I’d like to take the time to weigh-in on what I feel should be focused on from an instruction standpoint, instead of what has been said on Twitter in this controversy.

Brandel’s side

First of all, I consider Brandel to be a friend of mine and he has been nothing but gracious to me during my professional career; though we have differing viewpoints on certain things. I have often called or emailed him, asking his opinion on one thing or another, and he has never failed to answer me. In fact, I love hearing what he has to say, even if it’s the opposite of what I feel personally and professionally — he hardly speaks without research to back it up. When you have the kind of stage he has, you must be armed with facts.

As we all know, Brandel is not a fan of the new breed of instruction. He prefers the old school methods, and clearly from his initial Tweet that sparked the entire controversy, he prefers an upright backswing. He is not a fan of most technologies used on the lesson tee, and he is very vocal regarding the Golfing Machine book and the Trackman launch monitor. While I hold both these things dear to me personally, I do understand how he could not be as convinced as I am of their successes within the game.

People must understand his opinion is a matter of perspective, and though he has this perspective as a player, and as a player-turned-teacher, he does not have the thousands and thousands of hours on the lesson tee. This does not make him right or wrong, it just gives him a different viewpoint.

Dufner’s side

As a teacher myself, I admire Dufner’s rise to fame and to the top ranks as a player, and I applaud him for doing so in spite of the odds and the drama that has gone on within his personal life over the last few years. I am proud to see him step up on a public forum and defend Chuck Cook (his long time teacher) on this Twitter thread. It is refreshing to see! Though I don’t know Jason, I’d like to shake his hand for doing so. My biggest gripe with Tour Professionals, in general, is their failure to stand by their instructors when things are not going well.

The last time I saw a player defending his teacher this adamantly was in a text string I had with Kevin Kisner (who is a great guy and friend) and John Tillery (his teacher and also a friend), who was not picked as one of the Top-100 Teachers on the latest list by Golf Magazine. As I told Kevin and John, it is a matter of time before he is recognized by Golf Magazine. The lists are subjective and many things go into the selection process; they make good choices and other times they make mistakes. John is a heck of a teacher and will always be Top 100 in my book! So kudos to Jason and Kevin for standing up for their guys…they both deserve it 100 percent.

Chuck Cook’s side

How Chuck was dragged into the middle of this whole controversy is beyond me, because he is one of the nicest and most soft-spoken guys. I also consider him the top-1 percent of teachers within our business. Chuck was in Vail for many years while I was also teaching there, and we have been on many outings together. He has been nothing but professional to all of us and anyone he comes into contact with personally. When someone questions him or his ability to teach at the highest levels, I can only say look at the two U.S. Open Champs he has taught, as well as what he’s done with countless other people within the game of golf. He is a smart and stand-up guy and deserves nothing but respect from all of us.

Chuck, I wish I could be HALF the teacher and person you are and have always been! That is a fact.

The Golfing Machine

Now, we could write an entire article series on the book I call my bible within the golfing world. However, 99 percent of the people in the world call it a “method,” or too complex, although every top teacher uses its methodologies within their instruction. It is ONLY an encyclopedia of motion — that’s it. It tells you what will and will not work together during the swing. What the book lacks has been the proper messenger to get the word across and that blame is only on timing. That’s not a knock on the past teachers who have used it or the players on Tour who have employed it.

Homer’s great book was born in 1969, and sadly the world would not be ready to hear these type of ideas in this type of format until now. And, like anything, it has been grossly misunderstood. The book and teachings have been chastised and will continue to be until a few more generations realize the greatness of what is contained within its pages. Only time will help our cause.

The Conclusion

Its all good… it’s not a big deal people! Please understand we ALL come from different places within the game and have our own opinions based on our perspective. Remember that these are all subject to change and can at any time. Every one of the people in that string of Tweets have their own agenda to promote and have the basis to call themselves great in what they do for a living. As long as we all have a drink and a laugh together at the end of the day, I see no harm in a gentleman’s disagreement between friends as long as nothing was done out of malice.

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