Earlier today I had the opportunity to connect with Golf Channel personalities Brandel Chamblee and Johnny Miller as they discussed much of the excitement surrounding the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship which is set to kick off tomorrow, February 20th from Dove Mountain Arizona. I've spent a fair amount of time myself over the last couple days evaluating the field and running through the bracket match-ups, so it was a real privilege to listen to the golf wisdom shared by both these gentlemen.
With a great field lined up, filled with so much talent, there really isn't much that separates the number 1 seed from number 64. There was some indications that Rory McIlroy could be feeling the pressure this week, with only two competitive rounds under his belt so far this season. Johnny Miller weighed in "Yeah, there's a lot of question marks in the world of golf, what kind of start he's going to get off to in the U.S. He didn't do too well in his last tee off, so to speak. But the bottom line is the new equipment, new year, it has a lot to do with your confidence." Johnny continued "Of course last year he lost in the finals to Hunter Mahan, so maybe he has some good memories there"
In a regular tournament it's always nice to get off to a good start, but that feeling is amplified in match play, as there is no room for a slow and steady approach spread out over multiple days. Brandel Chamblee agreed "That's true. The first round, it's a lot of heartache, you start to look at players like Ernie Els who has played 12 times and he's lost in the first round five times and he's lost in the second round five times. Graeme McDowell and Pádraig Harrington in the Jones Match, Graeme has lost in the first round four times and Pádraig Harrington has lost in the first round six times."
Brandel also expressed his thoughts on McIlroy, saying "Rory McIlroy, you're right, a lot of question marks. He was not ready when he came out to play in the Middle East a month ago and clearly not ready with his equipment, not ready with his golf swing and didn't look ready in any way. It's the worst I've ever seen Rory McIlroy swing or play. So a month has transpired and you'd like to think he got the equipment issue settled and he's going to show up. And there's some drama there because he's playing one of his best friends in Shane Lowry and ironically, Tiger Woods is playing one of his good friends in Charles Howell. A lot to chew on tomorrow, it's going to be a fun day to watch. I'm really looking forward to it."
Personally, I love the format of match play, it's as though you have the Sunday final round excitement every day of the tournament. Johnny Miller echoed this thought saying "I think it's just totally off the charts. Let's put it this way: Not too often in the middle of the week I'm going to be watching for several hours. Normally I wait until things progress a long, and focus in and listen to Brandel and keep up to speed. But that first day is just off the charts great if you're a golf nut. If you look at matches tomorrow, Charles Howell against Tiger, that is no gimmie right there, I'll tell you that."
Johnny continued "And then you have guys like Stricker and Stenson, and Watney and Toms. Els has to go against Jacobson, who is hot as can be right now; he's probably going to get jumped again. Then Furyk and Ryan Moore, that's a toss up, right? And Tim Scott and Adam Scott; Mahan against Manassero is no gimmie. So you have a lot of the guys that you're talking about; Schwartzel versus Henley; if Henley putts anything like he did at Sony, I don't know what the odds are there. Schwartzel did not putt that great in L.A. These are all things that if you're a golf nut, those are the matches when I went through them are ones that I think could go as, if you call it upsets, guys that could get dumped that are seeds. Anybody can win in one day. You can't guarantee anything. But I'm looking forward to seeing those matches tomorrow all day long."
I for one am, as Johnny described it, a 'golf nut' and will undoubtedly be on the edge of my seat tomorrow watching things unfold. Time will tell how well I did on my selections for the Golf Channel WGC Accenture Bracket Challenge, which by the way, you can still do for yourself before tomorrow morning at: fantasy.golfchannel.com.