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Accenture Match Play Championship

Tiger Woods hopes for rebound relationship at Accenture

The Best. Golfer. Ever. has yet to regain his former glory since his world collapsed amid revelations about extramarital affairs

Tiger Woods strolled out onto the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club driving range Tuesday with a smile on his face, but there is tension beneath the familiar grin.

Woods, a perennial favorite who had hundreds of fans following him during his practice round for the Accenture Match Play Championship, hasn’t won a tournament since his world collapsed in 2009 after several extra-marital affairs were made public. He divorced from his wife, Elin, and took some time off. But the man who spent an astounding 623 weeks ranked No. 1 – more than twice as many as his nearest competitor Greg Norman – has yet to reclaim his groove.

His last win was the 2009 World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational. He hopes to change that with quick leads in the Match Play, a tournament he has won three times.

“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,” he told reporters Tuesday.

Woods has worked with his swing in the past year, and he thinks the changes are beginning to settle in, to become automatic – a crucial factor in a game where a slight tick in a swing can mean the difference between glory and disaster.

“You’re always thinking about it, but there are times, yes, when it feels more natural. The patterns are certainly more ingrained. That’s how I feel now,” he said Tuesday.

His first opponent this week, Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who comes into his first Match Play ranked 49th, is ready.

“It’s a funny feeling, because being 47th or 48th in the world, you don’t expect to be paired against Tiger Woods, but those things happen. He’s probably not at his best,” Fernandez-Castano said.

In the final analysis, Fernandez-Castano ses his match against Woods as an opportunity, not a threat.

“That’s probably the best way to look at it … I think he’s beatable. Of course, I have to play good. That’s all I’m going to try on Wednesday, just try playing my game and hope he doesn’t play his best,” he said.

Woods has a similar plan - and a similar view of his opponent.

“I feel exactly the same way as he does - I think he’s beatable, too,” he said.

Woods and Fernandez-Castano start their round at 10:35 a.m. Wednesday.

Other notable matches include former University of Arizona golfer Jim Furyk, who starts at 8:05 a.m. against fellow American Dustin Johnson; the ever-colorful Rickie Fowler vs. David Toms at 11:35 a.m.; and world No. 1 Luke Donald of England vs. Ernie Els of South Africa at 12:05 p.m.

Play continues through Sunday. For ticket information, see PGATour.com.  For a complete list of pairings, go here

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B. Poole/TucsonSentinel.com

Tiger Woods heads for the driving range before Tuesday's practice round at the Accenture match Play Championship.

If you go

  • What: Accenture Match Play Championship
  • When: Monday—Sunday
  • Where: Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, 15000 N. Secret Springs Dr., Marana
  • Tickets: General admission tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at gate Tuesday; $45 in advance and $55 at gate Wednesday-Thursday; $35 in advance, $45 at gate Saturday and Sunday; $125 for weekly package (Monday-Sunday). Available at Fry's and Costco.

Tips for attending Accenture

  • If you can only go one or two days, make it the practice rounds Monday and/or Tuesday. Cameras are allowed during practice, but not during the tournament (Wednesday-Sunday), and the field is halved each day after Wednesday. By Saturday, there will be just 16 golfers left to watch, and by Sunday it's just four. The atmosphere is also more relaxed on Monday and Tuesday, so players are more likely to sign autographs and interact with fans. It's also cheaper on those days.
  • Bring sunscreen, wear a hat and alternate $7 beers with water. Er, it's a desert.
  • Keep phones on silent. Until this year, cellphones were banned at PGA tournaments. Now you can bring them, but keep them silent. PGA golfers can get pretty testy when phones ring during their backswings.

Live on television

  • Wednesday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Golf Channel
  • Thursday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Golf Channel
  • Friday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. Golf Channel
  • Saturday, 9 - 11 a.m. Golf Channel; 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. NBC
  • Sunday, 6 - 10 a.m. Golf Channel; 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. NBC