- Radar van locations, traffic incidents & today's gas prices
- PCC to award 300 adult ed GEDs Wednesday
- FC Tucson has Scorpions for breakfast in 2OT PK win
- 'Tea Party' nonprofits rarely endorsed political candidates
- Genocide conviction of Rios Montt overturned in Guatemala — for now
Posted Feb 21, 2012, 1:01 pm
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.