The only golfer I felt incredibly confident selecting this week in the World Golf Championship Match Play Championship lost badly in his first match.
Or should I say he Baddeley lost.
Aaron Baddeley, an under-the-radar Australian who put himself into contention a couple of times so far this season on the PGA Tour, promptly lost to Louis Oosthuizen. Louis won the Open Championship (known as the British Open to novice golf fans) in 2010.
There’s a very good chance you didn’t understand a word I just wrote in the first three paragraphs in this column. Combine a number of golfers nobody knows about with a format most folks are fuzzy on and you get the ultimate TV gamble. Tiger Woods could play Rory McIlroy over the weekend in a four-hour window that will draw massive ratings to NBC. Or we could get Robert Rock against Martin Laird. It’s high stakes poker on a number of levels.
Fans of match play should run and hide from the rest of this. Everyone else should kindly grab a number two pencil and pay attention. Match play actually presents more challenges than the stroke play you are used to seeing every week on the PGA Tour. You play an opponent and not the scoreboard. If you are fortunate enough to card an eagle or happen to run into some bad fortune with a triple bogey, your round isn’t made or ruined on one hole. Taking a line from Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If” sums it up best:
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.
In stroke play, the object of pro golfers for the first two days is simple: make the cut. You don’t have that luxury in match play. They cut the field everyday. You are judged by a very simple format. If you win the win, you are 1 UP. If you lose the hole, you are 1 DN. You start all square – a fancy expression for saying you are tied with your opponent. Those weird scores like 4 & 2 at the end of the match mean that the winning golfer was 4 up with just two holes to play. It’s very simple to understand and almost impossible to master.
March Madness can wait for a couple of weeks. Right now, it’s all about a February Frenzy at the Match Play Championships.
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