MARANA, ARIZ. (AP) - Tiger Woods should not expect his next match to be as easy as his last one.
For starters, President Barack Obama was his partner three days ago at The Floridian, which is not to suggest the president had to carry the 14-time major champion. Secondly, Woods won’t be competing against a Houston businessman (Jim Crane) and outgoing U.S. Trade Representative (Ron Kirk), but Charles Howell III, who gave Woods fits as a teenager in the 1996 U.S. Amateur.
Woods is a three-time winner of the Match Play Championship who has a 33-9 record in this tournament alone.
And even he knows it won’t be easy.
“The whole idea is just to beat one guy at a time,” Woods said. “That’s the thing. There are times where I’ve played well in matches and I’ve lost, and other times where I’ve played poorly and advanced. It’s pot luck in these 18-hole sprints like this. As I said, it’s imperative to get off to a quick start and get up on your opponent early. It’s just so hard to come back in 18-hole matches, and hopefully, I can do that conceivably for all six.”
It all starts Wednesday at Dove Mountain, the first World Golf Championship of the year.
Rory McIlroy is the No. 1 seed and will play Shane Lowry, a longtime friend and former partner on the Irish team that won the European Team Championships in 2007. In a similar match, former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) plays three-time major champion Padraig Harrington (Ireland).
The toughest challenge might be the weather, with a front expected to move across the high desert overnight and bringing temperatures so low that light snow is possible. At best, it figures to be frigid for the morning matches as the sun is beginning to climb over The Ritz-Carlton Club at Dove Mountain.
“No one likes to play in adverse weather,” said Ian Poulter, playing for first time since Hawaii, when the tournament took four days to start because of 40 mph wind.
Woods said he would be used to the wind and cold because that’s what he dealt with in Florida with the president.
It was the second time Woods has played with a sitting U.S. president _ he once played with former President Bill Clinton at The Alotian Club in Arkansas.
“Playing with Mr. President was pretty cool,” he said. “He’s just a wonderful person to be around.”
Woods doesn’t use “Mr.” with hardly anyone. In fact, he has a nickname for most people in golf. He’ll shorten the surname (“Poults” for Poulter, “Stricks” for Steve Stricker) or simply add a “y” to their name (“Rosey” for Justin Rose). And what name did he use for the leader of the free world?
“Partner,” Woods said with a smile.
He sounded surprised to learn that Obama played left-handed, and when asked to describe the president’s best shot, Woods said that “he hit a few.”