The World Match Play Championship Tees Off

Tiger in the DesertThe World Match Play Championship teed off this week. For those Rockheads out there who don’t know, match play rules are a little bit different than your typical stroke play. In stroke play, golfers rack up strokes over the course of 18 holes. In the end, the golfer with the fewest strokes is the winner. Match play, however, is a horse of a different color.

During match play, each hole is a separate competition with golfers squaring off against one another to win individual holes. The player with the fewest strokes on an individual hole wins that particular hole. The player who wins the most holes wins the match. Think of it kind of like golf’s equivalent to basketball’s March Madness. And believe me, Rockheads, this year’s Match Play Championship has already seen its fare share of madness.

Tiger’s play so far has been erratic at best – there’s been good, bad, and downright ugly. The good – Tiger got himself out of a deficit on two miraculous occasions, once when he knocked in a 50-foot birdie putt and once when he drove onto the par-4 15th green. The bad – he had to take three separate trips into the desert only to lose the hole. The ugly -his match had a staggering four lead changes and he missed his chance to end it all on the 17th green when he knocked a meager eight-foot birdie putt past the hole. Somehow, Tiger still managed to scrape a hard-earned win over Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in the opening round and was allowed to return Thursday to Dove Mountain.

Luke Donald, on the other hand, won’t have that opportunity. Donald, who won the title last year without even having to play the 18th hole, lost 5-and-4 to Ernie Els. Translation: he trailed by five holes with only four left to play. In a bizarre twist of fate, Ernie Els only earned entry into the competition when Phil Mickelson withdrew in favor of skiing with his family.

Donald wasn’t the only overthrown former champion out on the course this week – Poulter, who defeated fellow Englishman Paul Casey and won the tournament two years ago, lost 4-and-3 to Sang-Moon Bae of South Korea. Bae will go on to play Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters Tournament winner.

With play like this, there’s really no telling who will come out on top. Will Tiger take another step towards reclaiming his former glory, or will Ernie Els – a late to the game addition to the tournament – take the victory home? When all bets are off, who do you root for? So, Rockheads, I leave it to you. Got a frontrunner in mind? Leave your predictions in the comment section!

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