Missing the WGC Match Play

March 25, 2020
Justin Ray

Spring is usually a frantic, fun time of the year in Austin, Texas.

South by Southwest is an enormous music, film and technology festival that welcomes more than 150,000 attendees to central Texas annually. It’s a cultural and economic juggernaut that envelops the entire city for multiple weeks, for better or worse.

As few years ago, that titanic event on the city’s schedule met a new neighbor: the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, held at Austin Country Club. And last year, the event got shifted into overdrive when Tiger Woods announced he would be playing there for the first time.

Woods was just a few months removed from his victory at the 2018 Tour Championship. It would be Tiger’s first competitive golf in the state of Texas in 14 years – his previous appearance was at the 2005 Byron Nelson. Funny enough, that was the week his record streak of 142 straight PGA Tour starts without a missed cut came to an end.

And if that wasn’t enough, Woods won his group in pool play, advanced to the weekend, and drew a blockbuster matchup with Rory McIlroy in the round of 16. It was the first time that the two had ever met in match play. Tiger knocked off the four-time major champion that Saturday morning before losing to Lucas Bjerregaard in the quarterfinals.

A year later, Austin (where my wife and I live) is eerily silent as the world collectively fights COVID-19. For the moment, all we have as sports fans is an anguish-salad of void, uncertainty and wistful nostalgia. Hopefully soon we are back to worrying and debating about our favorite teams and athletes instead of the more serious matters of the moment.

In the meantime, that wistful nostalgia will have to do.

TIGER’S WGC-MATCH PLAY DOMINANCE

Woods’ WGC dominance is other-worldly – his 18 career victories in World Golf Championships is twelve more than anyone else in the history of the series. Assuming the next WGC contested is the FedEx Invitational in July, DJ (second on the wins list) would need to win every World Golf Championship event through the 2023 Match Play just to tie Tiger.

Match Play Week Viz_Request 1

A look at some of Woods’ notable records in WGC-Match Play:

– 36 career matches won, seven more than anyone else in tournament history. Ian Poulter and Matt Kuchar are tied for second-most, with 29 each.

– 13 straight matches won from 2003 to 2005, the longest streak in tournament history. During that stretch, only two of those matches reached the 18th hole.

– 26 career matches won where play did not reach the 18th hole, most all-time. 12 of those matches did not even reach the 16th hole before Woods clinched victory.

– A .750 match win percentage, the second-highest career total of any player in the event. Only Geoff Ogilvy – who went 20-5-0 in his WGC-Match Play career has a better percentage (.800).

Tiger is the only player to successfully defend a World Golf Championship title. He has done it on eight different occasions. Woods has been practicing social distancing in the record books for a generation.

His true mark in history when it comes to match play, though, is from his days as an amateur. Woods won USGA amateur titles in six consecutive years – the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1991, 1992 and 1993, and the U.S. Amateur in 1994, 1995 and 1996. That means Woods capped his USGA match play career with a streak of 36 straight matches won, a feat that will likely never be replicated again.

KEVIN KISNER, MATCH PLAY MACHINE

In 2019, Kevin Kisner rebounded from a finals loss to Bubba Watson to win the whole thing at this event. He was the first player to reach the finals of WGC Match Play in consecutive years since Hunter Mahan did it in 2012 and 2013.

Match Play Week Viz_Request 2

Since the 2017 Presidents Cup, Kisner has played 18 matches across PGA Tour-run match play events. He has only lost two of them (overall record of 13 wins, 2 losses and 3 halved matches).

NOTABLE ANNIVERSARIES IN GOLF

On March 25, 2012, Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first official win since the off-course scandal of late 2009. It became the second course in which Tiger had won a record seven PGA Tour events, joining Torrey Pines.

– On March 26, 2000, Hal Sutton held off Woods to become the fourth player to win multiple Players Championship titles. Sutton delivered not only a memorable Sunday performance, but one of the best in-round sound bites in golf history, “Be the right club today… yes!”

– That same day, Karrie Webb completed one of the most dominant performances in major championship history, winning the Nabisco Championship (now known as the ANA Inspiration) by ten strokes. It was the largest margin of victory in a women’s major in eight years and remains the biggest winning margin in that tournament’s history.

– March 27 will mark the anniversary of the final round of the only Masters Tournament to be completed in a month other than April. The inaugural event, then called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, was won by phenom Horton Smith. Smith would also win it two years later.

Match Play Week Viz_Request 3

– On March 27, 2005, Annika Sorenstam won her third straight LPGA start and eighth career major championship, taking the Kraft Nabisco by eight strokes. That year, Annika would win her eighth player of the year award, breaking Kathy Whitworth’s LPGA record.

– On that date in 1994, Greg Norman lit up TPC Sawgrass with a final score of 24-under-par. That record still stands to this day – the second-best winning score ever in the event is 19-under by Jack Nicklaus in 1976, when the tournament was held at Inverrary.

– On March 28, 1982, Tom Watson won the Sea Pines Heritage (now RBC Heritage) for the second time, his 30th career PGA Tour victory overall. Watson would go on to win the U.S. Open and Open Championship later that season.