By petedirenzo
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Funny how the World Series is played even if the Yankees aren't in it, and it always turns out to be a big deal. The Accenture World Match Play Championship finds itself in a similar awkward spot this week with golf's top attractions--cynics might say only attractions--missing in action.
The critics miss the point. With or without Tiger and Phil, this is still the biggest, best and most important match-play event played anywhere in the world. And besides, in the vagaries of match play, how often do Phil and Tiger survive past the third round, anyway? Not as often as you might think, although Woods has won this event. 
So the folks in Tucson have a bag of lemons and they have a choice: They can throw the lemons at a passing school bus and shout, "Spartans suck!" Or they can make lemon soup, since making lemonade would be a total cliche. Greg Hansen and the Arizona Daily Star opted for the latter with an interesting headline on an advance story for the event: "Unfamiliar names heighten our curiosity."
That's a possibility. Another would be, "Unfamiliar names dampen any and all interest." (Say, how's that four-man bobsled event going, by the way?)
There's a plus side to missing superstars, though, and that's the opportunity for future stars to build their names and their resumes. Like Dustin Johnson did last week by winning at Pebble Beach for a second straight time. Stars are made, not born. Hansen points this out with an anecdote about Andrew Magee winning the 1994 Northern Telecom Tucson Open and staying away from one guy in his group because he didn't know how to pronounce his name. That guy was Jim Furyk. One of the contenders that Magee beat that week was Steve Stricker, who hadn't cracked the top 175 in two previous seasons on the PGA Tour. Stricker comes to town this week as the No. 1 seed. Furyk is No. 3. From Hansen:

In many ways, pro golf is as much a Futures Tour as anything
else. Last year, at 19, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Japan's
then-17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa were considered novelties. Ishikawa
was here, as an alternate, but he didn't do much more than hit some
range balls. Today, older and wiser, we know better. McIlroy, No. 7 in the
world, and Ishikawa, No. 34, appear destined to become golf's next
big things.
So don't be discouraged if you don't recognize all the names on
the massive scoreboards at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. That's just
golf.
If the PGA Tour event in your city has more than 40 recognizable
names, you are either in a golf fantasy league or you need to get
off the sofa more on Sunday afternoons. 
Geoff Ogilvy
Jeff Maggert
Y.E. Yang won the PGA Championship last year and golf didn't implode. Sixteen of the top 18 from that event will be at Dove Mountain this week, including Yang, who beat Tiger in an epic finish. The John Deere Classic it ain't.

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