5 Things to Watch: Will McIlroy need to add more events before Augusta?
The Web.com Tour opens its season in Panama this week, but here's an idea: Why not have it in Phoenix? That way, the 32 guys who get bounced out of the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship just north of Tucson on Wednesday would have something to do for the rest of the week: drive a little farther north and tee it up with the Tour's kid brother. It would help the Web.com tour's lid-lifter and make a first-round loss more palatable for the WGC players. Here are five things to watch this week at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
1. Will Rory McIlroy Be Rusty?
The Match Play doesn't come at a great time for Rory McIlroy, who has played all of two rounds with his new Nike equipment and could leave Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., having played just three. He says he's put in 10 days of work in Florida with his coach, Michael Bannon, and he's using a new, heavier Nike putter, and a new shaft in his driver.
That's all well and good, but if he runs into a hot player in Shane Lowry, he could go into next week's Honda Classic, where he's the defending champion, with fewer than 72 holes under his belt in 2013. Would he add a tournament before the Masters? If so, which one?
2. Look out for a confident Justin Rose
Justin Rose had a great description of the front-loaded Match Play. Recalling the year he made it to the quarterfinals, in 2007, he said, "It's almost an eerie feeling. The car park gets very quiet, there's not as many lads on the range."
He also sounded either quite confident, or like he was trying to convince himself of something, when he said, "I'm really, really, really happy with my putting." If he gets past K.J. Choi in Round 1, he'll face either Nicolas Colsaerts or Bill Haas.
3. Ooshuizen-Bradley would be a sweet quarterfinal match-up
-- Brandt Snedeker's absence brings attention to Louis Oosthuizen, who takes Snedeker's No. 1 seed in the Hogan bracket, and that's a good thing. Despite being the roll of a ball from having won two majors, or the same number as McIlroy, Oosty remains wildly underrated. Here's hoping he and Keegan Bradley get through the first two rounds, because those two will have a huge impact on the majors in the next five years, and it would be fun to see them go nose-to-nose in Arizona.
4. Donald, Poulter, and Tiger are three best match-play pros
The Match Play's defending champ, Hunter Mahan, made 35 birdies in winning last year, but as great as he played, his press conference Tuesday was even better. When asked to name the best three match-play pros in the game, Mahan cited past champions Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Tiger Woods - Donald because "there's just not a putt or a chip he can't make"; Poulter because "his will is probably the strongest on Tour"; and Woods because "he just doesn't like to lose." Donald is 16-7 lifetime; Poulter is 18-9; Woods is 33-9.
5. Don't ask Hunter Mahan how his day was
And, finally, there's this gem, also from Mahan, who was similarly candid when asked what it feels like to lose a match and be carted back to the locker room in a player van. "It's a weird feeling," he said. "You just want to get out of there. The van can't move fast enough. The people can't get out of the way fast enough. Everything bothers you. And if someone asks you how was your day, you want to punch them in the face." So there you go - don't say you weren't warned about crossing the 32 guys who will head home Wednesday night.