Monday, January 23, 2012

MARANA, Ariz. — Englishman Lee Westwood gave a winning quote after beating American Brandt Snedeker, 3 and 2, at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Wednesday.

"This is the kind of week where you kind of unpack, but you don't move stuff too far away from your suitcase," Westwood said. It was as good an explanation as any of the unique nature of this tournament.

Put another way, the Accenture is like traveling hundreds or thousands of miles for a six-course meal, all the while knowing you may only get as far as the bread.

It's a cliche, yammering on about exactly how match play differs from stroke play, but at least it's an interesting one. Touring professionals rarely play this format, so they can't stop talking about how it differs from the usual stroke play, and not just because the press can't stop asking about it. There's simply a bottomless well of opinions.

"Sometimes you get caught up in stroke play," said Nick O'Hern, whose words carry extra weight because he's twice beaten Tiger Woods here. "You should be very much about playing the man." (On Wednesday, O'Hern beat Scott Verplank, 3 and 2.)

Boo Weekley, a 2-and-1 winner over Germany's Martin Kaymer, took another approach. "It's no different than regular play," Weekley said. "You've just got to go out and play golf."

Yes and no. It's still a club-and-ball game, if that's what Weekley means, but match play is easier than regular golf.

"It's much easier, if you like," Colin Montgomerie said after beating Jim Furyk, 3 and 2. "You've only got one guy to beat, as opposed to normally you have 155 other guys to beat. So it's much easier. Thank God half the other people have been knocked out today as well, and I've had nothing to do with it!"

Easier? Match play is harder. Robert Karlsson of Sweden lost to his Ryder Cup partner, Paul Casey, despite shooting seven under. Casey shot nine under. Had Karlsson played just about anyone else, he would have won Wednesday. He certainly would have bettered Montgomerie, whose foe, Furyk, never really got anything going.

Match play also gives us strange bedfellows. Weekley got to play Sergio Garcia on Thursday. The two gave us last summer's most infamous scorekeeping blunder, when Garcia signed for an incorrect score on Saturday at the PGA Championship and was disqualified. The card had been kept by Weekley.

Most of all, match play gives us an entertaining array of calamity and a welcome respite from so much counting, not that it doesn't have the potential to gum up the synapses.

"You know how match play works," Australian Rod Pampling said after knocking off second-seeded Justin Rose, 2 and 1. "But it's no secret. It's pretty much, there it is."

Exactly. Huh?

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