‘Just put the hammer down’: Tiger Woods explains his simple Match Play strategy this week

March 27, 2019

Tiger Woods is back in action this week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Tiger has won this event three times, and his strategy for this week is simple: just “beat the guy standing in front of [him].”

Despite loads of success in match play throughout his career, Tiger doesn’t have much recent experience with the format. Though he’s played in Presidents Cups and Ryder Cups of late, he hasn’t made an appearance at the WGC-Match Play in six years. (He tied for 33rd in his last start in 2013.)

But on the eve of this year’s event, Woods laid out a straight-forward Match Play strategy to win a fourth title.

“You can’t put blinders on and play your own game, but also I can’t look at my opponent the entire time,” Woods said in a press conference Tuesday at Austin Country Club. “It’s the ebb and flow of each and every shot, and each and every hole is its own match. And that’s something that for the better part of the most of my career is I’ve been good at is feel what I need to do in that particular moment.”

For example, if his “opponent is in trouble” he plans to play conservatively, both with his tee shots and on the putting green to allow his competitor to beat himself. But at other times, Tiger said the key for him is to “put the hammer down” and “be aggressive.”

Whether or not he his fully focused on his opponent or on his own game, there is one thing he acknowledged that he never has to worry about at this event: the rest of the field.

“I’m looking forward to the fact that I just get to focus on one guy. Each and every shot is different, and you don’t really care what the rest of the field is doing. I just have to beat the guy standing in front of me.”

This week also represents the first time Woods has to contend with the new round robin format at the Match Play. In the old days, every match was single elimination, but now the event starts with group play over the first three days, followed by single elimination on the weekend.

Tiger admitted that the format changes made this year’s Match Play “a little bit different” for him, but he’s not getting caught up in the details.

“I don’t really know the intricacies of it all. I just know that I need to win all three, and I move on. It’s not real complicated. Play well and take care of the guy in front of me.”

So he’s clearly got his strategy down for this week. As for his lingering injury issue that forced him to skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Tiger isn’t worried about it.

“My neck has been feeling better, which is nice,” he said on Tuesday.

Woods faces off against Aaron Wise in his opening round robin match. The pair tee off Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET.