Live-Blogging Tiger's Return: Thursday's second-round match against Tim Clark

Live-Blogging Tiger’s Return: Thursday’s second-round match against Tim Clark

Tiger Woods v. Tim Clark, CLARK WINS 4 AND 2

5:50 p.m. Thanks for joining me on the live blog. We’ll catch you next time. 5:45 p.m. I just dug up an interview we did with Clark a couple years back. Here’s a part that never made it to print: “I don’t like to talk about myself,” Clark said. “I have a hard time receiving too much praise. I like people to come tell me if I’ve done well but when they start telling me how great I am, I start to feel uncomfortable and I can’t make eye contact.” If that’s true, tonight could be awfully uncomfortable. 5:39 p.m. Wow, it’s over. Tiger doesn’t chip in his second shot, and he gives Clark his birdie putt. Man, did that happen suddenly. Tiger to Tilghman: “I hit one bad 8-iron and one bad driver in two days.” Tiger knows best of course, but from a fan’s perspective, it looked like he had more misses than that. 5:30 p.m. Clark hits a 6-iron TIGHT at the par-3 16th, all but wrapping things up. “Tiger might need a one now,” Faldo says. Woods also pulls a 6-iron and …. ugh. Another late swing and he hangs it out to the right. The ball bounds off the green and down a slope. Dang, has the South African been clutch today. He’s now bogeyless in 32 holes. They’re going to have a name a candy bar after this guy. Oh, wait… 5:30 p.m. Woods misses his putt, leaving Clark two putts to win the hole. “That was a gift there from Tiger Woods,” Zinger says — one Clark will happily accept. He’s 3-up with three to play. 5:27 p.m. More balanced swing this time, and a much better result. Woods pops it on the green about 30 feet from home. Clark answers with a nifty shot from the bunker. It flies over the flag and checks up on the fringe, some 12 feet from the cup. Clark will be putting for 3; Tiger for his 4. 5:23 p.m. Uh-oh. Looks like Tiger’s drive went O.B. Too bad he didn’t know that on the tee box. Maltbie said Tiger was offered a ride back to the tee, but he declined. Guess the knee feels OK. The good news: Tiger will get another shot to drive the green. Hold on to your hats. 5:19 p.m. How do you follow that up? Drive the green at the driveable par-4 15th, right? Wrong. Woods bombed his tee shot a couple acres wide right of the green. Clark, hitting second, decides to play it safe with a fairway wood. Um, not that safe — his drive finds a fairway bunker about 50 yards short of the green. 5:14 p.m. Guess what? Tiger holed his bunker shot. Just like that. Thump. Plinko. “Eight months later, it doesn’t matter,” Zinger says. “He still has that flair for the dramatic.” C’mon, you weren’t counting out Tiger just yet were you? 5:10 p.m. Westwood and Cink, a couple of Ryder Cup vets, are playing a barnburner. They’re all square through 22 holes. Clark just hit a wonderful approach at 14 from some dense rough. His ball landed short of the green and chased up toward the hole. Yet another GIR. Woods dumped his approach from the fairway bunker into a greenside bunker — short again. 5:05 p.m. Can’t believe Tiger missed that putt. Now at 14, Tiger and Clark both drive it up the right side. Woods is in the bunker, Clark is just short of it. “Late again,” Maltbie says of Tiger’s swing. 5:00 p.m. Woods’s eagle chip from the rough comes out a little sluggishly. He leaves himself about 12 feet. Clark’s eagle putt bounces out of the fringe, but stops close enough for a concession. Big putt now for Woods. Eek! He misses on the low side and it lips out. Clark is 3-up — 3-up — with just five holes to play. 4:55 p.m. “If he can put this on the green, it’d be huge,” Zinger says of Clark’s approach at 13. How’s 15 feet behind the hole sound? Clark will have a good look at eagle. Woods — another loose iron shot, this time an 8-iron. He fans his approach out to the right and watches his ball trickle off the green. 4:48 p.m. The tees are way up at the par-5 13th, which is playing just 541 yards. Tiger just hit a 371-yard drive, leaving him about 170 home. A par-5. Riiiiight. 4:45 p.m. Tiger hits an aggressive chip that checks up nicely about 6 feet past the hole. But it’s not enough. Clark makes short work of his own 6-footer, grabbing a 2-up lead. As Clark set up for his putt, Woods stood nearby, staring intently. Woods is “trying to transmit a little bit of his aura,” Faldo said. Translation: He’s trying to make Clark tremble. It’s not working. 4:39 p.m. It’s on to the 189-yard par-3 12th. Clark stuffs his tee shot — man, he’s starting to heat up — and Tiger, with an 8-iron, pushes his tee ball short and right. That’s the worst shot Tiger’s hit today. 4:33 p.m. Yep, Woods hits a sloppy chip back up the hill, sending his fourth shot 20 feet past the hole. I didn’t watch a lot of Tiger’s match yesterday, but today he looks nothing short of rusty. His irons have been off the mark and his short-game unpredictable. And he hasn’t made any putts of serious consequence, including his biridie chance here at 11. Woods gives Clark his putt … and a 1-up lead. 4:30 p.m. Tiger has 174 yards to the flag with his third. “Aaaaaaaagh!” he yells. No, not his knee. The shot. It’s not good. Short and left. Clark, meanwhile, stuffs his approach to gimme range. Looks like Clark will regain the lead. 4:24 p.m. Woods finds a fairway bunker off the tee at 11 and then lays up with a fairway wood out of the sand. Clark’s on the other side of the fairway, and also lays up his second. 4:22 p.m. Golf Magazine senior editor and resident conspiracy theorist Mike Walker asks: “If Tiger’s behind in the last few holes, will NBC execs order Roger Maltbie to start coughing in Tim Clark’s backswing?” Not likely, but NBC has said that Tiger will be a big part of the weekend telecast whether he’s playing or not. 4:18 p.m. There’s been much chatter about the greens, which have more tiers than Machu Picchu. Tiger said they’d be unputtable at regular Tour speeds, and he’s yet to look comfortable on them. 4:15 p.m. Ernie Els is looking strong. He just went 3-up on Steve Stricker through 12. Back at 10, Clark leaves his birdie effort a couple feet above the hole. “I can’t believe that didn’t break,” Faldo says. Tiger has a similar line, but misses his on the low side. Two pars. 4:11 p.m. Ahead at the par-4 10th, both players comfortably find the fairway. Clark knocks a fairway-wood approach left and 30 feet or so short of the hole. Good play. Tiger has an iron and hits it inside of Clark, but not by much. Leonard just put away DLIII, 1 up. 4:07 p.m. Mahan still has a 1-up lead on McIlroy, now through eight holes. The winner of that match will play the winner of Woods/Clark. If McIlroy meets Woods, it’ll be a big night in the Belfast pubs. 4:03 p.m. Kelly Tilghman tells us that Tim Clark has won more money ($12 million) than any other player without a PGA Tour win. Woods hits his putt at the ninth, and it looks good until the last moment — one turn short. Clark had left his birdie putt about three feet short, and also makes his par. He and Woods make the turn deadlocked. 3:57 p.m. Woods’s approach back at No. 9, a par 4, comes up some 25 feet short, on the wrong tier. Clark has some 181 to the hole, and is quarreling with his caddie over which club to hit. “It’s not up to the caddie. It’s up to Tim Clark,” Zinger proclaims. Maybe the caddie was right on this one. Clark comes up a little short, but is inside Tiger. Justin Leonard and Davis Love III are also AS thru 17. Good match there. 3:51 p.m. Steve Sands checks in with Phil: “I let a couple of short putts slide to keep the match going, but I was able to heart it out there in the end.” Heart it out. I like that. 3:48 p.m. Up ahead at 18, Mickelson holds on thanks in part to a poor approach by Zach Johnson. Hardly a convincing win by Phil, but a win nonetheless. In Round 3, he’ll play the winner of Lee Westwood and Stewart Cink, who are AS thru 17. 3:45 p.m. “He had one option, and he pulled it off,” Faldo says of Clark’s bunker shot, which slides some 6 feet past the hole. Tiger looks less pleased with his chip, which comes to rest about 5 feet from the target. Both players have good look at birdie. Clark first … makes it. Woods now … just sneaks it in. They remain knotted through 8. 3:39 p.m. After Zach hit his tee shot in the fairway, Mickelson, after much discussion with caddie Bones, pulls a hybrid wood and … smacks it down the middle. Back on No. 8, Woods hits an iron into the green with his approach at the par 5, but comes up short and left. Woods’s distance control has been erratic today. Clark’s approach from about 230 yards is shoddier still. He comes up 40 yards short and finds a bunker. Zinger thought Clark shanked it. 3:31 p.m. Mickelson is now 1-up heading to 18. Phil’s tee shots are often a window to his nerves. Let’s see what he does… 3:30 p.m. Clark misses his biridie putt at No. 7, leaving the door open for Tiger. Very makeable left-to-righter … got it. Woods squares the match. 3:26 p.m. Tiger has 177 to the hole with his approach at the par-4 7th. Uphill and into the wind. Beauty. It scoots by the hole and stops about 10 feet behind it. Clark now, from about 160. It lands in almost the same spot as Tiger’s but lacks the zip, skipping to the back of the green. Meanwhile, Phil is crumbling like a stale cookie. He just can’t put Zach away, just as he struggled to finish off Cabrera yesterday, and the field at Riviera on Sunday. 3:18 p.m. Couple noteworthy things about Clark’s 3-footer on the last hole. (1) Tiger made him putt it. (2) Faldo’s comment as Clark stood over the putt, his trousers flapping in the wind and revealing his socks. “I bet his mum wishes he’d worn longer pants,” Faldo quipped. 3:15 p.m. “One of the biggest fried-egg lies you’ll ever see,” Azinger says of Woods ball in the bunker. All it needs it a side of bacon and grits. Not pretty. Tiger thumps it out to about 12 feet, but Clark has already chipped it close. Woods needs this putt to halve. Nope, misses it on the low side. Clark takes the lead. “Fiesty Tim Clark will not go away,” Zinger adds. “Tiger will have to beat him.” 3:10 p.m. Clark, with the honor, hits first at the 182-yard par-3 5th. I missed what club he hit, but he could have taken two less. He bombed it through the green. Tiger, perhaps influenced by Clark’s over-clubbing, knocks an 8-iron into the front bunker. Very un-Tiger-like. Center of the green would have left him a good position to win the hole. As for Tiger’s knee, it looks sound. Doubtlessly he’d love to close this match out after 15 or 16 holes. 3:06 p.m. Mahan has McIlroy 1-down thru 3. Wish GC would show some of that match. Hole smokes! Clark just drained his birdie putt at No. 5 — a 40-footer, downhill, across two tiers and though a flaming hula hoop. Putt of the week so far. Tiger doesn’t match and just like that we’re all square. 3:00 p.m. Tiger just misses the fairway right at No. 5, leaving himself 215 into the wind. GC didn’t show the tee shots but somehow Clark has outdriven Woods. Neither approach is stellar as both players leave themselves nasty downhill putts: Woods’s from about 15 feet, Clark’s from Scottsdale. 2:57 p.m. Semi-fair point from reader Bob regarding Tiger’s constant battle with photographers: “Why can’t Tiger focus enough to funnel those clicks out? I thought he was “mentally” tough. 2:52 p.m. No surprise — Tiger chips a low runner to kick-in range. Clark concedes the par, and clears the stage for himself. Crumbs! Clark hits a crummy putt about three feet past the hole. He never liked it, and neither did Faldo. “Oh, no!” Faldo cries. “He wasn’t even stationed when he hit it!” Zach is still hanging around, sort of, as he cuts Phil’s lead to 3-up thru 14. 2:46 p.m. Clark hits a pretty approach to about 15 feet left of the flag. Woods has 102 yards from the bunker — one of the game’s toughest shots. Even for Woods. He picks it clean but it hits the green and spins like a top right back off the surface and down into a chipping area. Clark needs to make this putt. 2:44 p.m. Tiger’s tee shot at the par-4 4th finds the bunker in the middle of the fairway. (Don’t you hate those kind of bunkers? I never understood them.) Clark avoids the same fate. 2:41 p.m. Clark plays a lovely pitch that should ensure his 3. “Tim Clark has all the shots,” Zinger notes. Tiger misses his putt, which was more like a 5-footer. Bullet dodged by the South African. They halve the hole. Faldo’s concerned that Clark will try to go punch-for-punch with Woods. “Tim Clark musn’t get suckered into following Tiger,” Faldo says. Faldo’s right. Clark needs to — cliche alert! — play his own game. 2:36 p.m. Tiger on the tee at the 183-yard 3rd — sticks it. He’s got about 7 feet for birdie. Clark now … he misses right and the ball kicks down the slope off the green. He’s short-sided himself, too. That’s trouble. In other news, Phil just went 4-up over Zach with 5 to play. 2:31 p.m. Clark looks disgusted by his approach, though it’s not all bad. He’s about 20 feet, hole high to the right. Woods has a big right-to-left bender, but doesn’t play enough break. That’ll be a 4 for Woods. Clark needs to match, but doesn’t. His putts just squirts by under the hole. Tiger … 1-up. You get the sense that if Clark is going to prevail, he’ll need to make a lot of putts from the 10-20 foot range. 2:27 p.m. Clark hits a fairway metal up the right — a lay up. Woods, on the other hand, has a mere 256 to the hole. No chance he’ll lay up. Ripped! He drills a 3-wood up the right, one bounce short of the green and … up and on. His ball comes to rest on the putting surface, some 30 feet beyond the hole. He’ll have a putt for eagle. Clark will be pitching his third from about 100 yards. 2:22 p.m. Here’s a curious stat: Ladbrokes has Tiger as the 2-1 favorite to win the Masters. The line on him beating Clark today? 3-1. Shows you the unpredictability of this event, even when Woods is in the mix. 2:17 p.m. Tiger hits driver at the 574-yard par-5 2nd. “C’mon, guys!” he barks at a bank of over-zealous photographers. He backs off, then sets up again. He hits a big cut up the right side of the fairway. Good shape. Clark isn’t as fortunate. His drives squirts off the fairway, also up the right, but well behind Woods’s tee ball. 2:13 p.m. To the surprise of Roger Maltbie, Clark decides to putt not chip. Good choice. Clark, with his belly putter, cozies it up to a couple of feet. Woods now, with a downhiller that moves right to left. He misses. Both putts are conceeded, and it’s on to No. 2. All square. 2:09 p.m. Steve Stricker just chipped in on No. 3 to square his match with Ernie Els. Back on one, Woods hits a nice approach shot to about 20 feet behind the hole. Clark’s approach now — from 163 yards. Short and right. He’ll be chipping back up to the hole. Advantage Woods. Paul Azinger notes that Woods came up short on many of his approaches into the wind yesterday. That’s worth watching. 2:02 p.m. And they’re off…Woods has the honors. Splits the fairway with a 3-wood. Clark pulls driver. Solid tee shot up the left side. Good start for both players. 2:01 p.m. Before we get going here, here’s quick update on some of the other marquee matches in progress: Phil Mickelson has a 1-up lead thru 10 on Zach Johnson; Anthony Kim is 1-down thru 8 to the promising Brit, Oliver Wilson; Camilo Villegas has a 4-up lead thru 6 over Spanish Ryder Cupper Miguel Angel Jiminez. The other must-watch match today is Hunter Mahan v. Rory McIlroy, the 19-year-old sensation from Northern Ireland. If McIlroy’s all he’s cracked up to be (and it appears he is after his win in Dubai earlier this month), he and Mahan may face each other again—not only in the Match Play, but in future Ryder Cups, too. Their match begins soon after Woods and Clark. 1:55 p.m. Golf Channel’s Steve Sands reported that tournament organizers want a more exciting course setup today, so they’ve moved up a bunch of tees. Not sure if that’ll work for the short-knocking Clark — or against him. 1:49 p.m. Welcome back to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Tiger Tracking Blog. Catchy, right? Aussie Brendan Jones proved no match for the new (and it
appears) very much improved Tiger Woods in yesterday’s opening round,
setting up Woods in a Round 2 showdown with the pint-sized South
African Tim Clark. You know all you need to know about Tiger. Here’s
what you need about Clark: He’s off to a solid start in ’09 with four
top-25 finishes in four PGA Tour starts; he had a good chance to win
the 2006 Masters, where he placed second; and though he might hit
5-iron when Woods pulls 8, don’t expect Clark to crawl up a cactus.
"I’m not scared of the match,"  Clark said yesterday after bettering his countryman Retief
Goosen, 3 and 2. "I’m just
going to come out and
give it my best shot and if I lose, it’s no big deal. If I win, great.
I’m not going to put any pressure on myself." Clark cites Ian Woosnam
as one of his idols. He kind of plays like him, too.

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