Tiger is back. I was very curious to watch him play today. The public is obviously going to be heavily betting on him in his return in the Match Play, so I wanted to get a first hand sense of whether there would be any value in betting against him. In a word – no. It seems ridiculous to think that a guy could take eight months off, have major surgery on a pretty important golf joint, and have a new son a couple of weeks ago, and still be ready to perform at a high level. But then it seems even more ridiculous to think that a guy can be as good as Woods is.
I am no expert on knee surgery, and I am not a doctor, but I saw absolutely nothing that would lead me to believe that the knee is even remotely an issue. He walked normally, he swung aggressively, he was relaxed and comfortable, there wasn’t a single grimace visible in HD – Tiger was Tiger. He wasn’t particularly challenged by his opponent, but he played more than well enough to beat a much tougher draw. In fact, I won’t at all be surprised if he wins it all. I can’t come up with a good reason not to treat him like I always would after watching him play today.
Beyond Tiger, the Match Play was as interesting as it always is. I love the format of the tournament and wish it was a higher profile event. There were some big upsets. Two number one seeds – Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington were sent packing. Two more number two seeds went home. In the Gary Player bracket six of the eight lower seeds were victorious. Lots of fun.
There are some pretty interesting matchups coming up, and some pretty clear contenders emerging. Here are some thoughts:
- I was surprised that Anthony Kim was only a three seed, and he made it clear he thought he deserved better – he won 7 and 5. He’s got a pretty smooth run right through to the final four ahead of him, and I would comfortably bet on him being there. If I had a wish it would be a Kim – Woods finale. They are likely to be competitors over the next five years or so, so why not start now?
- Camilo Villegas is another guy who looked pretty exceptional. He dispatched Rod Pampling 7 and 6. I think he’s the best of his part of the bracket as well, and could set himself up for a quarterfinal against Tiger. That would be another one worth watching.
- Phil Mickelson didn’t look great today, and I expect him to fall to Zach Johnson tomorrow.
- I really liked how Ian Poulter played today. A whole mess of upsets in his part of the bracket has him as the highest seed in his next two rounds despite only being a number eight. If he keeps playing like he did today then he could be tough. His bracket is the most wide open right through to the final four.
- If I was picking my final four based on this first round it would be Woods, Vijay Singh, Poulter and Kim.