Tiger Woods confident ahead of return to Dell Match Play


Most people, especially on Tuesday, the final day of practice rounds ahead of the Dell Match Play, marveled at the stretch of holes that swings down just under the Pennybacker Bridge and hugs the Colorado River.

The stretch defines Austin Country Club and is an iconic setting in one of the most iconic cities in the country.

Tiger Woods is not most people. He views the holes as a challenge rather than a stunning backdrop.

"With the wind forecast, trying to drive the ball (down there) is going to be interesting," Woods said. "It's a challenge figuring out where to miss it and where to place it. You'll see some high numbers here and you'll see a lot of birdies, and that's exactly what a good match play course should be like."

Woods is the only three-time winner of the Match Play (2003, 2004, 2008), although this is the first time he's playing the tournament since it moved to Austin in 2015. He last played in the Match Play in 2013.

His first-round opponent is Aaron Wise, and they tee off at 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Brandt Sneaker awaits in the second match of pool play and Patrick Cantlay will face Woods in the third match.

Only the top finisher in each of the 16 pools advances to the knockout stage of the bracket.

For Woods, that presents the potential of playing seven rounds of competitive golf in five days, a challenge just about anyone in the field, let alone a 43-year-old coming off multiple back surgeries.

"Hopefully I can play well enough to get to that point and be in the finals," Woods said. "The end of last year gave me a lot of confidence. I was tired, but my body held up. This isn't a flat golf course, so there are going to be some interesting lies and interesting shots. It's a good walk."

Defending champions Bubba Watson is taking more of a fake it 'til you make it approach.

Since winning the tournament last year, the big-hitting lefty has five times, although he did finish in a tie for fourth place at the Valspar Championship last week in Florida. But he's not about to call it a slump.

"If you're winning matches, it will make you feel better," Watson said. "If I shot 80 and won a stroke play event on Sunday, I still feel like I'm not in a slump. I feel like I shot 80 and won. So you'll see matches where people lose shooting in the 60s, and you'll see matches people win shooting over par."

Watson faces Kevin Na in his first match beginning at 11:32 a.m. on Wednesday.

He will go up against Texas alum Jordan Spieth during round-robin play. The three-time major winner has missed three cuts in eight starts and has yet to finish higher than a tie for 35th this season.

Dell Technologies requested an update last week to the current format that would double the number of players that advance out of the group. The players' group said in a memo they wouldn't be in support of the change.

Paul Casey, who won last week at the Valspar and is on the players' committee said he'd love to see it go back to a straight knockout format again but understands that would be difficult to sell to television and sponsors.

"From an entertainment point of view, you want as much golf as possible on the weekend," Casey said. "But, the player in me, yeah, if I lose on Wednesday, I want to go home. But I don't know the solution is."

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