Match play golf, like anything hard, is a learned skill.
European players grow up in the format, developing their skill-sets in youth and amateur tournaments from the time they're old enough to swing a club. Americans generally acquaint themselves with the format while in college.
Success, generally, takes time.
Not surprisingly, today's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship quarterfinals will feature many of the sport's most accomplished - and experienced - match players.
Stewart Cink, Retief Goosen, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia were among the Match Play veterans who advanced Friday at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, defeating tournament newcomers to move into the weekend.
The field of eight will be pared to two today. The odds favor those with the most big-match experience.
"Yeah, I think so," said Casey, who improved to 13-7 in his Match Play career with a 5-and-4 win over Brian Gay. "But in 18-hole matches, I don't think that - you know, I don't think it matters too much. And anybody is capable of winning this thing still. But yeah, maybe having been through sort of a long week here helps."
Nobody's had a longer slog than Cink, who beat Charl Schwartzel in 19 holes Friday to qualify for his fourth quarterfinals in six years.
Cink defeated Edoardo Molinari 2-up in Wednesday's first round, then needed all 18 holes to edge Sean O'Hair on Thursday.
Cink was 1-up on Schwartzel through 14 holes before the South African evened it with a birdie on No. 15. The two halved the final three holes of regulation before Cink then put away the match with a 6-foot putt for birdie.
Cink has now won 21 of his 31 career Match Play showdowns.
The experience, he said, "definitely helps."
"A match like I had today, where it was really close all day … I didn't ever feel like I was going to lose," he said. "I just felt like it was going to happen, you know? So I had a lot of self-belief out there, and I think that comes from being in a lot of close matches and having won a lot of close matches."
Cink will face Casey, the hottest player in the tournament.
The Arizona State grad put together his third straight 5-and-4 victory Friday. Casey, last year's runner-up, has now won eight of his last nine matches.
He has yet to play Nos. 15-18.
"The guys who have played this tournament before, who know this golf course well, will have an advantage," he said. "The more I've played it, the more I've kind of enjoyed - I've learned to love the golf course, because there are places you can hit it and be rewarded."
Of course, there are exceptions to the experience-equals-success equation.
Thongchai Jaidee, an unknown Thai player making his Match Play debut, burst into the quarterfinals with a 5-and-4 win over Japanese phenom Ryo Ishikawa.
He'll face Ian Poulter, who rolled Jeev Milkha Singh 5 and 4.
And Camilo Villegas, who has played in just seven career Match Play matches, will take on South African Retief Goosen.
Jaidee and Villegas have played in fewer matches combined than five of the other six quarterfinalists.
But on paper, they have as much of a chance of advancing as anybody.
"Match Play is funny," Garcia said. "It just is what it is."
On StarNet: Find more photos from Friday's third round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: azstarnet.com/gallery
On StarNet: See video coverage of Friday's third round of Match Play at azstarnet.com/sports/golf
WGC-Accenture Match Play experience heading into today's quarterfinals:
Name Matches (record)
Stewart Cink 31 (21-10)
Retief Goosen 25 (15-10)
Ian Poulter 22 (15-7)
Paul Casey 20 (13-7)
Sergio Garcia 19 (11-8)
Camilo Villegas 7 (5-2)
Oliver Wilson 6 (5-1)
Thongchai Jaidee 3 (3-0)
IF YOU GO
• Where: The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain
• When: Today and Sunday
• Tickets: Visit worldgolfchampionships.com call 1-866-942-2672 or purchase at the gate.
DON'T MISS THIS MATCH
No. 6 Paul Casey vs. No. 19 Stewart Cink, 7:46 a.m.
Both men won their quarterfinal a year ago and are familiar with the stress. Cink is 21-10 lifetime in Match Play. Casey, last year's runner-up, is 13-7.