WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: Tiger's objective never changes - he wants to win in Tucson

After day of golf with President Obama, Woods is here to win
2013-02-20T00:00:00Z 2013-03-10T19:07:31Z WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: Tiger's objective never changes - he wants to win in TucsonDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 20, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It sounds like the start of a joke.

Tiger Woods and President Obama walk onto a golf course to play 18 holes.

"He calls up and says, 'Hey Tiger, wanna play?'" a smiling Woods said Tuesday. "No, there's a process involved, and I was invited to play. It's an invitation you don't turn down."

And that's how the world's second-ranked golfer prepares for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Woods, who arrived at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain on Tuesday, spent Sunday playing golf with Obama, Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and Ron Kirk, a member of Obama's administration.

The foursome played at the Floridian Golf Club in Palm City, Fla. Not surprisingly, Woods and Obama were victorious.

"He's a lefty, but to see him out there hitting shots - he hit it well, and we didn't play under the easiest conditions," Woods said. "He's got amazing touch. He can certainly chip and putt.

"We had a great round of golf. It was a good day."

That was for fun.

Today will be about winning.

Woods, the No. 1 seed in the Gary Player bracket, will face 16th seed and friend Charles Howell III at 12:25 p.m. Woods is looking to move past the first round for the second straight year; he hasn't won a Match Play championship since 2008. Woods lost to Nick Watney in the second round last year and fell to Thomas Bjorn in the first round in 2011.

"The whole idea is just to beat one guy at a time," Woods said. "There are times where I've played well in matches and I've lost, and other times where I've played poorly and advanced.

"It's potluck in these 18-hole sprints like this."

Woods enters today's first-round match with Howell looking like the old Tiger.

He won last month's Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego and has four tournament victories to his credit since last year's Match Play. His objective this week is the same as it's ever been.

"The only reason I enter events is to win," Woods said. "It's not to make the cut or finish (in the) top-10 or even second. It's to win the event. There's really no reason to enter if you don't have the mindset or belief that you can't win.

"I feel like I can win every time I play."

Few people know more about Tiger's winning mindset than Howell.

The two were practice partners when they both lived in Orlando, Fla., and have played dozens of rounds together.

Even though he's just four years younger, Howell said he views Tiger as a mentor.

"He's a friend of mine. I root for the guy, and I think he's great for the game of golf," Howell said. "In a way, he's a bit underrated because of what he's done in golf. He just won for the 75th time. It's incomprehensible.

"If he's your role model, he's a pretty good one."

Howell said he's just happy to be in Southern Arizona. He opened the year ranked 101st in the world, but after three straight top-10 finishes, catapulted to No. 63 overall. He snuck into the 64-player, single-elimination tournament.

Howell's reward is a shot at Woods, whom he lost to in the quarterfinals of the 1996 U.S. Amateur - another match-play format.

"He's the best player in the world," Howell said. "Every time I spend some time with him, I learn something and watch what he does. I have all kinds of respect for the guy and his game.

"Playing Tiger is easy in the fact that you know he's going to play awesome, and I have to play really, really well to have a chance."

If Woods is able to get by Howell, he'll face the winner of today's match between Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and Francesco Molinari. Woods edged Fernandez-Castaño in last year's first round.

If things go well enough this week at Dove Mountain, Woods may call his new friend - President Obama - to prepare for his next event.

Heck, Tiger has already given the president his own nickname.

"Partner," Woods said with a smile. "He was my partner and, as I said, we won."

On StarNet: See more photos from Tuesday's practice play at azstarnet.com/gallery

Today

• What: Match Play, first round

• Where: The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Marana

• Matches start: 7:25 a.m.

• TV: 10 a.m. on Golf Channel

• Tickets: Buy at Bashas', call 520-571-0400 or go to worldgolfchampionships.com

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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