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Accenture Match Play Championship February Madness

Get out your brackets. And we're not talking about the road to Indianapolis. This is March Madness golf style, and this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Carlsbad, California, where 64 golfers will bracket down to one standing, who will be Tiger Woods. I could be wrong.

And Duke could lose in the first round a month from now. This tournament is fun to watch for upsets. Will Phil Mickelson make it past Charles Howell III, will Gonzaga lose to Charlotte, should they meet? Unlike a regularly scheduled PGA Tour event, this is mano y mano for as long as you're standing, not you against a field of 150 or more on Thursday. This one starts on Wednesday, too, and ends with a 36-hole championship match that starts at 7:30 a.m.

on Sunday. Tiger had to bow out of the Nissan Open last week because he was ill, as were many other players. You know how when you come over a sickness you feel like a million bucks, like you can run faster, jump higher, tear the cover off a golf ball with your driver? Tiger should be healthy at La Costa this week.

If so, he walks away with his third win in this event. The proceedings at Riviera turned out to be pretty interesting, even with the announcement Saturday morning that Tiger had withdrawn. Rory Sabbatini hung tough to win his first PGA Tour event since 2003. I may have been the only guy in the world who supported Sabbatini after the Ben Crane episode last year. Golf needs to pick up the pace and to have a little fire.

We only really see the fire from Tiger when he's going well. Sergio to a lesser extent. God forbid you should play with a little passion.

Speaking of passion, did you catch the serious melodrama in the ice dancing at Torino? The Italian pair, Maurizio Margaglio and Barbara Fusar Poli, fell the day before the final Monday. Fusar Poli glared at Margaglio after the fall, presumably because it was his fault. The evening of the final they didn't talk to each other or even look at each other. It was all so dramatic, all so perfect for the Olympics.

They skated well in the final, then hugged and kissed. "There was no problem between us. I did not know what my eyes were saying," she said later.

I had a pretty good sense what her eyes were saying. Chalk it up to serious competitiveness, however wrong it was to publicly accuse your partner with the evil eye. In any case, I bet anyone playing Tiger this week will have a pretty good sense what his body language is saying. In the outright, Tiger's getting 5-1. Look at this as a bargain week as he'd probably be getting more like 2-1 if it wasn't match play.

Take him at 5-1, 1 unit. Retief Goosen and Adam Scott are good bets at 20-1, 25-1, but if Tiger was at 2-1 he'd still be my pick. Here's what he's done at La Costa since 1999 (he didn't play in the tournament in 2001): T17, 1, 1, T33, 2, T5. I don't expect a first-round upset. In the first round, take Mark Calcavecchia over Chris DiMarco (11-10), 1 unit: I like Calc in match play.

And despite DiMarco's success in the President's Cup last summer, I don't see much to indicate DiMarco is up to the competitive aspect of match play. That's my take, though. DiMarco finished second at La Costa last year (T9, T33, T17 and T33 before that). .

By: Jeremy Church



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