How do you tame a Tiger?
MARANA, Ariz. -- He's just a guy. Just another golfer. Just like me or anyone else in the field. Puts his pants on one leg at a time. Can't leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Or so you tell yourself, at least.
But deep down, Mr. PGA Tour Veteran, you know he's so much more than that, with those seven straight tour wins, 12 major championship titles and No. 1 ranking attached to his name.
By extension, he's also the fiercest match-play competitor of this era. So when you examine that strange labyrinth of names and lines for the hundredth time this week and still find your name connected on the bracket to that of Tiger Woods, you begin to rationalize. Take him down a notch in your thoughts. Remind yourself that anything can happen on any given day. But really, there's just one question lingering in your mind, waiting to be answered:
How do you tame a Tiger?
Woods' first-round opponent last year, Stephen Ames, had an idea: Antagonize him. Or perhaps he was just guilty of speaking without thinking. Discussing Tiger's inaccuracy off the tee, Ames said prior to the event, "Anything's possible from where he's hitting it from."
Turns out Ames was only burying himself in a life-size divot with such a remark. He was defeated in astounding fashion, as Woods needed only 10 holes to mete out enough damage to call it a day. When asked later to comment on whether Ames' words provided any inspiration, Woods simply repeated the score of the match: "9 and 8."
"I'm not going to add any fuel to the fire," said Henry, who only got into this week's field after Charl Schwartzel pulled out. "I'm not saying I want to get beat 9 and 8."
OK, so let's examine some positive examples, guys who actually stood toe-to-toe with Tiger and lived to tell about it. Consider Shaun Micheel, who beat Woods in a first-round, 36-hole match at last year's HSBC World Match Play Championship in England. Rather than alienate his opponent beforehand, he placed the onus on himself, saying, "I'm not going to be a sacrificial lamb," prior to the match.
"I think sometimes it's easier to play as the underdog as most of us do week in and week out when he's in the field," Micheel said afterwards. "He's so strong mentally, which also makes him very difficult to play in match play. I think sometimes match play can be a little bit more of a mental game, as opposed to going out and seeing who shoots the lower score."
Then again, maybe it doesn't help to see yourself as the nothing-to-lose underdog in the match. Nick O'Hern knows a thing or two about the power of positive attitude.
"I thought if I played well I'd have a real good chance, and he'd have to play some really good golf to beat me," O'Hern said when he defeated Woods in the second round two years ago. "We had a really good match. It was a lot of fun."
One more piece advice Henry should heed this week? You've got to want to play Woods. Show fear and he'll pounce like a, uh, Tiger.
"I was definitely excited to be playing the No. 1 guy in the world. You want to play the best guys," said Chad Campbell, after defeating Woods in the third round of this event a year ago. "Obviously I'd probably rather play like a 12-year-old or something."
Actually, you'd rather play a 13-year-old. A 13-year-old Tiger Woods, that is.
Woods had just reached his teenage years when he played in his first match play event -- the Southern California Junior Match Play. He lost in the quarterfinals to James Mohon, a defeat which still eats at him today.
"I shot 69 that day. Got to the 18th hole and lost," Tiger recalled on Tuesday. "I didn't quite understand that. I just came home and told dad, 'I don't understand, I shot a better score than he did, but he won the match. That doesn't seem right.' He explained it to me. That was the first time I had ever experienced anything like that before."
What did he do about it? "We went out the next couple days and played match play," Woods said. But of course.
So there it is, J.J. Simply put, you'll need to score well, be mentally strong and have a great positive attitude to topple Woods and find your name succeeding his on the Match Play brackets this week.
Oh, and one more thing to remember about Tigers: They're just as scared of you as you are of them. "It's always tougher to continue at match play," Woods explained, "because all it takes is one hot guy."
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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