Commentary

Match Play Championship final preview

Originally Published: February 21, 2008
By Bob Harig | Special to ESPN.com

MARANA, Ariz. -- Should we have expected anything less from Tiger Woods?

Despite several close matches -- and one in which his opponent twice could have knocked him out of the tournament by making a putt -- Woods has made it to the finals of the Accenture Match Play Championship for the fourth time in nine tries and the first since 2004.

His opponent will be four-time PGA Tour winner Stewart Cink, who advanced to the finals for the first time with a hot putter and a slew of impressive victories. Here is a look at the championship match.

CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Tiger Woods vs.
(6) Stewart Cink
Woods hit a wayward tee shot early Saturday morning, ended up conceding the first hole to K.J. Choi … and didn't make a bogey the rest of the day. He birdied the second hole and never trailed after that. Woods did not throttle Choi or Henrik Stenson, but he never looked as if he was going to lose, either. He made nine birdies and an eagle in his 34 holes and effectively played defense, making his opponents beat him -- which they could not do. Cink, meanwhile, also never trailed. He made nine birdies in his morning match and added six more and an eagle in the afternoon, shooting a 29 on the front side to put away Justin Leonard. Cink also made it through an impressive list of players, including three European Ryder Cup team members and a couple of major champions, including Angel Cabrera as well as Leonard on Saturday.

Cink admitted that he started to run out of energy Saturday afternoon, the reason it took him longer than expected to put away Leonard despite a big lead. That doesn't bode well for the 36-hole final against well-conditioned Woods. Cink has had some match-play success, defeating Nick O'Hern to clinch the Presidents Cup for the United States last fall and knocking off Sergio Garcia a year earlier in one of the few American highlights at the 2006 Ryder Cup. Although he has seven top-10s in World Golf Championship events, he has not won since the 2004 NEC Invitational. Cink said he has developed some power, and he's been putting beautifully, which he'll need to continue if he wants to knock off the No. 1 player in the world. Although Woods has lost in the final of the Match Play before, it is hard to envision his doing so now.

Bob Harig is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com