Jason Sobel's blog -- Tiger's return

3/1/2009 - Golf

6:30 p.m. ET: One final thought on Tiger Woods for the week: Let's not read too much into his second-round loss here as a barometer of what the short- and long-term future may hold.

In 2002, he lost in the opening round to Peter O'Malley ... but went on to win the year's first two majors.

In 2004, he swept through all six rounds and won this event ... but failed to win anything else for the remainder of the year.

I'd also debate the notion that "Tiger came back too soon." It's just not true. While he'll be criticized and second-guessed for his decision, it was the right one. Woods was ready to play, so he played. Win or lose, it was the right choice. Perhaps the competitive juices that he got flowing will lead to a win the next time out; it could only speed up the process a bit.

And while he's certainly not pleased with the result, Woods will fly home on TWA knowing that at least he was beaten by a guy who played much better on Thursday.

Next up for Woods? He hasn't announced it yet, but I'd be willing to bet we'll see him in two weeks at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral, then two weeks later at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, then of course two weeks after that at the Masters. Expect him to compete in 15-17 events this season. There will be more losses and yes, there will be some wins, too.

As we've witnessed before, the Match Play doesn't necessarily serve as a gauge for the rest of his season.

I've gotten a lot of e-mails -- both serious and sarcastic -- asking what I'm going to do with the blog now that Woods is done for the week. Regretfully, we'll be shutting it down. This was a week about blogging Tiger's return, not necessarily the event itself; tell you the truth, if TW hadn't decided to play here, I wouldn't have blogged.

For those of you who want more coverage of "the other guys," check out my Weekly 18 and the rest of our content on ESPN.com. We cover these guys 365 days a year, but as I wrote, this week was about Tiger.

Thanks for reading and thanks for all the e-mails (somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 and counting over two days). My sunburn's sunburn is sunburned, but I didn't get swallowed by a cactus, so I'll consider it a successful journey.

Next live blog will come on April 9 from Augusta National. Until then, hit 'em straight ...

6:06 p.m. ET: While TW only showed flashes of great play interspersed with some mediocre and downright bad stuff, he didn't lose this match as much as Tim Clark won it.

Let's give credit where credit is due: Clark was lights-out today. Played 16 holes in 6-under-par, with no bogeys and six birdies.

A very quick, informal check of the other scores shows that Clark likely would have beat anyone today, save for Oliver Wilson and maybe Camilo Villegas. When you play second- or third-best out of 32 competitors, you deserve to move on.

5:49 p.m. ET: E-mail from Dean in Parts Unknown:

Did any of Tiger's issues appear to be because he is not in "game shape" and the mental and/or physical fatigue are catching up to him, with it being his first tourney back?

I really don't think so. I mean, it's utterly impossible to analyze someone else's mental state, but we can only go by what he's been telling us and Tiger said he was both physically and mentally prepared to play this week.

I'd be willing to bet his interview session with the media includes at least a few statements like, "I just got beat today."

And of course the ever-popular, "It is what it is."

5:45 p.m. ET: According to Tiger, in his post-round interview with Golf Channel, he hit the ball "beautifully," but "couldn't get it into the hole."

Not sure I'd use the same adjective, but Woods is never one to admit when he doesn't have it firing on all cylinders.

Fact is, though, Tim Clark was just the better player today. No doubt about it.

5:40 p.m. ET: Woods can't chip in on 16, concedes the par to Clark -- and that's the ballgame.

Clark wins, 4 and 2.

And Tiger's return from knee surgery is hardly a rousing success in his first event back.

That's a second-round loss -- it will go down as a T-17 in the books -- and he falls to 32-7 all-time in this event. This ties for the second-earliest exit of his career.

5:33 p.m. ET: For those on the course right now ...

If you're a realist, get yourself to the 16th hole right now because like yesterday, Woods' match could end here.

If you're an eternal optimist, head for the first hole, because that's where the extra holes would begin.

Me? I'm staying right here on 16.

5:31 p.m. ET: I'm guessing there may have only been one bogey at 15 today -- and we just saw it.

TW misses his putt on the high side, Clark's par is conceded and Woods is now 3-down with three to play.

5:28 p.m. ET: Oh yeah, there's that "mad" swing again.

Of course, putting "mad" usually isn't usually the best thing ...

5:24 p.m. ET: Tiger's strategy here? With Clark in a fairway bunker, he's looking at making a 3 on his second ball.

And he may just do it.

Woods' drive winds up pin-high, about 12 feet right of the hole.

For as bad as the first drive was, that one was pretty special.

5:22 p.m. ET: Bad news for Tiger.

After walking to his shot, he found it was out of bounds -- after hitting a cart path, it wound up on the other side of a chain-link fence.

Woods is now making the walk of shame back to the tee box -- and all by himself. Stevie stays by the green and Tiger takes his driver back to the tee with him.

5:17 p.m. ET: And that may be the worst shot we've seen from TW in two days. Farther right than Rush Limbaugh, he's gonna have some work to do.

Looks like he'll be playing the next one in the desert.

5:14 p.m. ET: Clark can't counter with a birdie of his own and his lead is now 2-up with four to play over Woods.

And this couldn't have worked out any better if Woods designed the course himself.

A much longer hitter than Clark, they're now at the drivable par-4 15th tee.

And TW has a driver ...

5:12 p.m. ET: "Nice shot, Tiger."

I imagine that's what Clark just said to him, but couldn't hear amidst all the yelling and screaming, as TW just relived the 17th hole chip-in during the third round of last year's U.S. Open by holing his bunker shot.

Wow. Just when you start saying, "This is about the time Tiger usually does something magical," ... he does something magical.

5:10 p.m. ET: Great shot by Clark to hit one from the thick stuff and chase it all the way to pin-high, some 30 feet away.

Woods counters with a bunker shot to the front-side trap.

As they walk to the green, Woods says to Clark, "Nice shot, Tim."

He's right. It was.

5:06 p.m. ET: Just a little perspective: If Clark wins the 14th hole, he'll be 4-up with four to play.

Even at 3-down with five to play, this will be a tough come-from-behind win for Woods. Clark isn't a guy who makes many mistakes -- and is living up to that label today.

5:02 p.m. ET: Timely e-mail from Michael in Winston-Salem, N.C.:

Before everybody starts talking about Tiger panicking, remember he was 3-down with five to play against J.B. Holmes in the first round last year -- with a much worse leg -- and won the next four holes before tying the 18th to win the match.

Great point, but let's remember: Woods made about eight miles worth of putts down the stretch. Tough to recreate that.

If he does it again, it will be doubly impressive.

4:59 p.m. ET: After Clark gets in for birdie, Tiger needs to hole a 10-footer to halve.

And look at that ... what a clutch putter ... he knocks it right into the ...


He missed.

Woods lips out and now trails 3-down with five to play.

What time is it? Panic time.

4:55 p.m. ET: Uh-oh. Failing to heed my warning, Tiger tried to get cute and caromed back to the right.

He has more green to work with than I originally thought, though.

4:51 p.m. ET: That last drive? 341 yards.

Tough pin placement here on 13. The cup is cut all the way to the right side of the green, but there's a false front just beneath it.

Try to get cute with this and they'll short-side themselves with a tough come-backer.

4:48 p.m. ET: The latest flight on TWA just left the 13th tee box as Tiger crushed a driver.

That's what we call "swinging mad."

If you play like me, you swing mad on every hole.

4:46 p.m. ET: Question from DJ in OKC:

Does Tiger, or anyone, really fly TWA anymore?

Dude, you're gonna be kicking yourself. Will absolutely hate that you missed this one. You ready?

TWA = Tiger Woods Airlines.

4:44 p.m. ET: TIMMY!!!!!!!

Birdie for Clark on 12 and he's suddenly 2-up with six to play.

Check your watch ... panic time yet for Woods? Not quite yet, but it's getting much, much closer.

4:40 pm. ET: Uh, maybe now he can panic.

Absolute dart by Clark on the par-3 12th. Tiger follows by fanning one way short and way left.

Watch out, golf fans. Woods could be 2-down in a matter of minutes.

4:34 p.m. ET: Tiger made a bigger mess of the 11th hole than John Daly at an all-you-can-eat buffalo wing joint.

Drive into the bunker. Lay-up. Third left of the green. Bump-and-run way past the hole. Missed long par putt. And, finally, a concession.

For the second time today, Clark is 1-up. No need to panic yet for TW, but he's got his work cut out for him now.

4:24 p.m. ET: On the Sunday before the Masters each year, Augusta National is still open to members, while many pros are also on the course honing their games.

The media is welcome on the premises, too, but only in the area of first tee, ninth green, 10th tee and 18th green.

And that was how when Tiger Woods teed off the first hole there four days before last year's Masters, I was one of 14 total people in attendance -- his playing partners included.

When he hit into the fairway bunker on the right side, Tiger simply said, "Every time," with a shake of his head.

He must feel the same way right now, having just pushed his drive on 11 into the very same fairway bunker as yesterday.

4:17 p.m. ET: Missed 22-footer for Woods on the 10th hole means we're still All Square. Quite a battle going on here.

Almost as good as the one between my e-mailers and Jesse from Billings. Among the dozens who took offense, this is from Marc in Milford, Conn.:

Here's a good question: Who the hell chooses to live in Billings, Montana?

Fighting words. Connecticut is currently 1-up on Montana -- as is everyone else.

4:13 p.m. ET: E-mail from Andy in Parts Unknown:

What's the effect of the blog jinx in match play? Theoretically, in stroke play, this much time devoted to Tim Clark would have brought on a jinx strong enough to not only knock him out of the tournament, but make him potentially the protagonist in HBO's "Eastbound and Down."

The vaunted Blog Jinx actually didn't make the field here at the Match Play and is instead wreaking havoc at this week's opposite-field event -- the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico -- where it very well may be teaming with Montezuma's Revenge to give players quite a fitful week.

Speaking of "Eastbound and Down," can't believe I forgot to use that as my punchline when Japan Tour regular Brendan Jones lost to Tiger yesterday.

I want a mulligan.

4:09 p.m. ET: Starting to feel the wind a little bit more right now. Biggest problem for the players is that it's not a constant wind, but is gusting instead.

I'd say it's a one-to-two club wind, depending on what's going on when you're standing over the ball -- which of course could change by the time the ball is in the air.

4:03 p.m. ET: First drop-the-putter, hands-on-head reaction of the day from Tiger.

His 32-footer for birdie on No. 9 barely fails to find the bottom of the cup, to an agonized response. Clark counters with a miss, too.

And we're all tied up heading to the back nine.

Time to look at the very real possibility that despite trailing for only one of 25 holes over two days so far, Tiger could be headed back to Florida on TWA later tonight. If he's gonna win this, he'll have to earn it; Clark isn't going to give him anything.

3:59 p.m. ET: E-mail from Stephen in Charleston, S.C.:

How does Clark seem to be handling the media spotlight today? Does he seem distracted in the least?

Fine and no.

This isn't a guy who's too flappable -- sort of has a been-there, done-that mentality and a date with Tiger isn't going to change that. He's hanging in there nicely, no sign of nerves at all.

3:52 p.m. ET: I guess you could say this about any pairing (or threesome) on the PGA Tour, but something about the nature of match play really gives it a feel of just two guys teeing it up and playing golf together.

Woods and Clark were just walking off the ninth tee box together -- didn't look as if they were chatting much. But it's not exactly like they're trying to maintain a proper distance, either.

And they didn't stop until reaching their balls in the fairway. Each hit 3-wood to within a few yards of the other.

This match couldn't be any tighter right now.

3:46 p.m. ET: Elevator golf. Up-and-down, up-and-down.

On the par-5 eighth hole, Clark makes birdie from the front bunker, Woods makes birdie from pin-high left of the green, and we remain All Square going to the last hole on the front side.

3:43 p.m. ET: E-mail from Jesse in Billings, Mont.:

I would just like to tell you how sorry I am for the quality of questions you're receiving. In a word ... abysmal.

You heard that, folks. Step it up or else Jesse won't be happy ...

3:35 p.m. ET: E-mail from Chad in Greenville, S.C.:

What percentage of golf writers actually follow the matches, versus eating cold cuts and watching the telly?

There are actually a lot of my brethren out here following this match right now.

But as a whole, we get a bad rap. Anyone who has ever attended a golf tournament knows it's easier to follow the proceedings on TV than sticking with just one group. And hey, if we're watching on TV, might as well eat something, right? And with free food for the media, might as well go back for seconds and thirds, right?

In related news, I'm having a warm bottle of water for lunch.

3:31 p.m. ET: Now this is what I'm talking about!

Match play at its best, as the two players traded holes and now stand All Square through seven.

And it shouldn't come as a surprise how it happened, either.

TW goes bogey-birdie while steady Clark goes par-par to keep pace.

3:24 p.m. ET: Another fairway, another green for TW on No. 7.

Those irons don't look quite as "loose" today.

3:16 p.m. ET: E-mail from Chad in Parts Unknown:

Who looks better physically -- Tiger or Clark?

Woods is up there with Camilo Villegas as the most fit guys on tour. Clark is short and paunchy and isn't exactly known as a gym rat.

Clark makes a nice up-and-down on No. 6 to win the hole and keep the honor on the seventh tee.

3:11 p.m. ET: Can only guess at this, but when TW found that back of the green yesterday on No. 6, it may have been a 7-iron.

So today, with the hole playing downwind, that may have been in the back of his mind. Perhaps taking one club less, Woods hit an absolute rainmaker ... and found the front bunker.

Does anyone have a 7-and-a-half iron?

3:06 p.m. ET: Biggest crowd reaction of the day (the fans did finally meander down to the fifth green) goes to ... Tim Clark.

Clark rolls in about a 60-footer for birdie to win the hole. Woods' reaction? He just laughed.

3:04 p.m. ET: The numbers are in and they're not surprising.

From Golf Channel's PR department:

Preliminary projections of Wednesday's coverage -- which also marked the highly anticipated return of Tiger Woods -- show Golf Channel will garner the highest first-round rating on the network, and likely will surpass the network's highest rating ever (2.0, Friday of 2008 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship).

Like I wrote, no surprise.

3:01 p.m. ET: Where's the love? Where's the buzz?

While there were a few hundred fans behind the gallery ropes at the fifth tee box, there is virtually nobody 150 yards and in.

If you wanted to walk with Woods and Clark shot-for-shot right now, you could do so without having to stand 10 deep and crane for a glimpse of the action.

This was far from the case yesterday.

2:56 p.m. ET: It's now All Square.

No, not the match.

I'm talking about the contest between Tiger's driver and 3-wood. He's now hit each of 'em twice -- driver on 2 and 5, 3-wood on 1 and 4.

2:53 p.m. ET: Yawn.

Two more pars, another halved hole.

TW remains 1-up through four holes.

2:49 p.m. ET: Maybe the toughest test of Tiger's knee we've seen yet ...

After driving into a fairway bunker on No. 4, he had a tough uphill stance with a wedge coming in.

The good news? He showed no signs of it bothering his restructured knee. The bad news? He fanned it to the right of the green.

2:43 p.m. ET: E-mail from Ryan in aptly-named Fairway, Kan.:

Do you think Accenture had a role in Tiger choosing the Match Play as his comeback event? There's just no logical reason for him to pick this over Doral or even the Honda.

It wasn't a factor, but it was a nice bonus. In the end, Tiger's decision came down to one thing and one thing only: He was ready. And if he was ready to play, why continue sitting on the sidelines?

2:35 p.m. ET: I'm not a big fan of this venue.

In fact, I think it's a joke that a WORLD Golf Championship event is held north of Tucson, Ariz., each year. (For more, check out my rant from the SportsNation chat earlier today.)

But there are a few excellent holes and No. 3 is one of them. A downhill 208-yard par-3, the green is guarded by bunkers on either side and water farther to the right.

It's also now the site of perhaps Tiger Woods' best iron shot of the past two days. After sticking one to 6 feet, though, he missed the birdie putt.

Clark counters with par and remains 1-down through three holes.

2:31 p.m. ET: If there's going to be a big advantage for Tiger anywhere on this course, it will come on the par-5 holes.

On No. 2, he outdrove Clark using 3-wood again, then two-putted for birdie to win the hole.

Woods is now 1-up.

2:20 p.m. ET: While there are still hordes of people following this match both inside and outside the ropes, the buzz is noticeably less than yesterday -- which makes sense.

Tough to put into words; the gallery is just not as loud, not as excited, not as ... electric.

2:15 p.m. ET: E-mail from Jeff in Parts Unknown:

What do you think Tiger's feelings are on his opponent making him putt out from 2-3 feet and not just saying "it's good"? Do you think he respects them for not giving into the aura that is Tiger or does it just make him say "you don't think I can make that?" and fires him up to the point where his opponent is lucky to play more than 12 holes?

Interesting question. Woods doesn't miss anything inside of 3 feet, so it's sort of a moot point to make him putt. Then again, these guys don't want to simply hand anything to an opponent, either.

The one variable this week is that these greens are slower than most others on the PGA Tour. If he's ever going to miss, it will be on a surface that isn't familiar.

Woods and Clark each made par to halve the first hole. On to No. 2 ...

2:11 p.m. ET: Let it be known that Tim Clark's driver goes slightly farther than Tiger Woods' 3-wood.

Well, on one hole, at least.

2:06 p.m. ET: How windy is it? The credential around my neck is whipping around in "strangulation" mode.

2:03 p.m. ET: Stiff breeze? No problem.

Tiger sticks to the original game plan and goes with the 3-wood off the tee. Clark uses driver just to keep pace.

1:59 p.m. ET: As if Mother Nature herself wants to be part of this burgeoning gallery, Tiger's presence on the first tee was greeted by a stiff breeze, blowing right into the golfers' faces on this first hole.

Maybe the wind will play more of a factor than it did in yesterday's round.

1:48 p.m. ET: Just caught up with Hank Haney for literally two seconds as TW made his way from the range to the practice green for a quick tune-up before teeing off.

"Happy with everything yesterday?" I asked him.

He smiled, nodded his head, gave me a thumbs up and said, "Oh yeah."

That two-word response may tell you all you need to know about the state of Tiger's game right now.

1:41 p.m. ET: When it comes to how they're lined up, there is nobody in between Woods and Ian Poulter.


Hitting in the space just to the right of Tiger on the range is Poulter, which reminds me of a story I heard from last year's edition of this event.

On the heels of Poulter being quoted as saying, "It will be just me and Tiger," in reference to his place amongst the world's elite, Lee Westwood took a spot on the range between the two players and said in the driest tone something to the effect of, "I can't believe I'm hitting between the two best players in the world."

1:33 p.m. ET: If TW isn't planning to use driver much during his round today, he's not showing his hand right now.

While standing in the shadows of the bleachers and staring into the bright sun, I just remarked to a colleague, "I can't even see where it's going."

His response: "Far."

1:31 p.m. ET: Just a little over 30 minutes before his match is about to start and Tim Clark just showed up on the range.

No surprise here. Let's just say Clark has a bit more Bruce Lietzke in him than Vijay Singh.

Or maybe he's more like Allen Iverson. Practice? We're talkin' about ... practice?

1:25 p.m. ET: Tiger just hit a handful of 5-wood shots -- no tee -- and looked like he was playing a cut on all of 'em.

Now he's ripping the 3-wood, which might be his favorite club in the bag right now. Didn't miss a fairway with it yesterday and I'll bet he can keep up with -- or even outhit -- Tim Clark's driver using this club.

I know I questioned him a lot during yesterday's round for not breaking out the driver on a long course with wide fairways that seems to set up well for that club, but if it's not necessary then he is probably making the right call. I still find it a bit unnerving that a guy can go around a 7,849-yard course without using driver much, but it's working so far.

1:16 p.m. ET: E-mail from Pratt in Parts Unknown:

With the length of the course being 7800+ yards, how much of an advantage do you think driving distance is in match play?

I think it certainly helps, but not as much as some other stats. I think the most important thing in this format is iron play; if a guy can consistently hit his approach shots inside of his opponent, there's a very good chance he will win.

In fact, as many of you astutely mentioned yesterday, when Tiger was often hitting 3-wood short of Brendan Jones' tee shots, it may be an advantage to be the shorter player in match play sometimes, as hitting first for the second shot may put some pressure on the opponent.

For the record, Woods averaged 294.3 yards per drive last year (he used to be much longer), while hitting 57.86 percent of fairways. Clark averaged 281.1 off the tee, but had an accuracy rate of 64.98 percent.

1:12 p.m. ET: Tiger admitted his irons were "loose" at times during yesterday's round and it looks like he's spending more time working on that part of his game in today's range session.

He's already hit maybe two dozen 9-irons, with absolutely no reaction to any of 'em. Same goes for his caddie and instructor, which likely only means good things. If they didn't like what they were seeing, there'd be some discussion.

1:06 p.m. ET: Interesting stuff. Tiger was just on the far right side of the range, hitting some wedges at a flag maybe 80 yards away.

But he just packed up and moved to the far left side -- exactly where he warmed up yesterday.

Superstitious? Not likely. Instead, I think he just needed a farther target to hit toward. Looks like he's hitting 150-yard shots right now. Stock 9-iron, I'm guessing.

12:56 p.m. ET: Just over an hour before his tee time, Woods is currently on the practice green, right now just standing around and stretching a bit while chatting with Steve Williams and Hank Haney.

He just finished up and walked past me, telling Williams and Haney that he'd meet them on the range, then hopped a small barricade -- about 18 inches high -- on his way to the clubhouse.

So, yes, TW can hop on his reconstructed knee.

12:36 p.m. ET: Before heading out to check out Tiger on the range -- Nike's scripting has him going with a white hat/white shirt/black pants combo today, for the record -- let's get to a few quick e-mails ...

From Isaac in Harrisburg, Pa.:

I didn't get a chance to see all of the interviews after Tiger's win yesterday. Did anyone ask why he used driver so little? If so, what was his answer?

Actually, no. He was never asked, so I'm still unsure as to whether this was a strategic maneuver on this course or if he simply isn't hitting his new driver that well. Whatever the case, it's working. Tiger didn't miss a fairway with that 3-wood yesterday; expect to see a lot more of it today.

From Cory in Minnesota:

Do you believe that the other 30 golfers (minus Tim Clark) wish that Woods wins today because they are undoubtedly positive it is good for the PGA Tour, or hope he is somehow knocked off because of the fear that they don't want to play him in later rounds?

Honestly, honestly, honestly ... I don't think they even care one way or another. Maybe Hunter Mahan and Rory McIlroy -- the winner would play TW tomorrow -- has an eye on that match, but no one else is too worried about what Woods is doing; they're focused on their own matches right now.

From Dan in Effort, Pa.:

If Tiger wins this thing can we nickname him "Monster Saguaro"? Or better yet since, "The Saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States. Monster saguaros can reach 60 feet in height," can we refer to a long putt as a monster saguaro?

Done. From here on in, the Monster Saguaro is more than just a big plant protruding with excitement from the bleachers behind the first tee box.

12:27 p.m. ET: Perhaps the only person who isn't making such a big deal out of Tiger Woods' return is ... Tiger Woods.

Asked after yesterday's round what he thought of all the hoopla surrounding him, Woods said, "It is what it is. I've been away from the game for a while and I came back."

Blunt. Succinct. To the point.

He did elaborate, though, contending, "It felt like nothing had changed. Walking down the fairway, it felt like business as usual. ... It just came back down to just playing the game again, and that felt good. I thought it would take me a little bit longer to get into the rhythm of the round and try and find it, but I came out and as if I had it and it felt good."

Expect his rhythm -- which is one of those intangible qualities that is tough to replicate in a practice round -- to only get better today and beyond. We can talk all we want about driving the ball and iron play and putting, but oftentimes the physical parts of the game aren't necessarily as important as other aspects -- especially after such a long layoff.

12:02 p.m. ET: A quick Google search for "biggest comeback" generates responses ranging from the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin and Smashing Pumpkins to Robert Downey Jr., Britney Spears and Shannen Doherty to the Frank Reich-led Buffalo Bills and the 2004 American League Championship Series to Ben Hogan's return from a near-fatal car accident and Harry Vardon's successful bout with tuberculosis.

Time to add Tiger Woods to that list. Unless you've been buried in a greenside bunker for the past 24 hours, you know that on Wednesday the game's No. 1-ranked player came back from an eight-month layoff following knee surgery after winning the U.S. Open, defeating Brendan Jones, 3 and 2, in the opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

The return of the Jedi continues today.

In Round 2, Woods will face Tim Clark, one of those gritty, gutty bulldog-type guys who will gnaw on Tiger's ankles all day and never relent. (That's figurative, folks -- but thinking of such an image literally just made me laugh out loud.) Before you concede this match to Tiger prior to its commencement, consider this: If you match up their scorecards from yesterday, Clark would have been 1-up through 16 holes.

I guess this is the time I should make a prediction for a seemingly unpredictable tournament. Fine. I'm sticking with Tiger -- after all, I picked him to win the whole thing; I can't give up now -- but I think it goes 17 or 18 holes. As Clark said yesterday, "I sort of know what to expect, the buzz and the media and all the people and the noise. I'm looking forward to it."

Of course, he didn't exactly inspire confidence when a minute later, he intimated, "I live up in Scottsdale, so I'm prepared to get in my car and go home whenever I need to."

First balls will be in the air for this match in exactly two hours. Until then, I'll be providing updates on everything from when TW eats a banana to when he eats trail mix -- you know, only the really important stuff.

Let's be creative with the e-mails today. The quality and quantity were overwhelming yesterday -- more than 1,200 total at day's end -- but let's see if we can do any better. Looking forward to be your guide through this match all afternoon ...