Survivors glad Day 1's done

Originally Published: February 25, 2004
By Andy North | Special to ESPN.com

CARSBAD, Calif. -- The quality of golf Wednesday wasn't exactly what you'd expect from the top 64 players in the world, but sometimes that will happen in this format -- particularly in the first round.

The damp, cool conditions at La Costa have to take at least some of the credit for the players' struggles. The recent rain has softened it considerably, with the course playing just about as long as it can play. The greens were a little spongy and unpredictable as well -- and as a result, guys were misjudging putts.

The match play format also contributed to the sloppy play. Guys can get so focused on beating their opponent that the quality of play suffers as a result. Many of the matches Wednesday were won with overall scores of even-par or worse.

Sloppy or not, the 32 survivors are happy to have this day behind them. The first win is always the hardest in this event. It's hard to get in the rhythm of playing match play, but now that they've been broken in, I think you'll see some better golf the rest of the week.

Tiger Woods was among those survivors who didn't bring his "A" game Wednesday. He struggled in his match against John Rollins, particularly early. Rollins had him against the wall with a 2-up lead on the back nine, but instead of slamming the door shut, he left it wide open with some big mistakes.

On the 13th hole, Rollins was in a position to go 3-up on Woods with five to play, but instead left his approach shot short, made a bogey and ended up losing the hole. Instead of 3-up, or at least 2-up, he was just 1-up at that point.

On 17, Woods hit a great approach shot -- his best of the day -- and made a birdie to square the match heading to the final hole. That's when Rollins really lost it. He tried to play a three-quarter wedge into the final green, but the ball took one hop and landed behind the putting surface in a bunker. Game over.

The Woods-Rollins match is a great example of what this event is all about. Both guys were struggling, really grinding out there. Woods was in big trouble, but Rollins gave him an opportunity to stay in the match. And if you give the best player in the world that chance, he's going to take advantage of it.

Fifteen of the 32 matches went the distance and a record-tying six went extra holes. That just proves how evenly the players were matched. Over 18 holes, any one of these players can beat any other player.

Two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North serves as an analyst for ESPN and will be covering the Accenture Match Play at La Costa all week.

Andy North joined ESPN as an on-course golf reporter in September, 1992. He serves as both an analyst and a reporter in ESPN's championship golf coverage as well as analyst for ESPN's preview shows and SportsCenter reports from major tournaments.

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