World No. 1 Tiger Woods knows all too well that his seven-event win streak in US PGA sanctioned events faces its sternest test at the World Golf Championships Match-Play Championship.
The 64-man showdown started in Arizona yesterday with overall top seed Woods squaring up against fellow American JJ Henry. Woods won twice in seven tries at the event when it was played at La Costa, but must now try to conquer his foes on Dove Mountain.
"This has always been one of the tougher events to win, because of the nature of the format," Woods said.
"You have to beat one guy at a time, six guys [in all] to win the championship. It's always tougher to continue at Match Play because all it takes is one hot guy. In stroke play, you can have an off day and still win," he said.
While Woods has made an amazing run in US PGA events, three shy of the tour record streak set in 1945 by Byron Nelson, he quickly notes his defeats during that span in four European Tour events.
"I've done a lot of losing too. I lost at the Match Play [at Wentworth], lost in China, lost in Japan," Woods said, citing last year's defeats.
That streak grew earlier this month when he finished third at the Dubai Desert Classic.
Woods has known Henry, his Ryder Cup teammate last year, since their amateur days.
"He hit the ball beautifully during that Ryder Cup and I thought handled himself extremely well, given that was his first time in a Ryder Cup and it was over in Europe," Woods said. "He had a lot of guts coming down 18."
Players will be forced to hit shots at this course they are not often asked to attempt during usual PGA events, Woods said.
"When the wind blows here, there's nothing to stop [the ball], so that's the trickiest thing," Woods said. "Here, there are so many options around the greens, you're going to see a lot of different shots."
Other first-round pairings in the US$8 million event include Ireland's Padraig Harrington going against England's Lee Westwood in another matchup of Ryder Cup colleagues, this time from the winning European side.
"It doesn't really matter who you play," Westwood said. "If my opponent was from Mars, I would treat it the same. You just try to play well and hope he doesn't play better."
Harrington comes off a disappointing final round at Los Angeles last Sunday, when he began one stroke off the lead but faded to seventh.
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