By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
at Austin Country Club
With this year marking the 19th playing since the inaugural WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in 1999, europeantour.com looks back on a collection of classic memories from over the years.
9. The birth of ‘D’Artagnan’
Already a European Tour winner by this point, the 2014 event provided something of a global unveiling for enigmatic Frenchman Victor Dubuisson. While it was Jason Day who might have won the event, the final three years ago will be best remembered for his European counterpart’s scrambling exploits during additional holes, when Dubuisson made two unthinkable up-and-downs from and through the cacti at Dove Mountain to keep the contest alive. Day eventually won out on the 23rd hole, but Victor’s outrageous play earned plenty of accolades and Seve comparisons the world over.
8. Snow stopped play
When a golf tournament is weather-affected, the usual cause is torrential rain or flooding, maybe high winds or perhaps the odd electrical storm or two. However, back in 2013 when the event was still held in February in Arizona, two inches of snow fell during the first day’s play on Wednesday, with even more overnight, meaning the first round clashes didn’t even finish until Friday morning. Matt Kuchar eventually defeated defending champ Hunter Mahan in the final on Sunday but the victors of the player-led snowball fights during the white-out four years ago remain unknown…
7. Tiger does the double
Of all the events that Tiger Woods has defended over the years, perhaps the most impressive were the American’s back-to-back victories in this event in 2003-2004. Woods took down close friend Davis Love III in the final 13 years ago to hoist the Walter Hagen Cup for a second consecutive year and also won his opening match the following year, too, to set an all-time record winning streak of 13 straight victories in the tournament.
6. A thrilling first finale
Their names might not have gone down in the annals of golfing history, however the climax of the inaugural edition of the event provided no shortage of drama. Having disposed of Tiger Woods in the quarter-finals, Jeff Maggert returned victorious in the then 36-hole final after chipping in at the last to defeat Andrew Magee. The unrestrained, joyous scenes of celebration remain a vivid picture from that week back in 1999.
5. More records for Woods
The old phrase goes ‘don’t poke the bear’ but the same probably goes for the Tiger. Ahead of the first round of matches back in 2006, Woods’ opening opponent Stephen Ames purportedly said: “Anything can happen in match play – especially where he’s hitting the ball.” What followed was the biggest drubbing in tournament history as Tiger won every single hole on the front nine to destroy Ames 9 and 8. When asked about the challenger’s pre-match comments, Woods replied: “9 and 8.”
On the same week that the sporting world looked forward to the long-awaited Floyd Mayweather versus Manny Pacquiao boxing bout, there was a toe-to-toe confrontation on the course in San Francisco in 2015 too. Despite both having already been knocked out of the tournament, Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jiménez had a heated exchange with Keegan Bradley and the American’s caddie over a disputed drop on the final hole of the group stages. Safe to say that neither men were backing down and the ‘discussion’ allegedly continued into the locker room. Who says golf isn’t a passionate sport?
3. O’Hern the serial giant killer
To take down Tiger once is impressive, but to do it twice is incredible. Having knocked Woods out in the second round two years earlier, Australia’s Nick O’Hern did it again in 2007, birdieing the 20th hole to progress to the quarter-finals that year. What makes the win even more notable, though, is the fact the loss also put an end to Woods’ unbelievable streak of seven successive wins on the US PGA Tour. Seven. In seven starts…
2. Europeans on top of the world
In reaching the final six years ago, then reigning US PGA Champion Martin Kaymer ascended to the top of the sport in reaching World Number One in the Official World Golf Ranking. However, it was another future Number One in Luke Donald who took the spoils in the final, as the Englishman defeated the German 3 and 2 at Dove Mountain. Both would go on to play pivotal roles in the Miracle of Medinah 18 months later.
1. Clarke topples the Tiger
During the early stages of what would become a fast friendship, Darren Clarke defeated Woods 4 and 3 in the 36-hole finale at La Costa Resort in the year 2000 to claim his first of two WGC titles. Clarke remains one of just 11 multiple winners of a World Golf Championships event to this day, but what was even more remarkable was the timing of the victory, given the fact that Woods was in the midst of perhaps the finest season in his glittering, trophy-laden career, a year that would yield ten worldwide wins including triumphs in three of the four Major Championships.