<
>

Why it's OK if Tiger doesn't make the weekend at the Match Play

Stephen Spillman/USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas -- Here's one of the problems with the format of the WGC-Dell Technologies Championship: The pool play system inevitably means there will be a handful of matches Friday that mean little to nothing to those playing them other than pride.

Of course, you can say that about any Sunday on the PGA Tour, right? Those at the bottom of the leaderboard have no chance to win. They are playing out the tournament.

But there are still world ranking and FedEx Cup points to earn. Plus, there is prize money.

And those running the WGC event were smart to make distinctions so that there is some meaning in the Friday matches. Going 1-2 is better than 0-3, for example. So that is perhaps the best way to look at the bottom of the matches.

Here are a few important things to keep an eye on as we head into the final day of pool play at Austin Country Club.

Tiger's path to the weekend

It's possible and not that far-fetched. Tiger Woods needs a victory over Patrick Cantlay and he needs at least a tie from Aaron Wise against Brandt Snedeker. Anything less than a victory for Woods and he is eliminated. But if he wins ...

  • A Snedeker tie would result in both players having the same number of points after three days. A tie would be settled with a sudden-death playoff starting at the first hole.

  • If Snedeker loses, Woods would advance with a victory.

Is it bad for Woods' Masters prep if he misses the top 16?

Not necessarily. As Woods said after the Players Championship: "It's kind of nice knowing that I'll be able to get at least three good rounds in, possibly more if I play well, and that's basically like a tournament.''

If anything, it might be good for Woods' Masters prep if he gets a couple of days at home. Unlike a year ago, when he was coming off two top-five finishes and seemingly in good form heading to Augusta, there are some flaws he'll need to address. And a trip to Augusta National this week might be in order either way.

Speaking of the Masters ...

Jim Furyk might have already earned his way into the tournament after defeating Jason Day and Phil Mickelson at the Match Play. "Might" is the key word. Furyk should not feel secure, given the volatility of the world rankings and the various things that can happen. But as of now, he is projected to be 50th in the world at the conclusion of the tournament, regardless of what happens Friday. Of course, a victory over Henrik Stenson and advancing to the final 16 would all but assure such a result.

Looking good

Rory McIlroy, Gary Woodland, Francesco Molinari, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, Haotong Li, Branden Grace and Sergio Garcia are the only players in their respective groups who are 2-0, meaning they control their fate to the point that even a tie Friday means they automatically advance.

Furyk and Stenson are each 2-0, but face each other, so the winner there moves on.

In all, there are 44 players with a mathematical change of advancing, including No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson, who was defeated by Grace on Thursday and needs some help to advance.

Weekend plans in Augusta

If so inclined, past major championship winners Bubba Watson, Day, Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed can head to Augusta National this weekend to get in some practice rounds. They are among 20 players who have been eliminated from contention for the weekend.

Age doesn't matter

Stenson, 42 years old, and Furyk, 48, are the only players going head to head who are 2-0.

"Yeah, we're trying to keep up with the older guys,'' Stenson quipped. "I'm only 43 next week, so I feel like a young pup. We knew it was going to be tough matches in this group.''