Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

GOLF

Tiger Woods faces Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in World Match Play

Little-known Spaniard, ranked 48th, says of the once-untouchable Woods, 'Maybe I can beat him.'

February 21, 2012|By Diane Pucin
  • Tiger Woods plays a tee shot during a practice round Tuesday while preparing for the World Match Play championships at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Marana, Ariz.
Tiger Woods plays a tee shot during a practice round Tuesday while preparing… (Sam Greenwood / Getty Images )

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano is a 31-year-old golfer from Spain whose best PGA Tour finish was a tie for 32nd at the 2009 PGA Championship. He didn't play a tournament in the United States last year while he struggled with a back injury.

In fact, Fernandez-Castano didn't play anywhere last February to August because of his back. But this relatively undistinguished pro golfer said in Tucson on Monday that he is confident going into his first match Wednesday in the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Who's Fernandez-Castano playing?

Tiger Woods.

"It's a funny feeling because being 48th in the world rankings at the moment, you don't expect to be paired against Tiger Woods," Fernandez-Castano said. "But those things happen. He's probably not at his best. You have to look at it that way. Maybe It's a good chance to play good. Maybe I can beat him."

With a small smile on his lips, Woods, who is ranked No. 20 in the world and is a three-time winner of this event, was asked about Fernandez-Castano's confidence.

"I feel exactly the same way he does," Woods said. "I feel he's beatable too."

The only two players ranked in the world's top 64 not in this field are Paul Casey and Phil Mickelson, who beat Woods, his playing partner, by 11 strokes on the final day in winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am a week and a half ago.. Mickelson is taking the week off to spend with his family; Casey is injured.

Mickelson almost won two weeks in a row but lost a three-man playoff to Bill Haas on Sunday in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club.

No.1-ranked Luke Donald, who tied for 56th at Riviera, faces Ernie Els in the first round.

Woods didn't play last week and said he was still suffering from a cold he caught while spending time with his two children. He also said he enjoys the match-play format.

As far as being motivated by the words of an opponent, Woods said that doesn't happen anymore.

"It used to quite a bit when I was younger," he said. "But as I've matured and gone beyond that, it's just an opinion. It's their own opinion.…What matters is how I go out and play and how I'm progressing in my game. At the end of the day, when I'm retired, I think I will have mastered a pretty good record."

Brandel Chamblee, a Golf Channel commentator and former PGA Tour player, said his sense is that Fernandez-Castano's attitude about beating Woods is not the exception anymore.

"Guys are not intimidated by Tiger Woods," Chamblee said. "He misses a lot of little putts. That makes him human. It used to seem like Tiger carried the best shield, the fastest arrow and beat everybody and he intimidated the devil out of people."

Commentator David Feherty said he sees a Woods who this year "is playing well again. His demeanor, his sense of self, is a good deal different than last season and more like the persona he had.

"He's really close to playing well again, but people will judge him by that rampant sort of spell around the turn of the century and I'm not sure anybody will ever play that well again."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|