If there’s any one key to beating Tiger Woods in match play, it’s don’t give him additional motivation by talking smack. So advised the coach of Charles Howell III, Woods’ first-round opponent in Wednesday’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
“Yeah, there is a secret [to pulling a possible upset against Woods],” Gary Gilchrist told SB Nation on Tuesday. “You better not piss him off.”
Gilchrist’s comments came after he issued a statement about the state of Howell’s game that some readers may have interpreted as a challenge to Woods. It was anything but, said the overseer of the games of several professional golfers, including that of world No. 1 Yani Tseng.
“Charles is playing really well right now heading into the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship after moving up in the rankings,” Gilchrist’s statement said. “It will be a good measure of where his game is today with facing Tiger. It will definitely test him and will hopefully open the eyes of many to the new direction of Charles’ game. It's a great opportunity for him and will be exciting to watch.”
Howell, who has moved from No. 117 at the start of the year to 66th in the world after three top-10 finishes to kick off his 2013 season, teamed up with Gilchrist late last year -- a fact that Woods referred to in his Tuesday press conference.
“I lived with the guy down there in Orlando for a number of years,” Woods said about his years as a member of Isleworth Golf & Country Club. “He’s changed coaches over the years but his work ethic has never changed, never waned.
“He’s out there working all the time and he’s trying to get better,” Woods added. “I admire guys who go out there and put in the work. It’s not easy to do and he’s implemented some swing changes over the years but his tireless work ethic is something we all can look at.”
While observing that anything can happen in match play and that Woods’ performances of late had been “up and down" (he has not made it past the second round since his win at Dove Mountain in 2008), Gilchrist said that Howell would have to play his best golf to take down the three-time match play champ.
“You have to go out there and you’re going to have to play your own game,” he said. “If you beat the course you have a chance of beating Tiger Woods.”
And while Woods may have lost the aura of invincibility that seemed to cloak him back in the day, Gilchrist made it clear that it was still a bad idea to tug on his cape -- as Stephen Ames learned so painfully back in 2006, though it almost paid off for Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano last year.
“The last thing you want to do,” Gilchrist said, “is trash talk Tiger Woods.”