One of Chris Kirk’s favorite roles to play on the PGA Tour is the underdog.
That’s a very good thing for him today.
Kirk, the No. 12 seed in the Ben Hogan bracket, will face former Arizona Wildcats golfer Jim Furyk at 10:15 this morning in the opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The University of Georgia product isn’t expecting a lot of support from the Southern Arizona faithful.
“My wife isn’t here, so I’ll just have two fans out there, my caddie and me,” Kirk said. “Jim will definitely have the majority of the fans in his corner.”
Furyk, lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., but considers Tucson his second home. His parents still own a home in the area, and every time the former Wildcat returns for Match Play, he certainly notices the fan support.
“This definitely feels like a second home event,” Furyk said. “I know on the back nine like on the 13th green, there’s always a bunch of people chanting ‘U of A,’ and it’s fun to hit some good shots and win a hole there.
“I’ve got some good friends here in Tucson that I enjoy seeing, and I have some family here, so it’s a fun week.”
This year Furyk is hoping to do something he hasn’t done a lot of at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain — win some matches.
The UA product has never made it to the weekend in the five years the tournament has been held at Dove Mountain and has advanced to Friday only once. Last year, Furyk beat fellow American Ryan Moore in the first round but then fell to Bubba Watson in 22 holes.
It marked the second straight year Furyk lost in extra holes. Dustin Johnson bested him in 20 holes in the opening round in 2012.
“So far here, I’ve been a little disappointed that I haven’t played better,” Furyk said of his past tournaments. “I don’t think I’ve ever played past Friday here. I’d like to win three matches this year and get to the weekend.”
Kirk will try to send Furyk back to Florida this afternoon.
The 28-year-old from Woodstock, Ga., said he hasn’t played in a match play event since he was in college but enjoys the format. He was the third alternate for the event last year and set a goal of qualifying for the tournament this season.
“I was really bummed I didn’t quite get in, but then seeing the snow made me a little less bummed out,” Kirk said. “At that point, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll take the week off.’ ”
Don’t change a thing
Not only could Match Play be on its way out of Tucson, but the PGA Tour has also considered making some changes to the tournament’s format.
Several golfers have complained recently that half the field is sent home after one day of competition, and that the long trek to the tournament’s location isn’t always worth it.
Players were asked Tuesday about which changes they’d like to see. Not surprisingly, defending champion Matt Kuchar doesn’t want to see anything done differently.
“I love the format,” Kuchar said. “I think it’s good for golf. I think it makes for some real exciting matches. It makes for something just different than four rounds of 72-hole stroke play. I don’t think I’d change it.”
The tournament’s No. 1 overall seed Henrik Stenson is less sure what the format should look like and isn’t sure there’s an exact right answer.
“We could spend hours on this — days, years, months,” Stenson said when asked about the format. “I think you’ve just got to decide what format you want to play and then figure out the best place to have it.”
There are few golfers in this week’s field with a more accomplished match play résumé than Ian Poulter.
The 38-year-old is 22-11 lifetime at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and has also had success in the Ryder Cup as a member of Team Europe.
Poulter was asked Tuesday why he’s had so much success in the format and gave a pretty sensible answer.
“I hate losing,” Poulter said. “I absolutely hate it. I really detest it badly. Really badly.”
Jeez, point taken.
And where did this attitude begin?
“Early days in football, I was a bad loser,” Poulter said. “I didn’t like to lose a football match; I didn’t like losing a pool match. I don’t know any great sportsman that’s a great loser, to be honest. I’ve always taken defeat pretty bad. I don’t enjoy it.”
Poulter will kick the tournament off this morning at 7:25 a.m., against American Rickie Fowler.
“I like my sleep, which means I’ll be in bed at 6:30 tonight,” Poulter said.