Keegan Bradley's Sunday statement

And, does the match-play format make it harder or easier for Tiger to win this week?

Updated: February 21, 2012, 10:40 AM ET
ESPN.com

With Sunday's Northern Trust Open now in the books, the 2012 West Coast swing has ended. Who could have foreseen the final-round collapses, Phil Mickelson's resurgence and Bill Haas' stunning victory in extra holes at Riviera during the first seven weeks of the season?

So what's up with the next stop on the schedule -- the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship -- and what might it hold for Tiger Woods?

Our panel of experts share their insights about those topics and more in a little feature we like to call Monday Four-Ball.


1. After the drama we saw with Bill Haas' victory at Riviera, should we just make it a rule that every PGA Tour playoff starts on a drivable par-4?


Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: A risk-reward hole like the 315-yard 10th hole at Riviera is great to have at any PGA Tour venue. But I don't like them in playoffs. A player who has been pretty consistent over four rounds to get to that point should have to play a long, difficult hole that tests all aspects of his game, not his ability to take risks.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: No, because it's unrealistic. It would be great if we could always have such a hole, but that wasn't even the case at Riviera. They went to 18 first, where most of the people are situated. And that is typically the case.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Besides the pressure of having to hit the shots on the second playoff hole (the 315-yard, par-4 10th), Bill Haas, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley also had to play mind games with which clubs they should hit off the tee. Then Haas decided to lay up to the fat side of the green after hitting a driver off the tee.

The 18th hole at Riviera provided a phenomenal amphitheater, arguably one of the best in golf. But No. 10 proved its mettle as not just one of the best short par-4s but also one of the best holes on the PGA Tour.

Andy North, two-time U.S. Open champion and ESPN golf analyst: That would be a lot of fun; unfortunately, there aren't a lot of those holes. That just happens to be one of the great holes out there. Drivable par-4s in the playoffs would make it a lot of fun, wouldn't it?


2. With an impressive 72nd-hole birdie (as was Phil Mickelson's), what did Keegan Bradley show you this week at the Northern Trust Open?


Evans: Riviera was a very tough golf course, and Bradley performed well under intense pressure. I wasn't sure if he could handle the nerves of playing alongside his idol, Mickelson, but he proved that he wasn't just a one-hit wonder.

Harig: That last year wasn't a fluke. It didn't seem that way anyway, but making that birdie putt on top of Mickelson -- after staying with him the entire final round -- was great stuff, even if he ultimately did not win.

Maguire: Bradley showed he's in this for the long haul. Winning the PGA Championship last year put him in the record books forever, and the St. John's product easily could have sat back and enjoyed appearance fees and increasing endorsement contracts. Instead, he's focused on his game in the hope of showing that he's not just a one-major wonder.

North: The thing to remember is that the 18th hole is very difficult. It's not an easy driving hole, and if you put in the rough, it's not easy to hit that green. In the history of that event, there have been more bogeys than birdies from players who needed birdie on the last hole. For Bradley, making that putt after Mickelson had made his was fantastic. There's so much noise at No. 18, so to make it after Mickelson did showed us some big stuff from him.


3. Thumbs-up/thumbs-down on Phil Mickelson's decision to skip the WGC-Match Play?


Evans: Thumbs-up. Mickelson played five weeks in a row. He was due a week off. Why would he risk the possibility of having to play five days in a row, including a 36-hole final on Sunday?

Harig: I have no problem with it. Sure, it would be great to have him at the year's first WGC event. But Mickelson has played five in a row and supported the West Coast starting at the Humana Challenge. Those tournaments need him more than the match play.

Maguire: Thumbs-up on Lefty. The only time it seems we hear people wanting to spend more time with their families is when a politician gets booted out of office. Instead, Mickelson's plan to go on a vacation with his wife and kids because his children are off from school proves he puts family before work. Don't we all wish we could do that more often?

North: Thumbs-up. The top players are only going to play so many events. Family is very important to Mickelson. He says he had the planned family vacation, and it may be the only time it could get done with the kids on break, and guys do that. I think it's great he's so concerned about doing stuff with kids.


4. Does this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play provide an easier or harder scenario of victory for Tiger Woods?


Evans: Tiger can hit the ball all over the desert and still win all his matches. He'll be going for everything, and he won't obsess over hitting fairways because he knows he has only one person to beat. Lately, that perfectionist streak has held back his progress with the new golf swing.

Harig: Harder. But that was the case even when he was the No. 1 player in the world. There is a fluky nature to match play that can see you lose when you play great or win when you're not at your best. Woods just got a taste of it at the Presidents Cup. Getting through six matches is a tough task.

Maguire: Harder. In match play, the better putter wins. Period. And Woods' game with the flatstick has been, shall we say, less than stellar in recent events. Add in that he could easily run into a buzz saw of a putter, and his week could end very quickly.

North: For a very, very good player, there's always the craziness of match play, but he has to beat only six players over the course of the week. He doesn't have to beat 100. Every day you're with the player, eyeball-to-eyeball with him, and it helps a good player. That said, it's match play, and anything can happen.

If it were 36 holes each match, it would be an advantage for a great player, but over 18, anything can happen. A guy can open with six birdies in eight holes, and suddenly you're in a big hole. Still, Tiger's shown that he's awfully good mano-a-mano, so this will be a great opportunity for him to get a win.