Tiger Woods on the first tee at the WGC Accenture Match Play. (MATT SULLIVAN / Reuters)

Opponents no longer quiver and quake at facing Tiger Woods, winner of 14 major golf tournaments, but Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano was a little more articulate about it than most.

“I'm the underdog, I have nothing to lose,” Fernandez-Castano, Woods’s first-round match opponent today in the WGC-Accenture Match Play at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, in Marana, Ariz. “At the same time I don't think [he is] at his best. So it's a good opportunity. If I play well, I can beat him.”

Over to you, Mr. Woods.

“I feel exactly the same way as he does,” Woods said. “I feel he's beatable.”

This could be fun, although for the first time in Match Play, Woods is not among the top four seeds. If he has a bulletin board, you’d think Ferandez-Castano’s comment would be on it, but Woods downplayed the significance of what passes for smack talk in golf.

“Everyone has a hole and that's kind of how I look at it,” Woods, 32-8 with three Match Play trophies in 11 appearances, said. “It’s their prerogative. It's their opinion.”

Woods’s task? Win six matches.

“It's a sprint. It’s a boat race. You have to get off to quick starts [in match play],” Woods said. “Generally if you get down early, 2 or 3 down, those — you rarely come back. It's hard to make up ground when you're playing 18 holes.

“It puts such a premium on getting off to a good start, and the guys that do generally win the matches.”

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