Chris Wood says he would have relished the chance to face Tiger Woods on his World Golf Championships debut in Arizona this Wednesday.
With Phil Mickelson deciding a fortnight ago not to enter the Accenture Match Play 22-year-old Wood knew when the world rankings came out last week that he would be the opponent if Woods came out of hiding and launched his eagerly-awaited comeback in the event.
What a media frenzy that would have created after all that has emerged about the now tarnished superstar, but Woods remains holed up somewhere and Wood plays Lee Westwood instead.
The two stablemates, joint third in The Open last July after both bogeyed the last hole to miss out on the play-off, were on the same British Airways flight yesterday.
“I would have liked to play Tiger,” the Bristol golfer told Press Association Sport. “It would have been one of the best chances to beat him probably in his first round back.
“I’ve never met the bloke. I hit balls next to him at the PGA last year, but he probably didn’t even see me.
“I think it would have been a bit intimidating and I would have been apprehensive the first couple of holes, but once into it I’m sure I would have stepped up to it.
“And what a great opportunity – it could have been one of my finest moments.
“But I knew it was going to be either the world number one or the European number one, so either way a hard match.
“I don’t know Lee that well, but I have played a few rounds with him. He’d be a big scalp for me too, of course – he’s the second seed – and I can’t wait for it.”
Sixty-five places separate them on the rankings, but 18-hole match play lends itself to more upsets.
Wood, last season’s Rookie of the Year in Europe, is also boosted by the memory of the Vivendi Trophy in September.
The 6ft 5in golfer was top-scorer for Britain and Ireland in their win over Continental Europe in Paris and had the chance of a maximum five-point haul – the first ever in the competition – until conceding a testing putt to Peter Hanson on the final green.
They were the last pair on the course and the overall match was already decided.
“At the time I thought it was the right thing to do to offer a half, but afterwards I thought it would have been nice to say I got five wins out of five.
“It was still a great week, though. That was a big occasion for me being in amongst those players in my first full year on Tour.
“They had only Garcia missing from their strongest possible team (Martin Kaymer was injured at the time), so to go through it unbeaten was great and I absolutely loved it.”
A month later, however, Wood tore ligaments in his foot slipping down some steps and with a winter break as well this season has felt a bit like starting afresh again.
He managed top 20 finishes in all three legs of the Middle East swing, but Westwood was third in Qatar and then two weeks ago lost a play-off to Miguel Angel Jimenez in Dubai.
As well as it being his first World Championship it is also only the second tournament Wood has played in the States.
The goal is not just to knock out Westwood, but make further progress and climb into the world’s top 50 for the next World Championship in Miami in three weeks.
But at least he is not also fighting for a place in The Masters in April. He will make his debut there thanks to his performance at Turnberry last summer.
Like Tom Watson, Wood could not believe his approach to the last went over the green. Also like Watson, he then failed to save par, but unlike Watson he did not have another chance over extra holes.
But after finishing fifth as an amateur the previous year, a tie for third place was a further indication of just how far he can go in the game.
As a win over Westwood on Wednesday would be.