Tag:match play saturday
Posted on: February 26, 2011 7:11 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2011 8:02 pm

Kaymer the Climber's ascent complete -- New No. 1

MARANA, Ariz. -- Linguists are going to blurt out the obvious answer to this one.

How do you say one in German?

Don't bet your botton Deutsche mark on the answer, pal. The easy answer is Eine, but it's not the only one -- not after what the Dude from Dusseldorf accomplished over the past two seasons.

After winning four times globally last year and earlier this season in Europe, Martin Kaymer advanced to the finals of the Accenture Match Play Championship with a tight 1-up victory over Bubba Watson on Saturday, mathematically ensuring that he will overtake Lee Westwood at world No. 1 when the new rankings are updated Monday.

Whether Kaymer the Climber wins the match-play finale against Luke Donald on Sunday or not, he's already assured of becoming the 14th player to ascend to the vaunted top position, moving up from his present perch at No. 2.

As ever, the unexcitable boy wasn't exactly doing cartwheels when asked about the impact of his relatively quick climb up the game's ladder. Bernhard Langer is the only other German to top the charts.

"Definitely, I need some time to think about it," he said. "The good thing is, next week, I don't play a tournament, so maybe I can realize what happened. But I can say one thing for sure, it's a very proud moment. Not only for me, I think for my family, for the people who helped me and, you know, for Germany, as well."

Unlike with Westwood, who moved to No. 1 despite recording only one victory in 2010, there won't be any argument on whether Kaymer was a worthy holder of the crown. Kaymer has won seven times in the two-year period from which the rankings are drawn, and has four titles in the past six months, including the PGA Championship, which started the recent run.

That's really where the brilliant burst began. Ironically, he beat Watson in a playoff for the title, leading to three wins in as many starts last fall.

"The PGA Championship gave me so much motivation and so much belief that I can win any tournament that I play," he said. "I think the most important thing was that I kept working on my game, that I didn't stop. I didn't want to be, I don't know, just win once and kind of like you don't hear about me anymore."

There's no flash in this kid's pan. 

"I kept playing and kept winning. I think it's just because of that. I really know that I can win any tournament that I can play in."

At 26, Kaymer is the second-youngest player to make it to world No. 1, behind only 21-year-old Tiger Woods. Don't be surprised if he stays there for a while, either.

They don't call him the Germanator for nothing. He's not prone to emotional outbursts, plays a steady game, and has the requisite 14-piece toolbox. If he has a weakness, nobody has spotted it. He seems to have the perfect temperament -- it never changes.

"I think it's very German," he said with a smile. "If you know Bernhard Langer, the way he is on the golf course, I think it's very good for golf. It helps me a lot to stay calm."

His caddie, Craig Connolly, who has worked for a variety of players, including Paul Casey, doesn't generally consent to interviews. But this was a special occasion. As Kaymer was conducting a post-round interview, Connolly watched like a proud parent.

"Basically, he's just an all-around decent guy," Connolly said. "He's very easygoing."

His golf game is easy on the eyes and steady, too.

"He's like me," Donald said, laughing. "But he hits it farther."

It's a fitting match-play finale, really. European stars Kaymer and Donald amassed the most world-rankings points in 2010. It also extends the notion that Europe has relegated the American contingent to second-citizen status. In fact, if Donald wins, the top four in the world rankings will be Europeans: Kaymer, England's Lee Westwood, Donald and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.

Americans have failed to advance to the Accenture finals in five of the last six years.

Watson pulled to all square on the 13th, then overcooked a cut driver into a bush on the short 14th, had to take a penalty drop, abd gave away the hole. The 32-year-old American fell 2 down, but birdied the 17th to stay alive before Kaymer closed him out with a seven-footer for par on the last.

In a country where golf doesn't often register on the radar, Kaymer becomes the second German to top of the rankings and the first since the inaugural list debuted a quarter-century ago. Langer last occupied the top spot on April 26, 1986.

Westwood held the No. 1 position for 17 weeks, but Kaymer has been piling on the wins.

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 26, 2011 5:29 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2011 5:41 pm

Donald pricklier than Saguaro, makes finals

MARANA, Ariz. -- Matt Kuchar visited the flora and the fauna, the prickly and the sticky.

But the rigors of the desert were nothing compared to the human Gila Monster he was playing in the semifinals of the Accenture Match Play Championship on Saturday.

He extricated himself from the cactus. But Luke Donald was relentless in a 6 and 5 victory that wasn't even as close as the score indicated. And the score rightly screams "rout."

"There was no escaping Luke Donald," Kuchar laughed. "I played decent golf and he just tore me up. I wasn't ready for that."

That line now stands five deep, Kooch.

Donald, making only his second start after an 11-week offseason layoff, has obliterated his five foes this week, rolling up 27 birdies in 73 holes. In his two matches Saturday, he birdied an incomprehensible 13 of 27 holes.

"That'll do," he laughed.

He hasn't trailed all week -- in any match, at any point. Whoever he faces in the final on Sunday not only is facing the hottest player in the Sonoran Desert, Donald is well-rested, too. Three of his matches didn't reach the 15th hole. He hasn't played the 18th all week, becoming the second player in tournament history to make the finals without reaching the last.

He had only played two tournament rounds in the previous 11 weeks entering the event, so fatigue surely won't be an issue.
"It's certainly one tick in my box," he said.

He's ticking like a bomb ready to blow up his next foe. Should be be completely surprised? Maybe not. Donald's unerring and consistent style -- he rarely hits foul balls that take him out of holes -- is great for match play in many regards. He doesn't give many holes away. Par is usually his worst score.

Moreover, we should have seen it coming. While others have generated more attention, Donald has amassed a Ryder Cup mark of 8-2-1 in three appearances. Al this despite being one of the shortest hitters in the elite echelon of the game. The Dove Mountain, admittedly perched about 2,500 feet of elevation, still measures 7,800 yards.

"There's more to the game than hitting it far," he said.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 26, 2011 2:59 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2011 3:03 pm

Holmes finds familiar taste of defeat in desert

MARANA, Ariz. -- Unfortunately, J.B. Holmes has been here, done that.

Almost to the letter.

In 2008, he was also the lowest-seeded player in the Accenture Match Play field outside Tucson, so he drew world No. 1 Tiger Woods in his opening match and jumped to a 3-up lead with five to play. Woods, in one of the most memorable rallies of his career, reeled in Holmes and won.

However, Saturday's defeat is going to leave an even bigger mark.

Holmes all but destroyed quarterfinal foe Bubba Watson on the front nine at Dove Mountain, jumping to a 5-up lead after 10 holes, but collapsed in the cactus on the back nine and ultimately lost on the 19th hole in the most prominent weekend meltdown in the tournament's 12-year history.

Holmes, who had been on a terrific run after making the field the day before the event was staged thanks to the withdrawal of two other players, had repeated chances to put Watson away, but spent most of the final two hours of the match meandering through creosote, cholla and other prickly desert plants.

"You've gotta play all 18 holes," Holmes said. "I didn't finish it off."

The last hole of regulation and first hole of overtime took about an hour to complete, as Holmes needed three rulings after hitting shots into the rock-strewn desert.

Holmes conceded the 11th and 14th holes, though he was still comfortably ahead, 2 up. Watson had birdies on Nos. 13 and 1. Suddenly, Holmes was just trying to keep his head above water.

Meanwhile, Watson's caddie Ted Scott was trying to pump up his boss, who seemed as dead as desert carrion about two hours after the match started.

"My caddie kept saying, 'You're playing great, you're playing great all week," Watson said. "Just keep doing your thing. If he beats you, he beats you.  If you make birdie and he beats you, what can you do?'"

Even on the 19th hole, after Watson had sent his tee ball into the desert and Holmes had an opening, he sent another ball sideways into the gunch and had to take an unplayable-lie penalty. Watson won the hole and the match with a par.

Holmes tried to put a happy spin on the week, which began with him kicking back in Orlando, thinking he was getting a few days off.

"It's golf, it happens," Holmes said. "I'll take it as a good week but obviously I'm disappointed by the finish."

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 26, 2011 2:43 pm

If this is rust, sign me up for some of it

MARANA, Ariz. -- An admittedly rusty Luke Donald made one start in the past 11 weeks and missed the cut.

In one of the two rounds, last week at Riviera Country Club, he shot 79.

He must have a short, selective memory. Because through four rounds of the Accenture Match Play Championship, nobody has played better. Period.

Donald birdied 21 of his 60 holes through four matches and crushed Ryan Moore 5 and 4 in his quarterfinal game on Saturday morning.

"That's golf, isn't it," he said of his L.A. setback last week. "Last week was just one bad round. I wasn't  too bothered by it."

Donald is a touch customer at the match-play art. He has a record of 8-2-1 in three Ryder Cup appearances and is now 14-6 at the Accenture event. Slow and steady sometimes wins the race, and while Donald is a medium hitter, he hasn't given away many holes this week

In fact, he hasn't trailed at any point in any match.

"I'm never going to overpower this course," he said.

No, he's just overpowering the field with steady play instead.

With a win in the final on Sunday, Donald can climb to No. 3 in the world.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 26, 2011 10:41 am

Holmes attacks Accenture with sledgehammer

MARANA, Ariz. -- Bubba Watson started the week ranked first on the PGA Tour in driving distance.

Right now, he's No. 2 in his Saturday twosome.

With a jaw-dropping poke of 413 yards on the second hole of the Accenture Match Play quarterfinals at Dove Mountain, opponent J.B. Holmes authored the longest drive of the tour season to date.

In fact, with the fourth matches just underway, Holmes has smashed six of the seven longest drives of the week among the 64 players in the field, with all of them measuring 370 yards or more. Three went 400-plus yards.

Measuring all drives, Holmes is averaging 328.7 yards off the tee. Dry desert air and 2,500 feet of elevation or not, that's some serious poking right there.

Can Holmes, the lowest-ranked player in the field at No. 66, win this thing? He's a bit of an Arizona desert fox. His two career victories came at the Phoenix Open, located about 120 miles to the north.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 26, 2011 10:12 am

Watson pumps out bombs, barbs

MARANA, Ariz. -- Bubba Watson is one of the edgiest players in the game, a guy who talks a mile a minute and has a million things careening through his noggin at any given time.

David Feherty once called him, "jumpier than a box of frogs."

So when Watson arrived on the driving range Saturday at dawn before his quarterfinal match in the Accenture Match Play Championship, already talking like he'd ingested a gallon of java for breakfast, it was no surprise at all.

Shooting the breeze freely with fourth-round foe J.B. Holmes, Watson was certainly in rare form as he and Holmes bashed practice balls into the cactus situated at the far end of the Dove Mountain range. For instance, when world No. 2 Martin Kaymer wandered past on the way to the tee for his quarterfinal match, Watson noticed that the Germanator was wearing a scarf around his neck. 

"Is that to keep you cool out there," Watson teased.

"Maybe he pulls it up around his nose," Watson's caddie, Ted Scott, said.

It might prove useful in a sandstorm, it was noted. High winds are in the Saturday forecast.

"I think they give you one of those when you play Abu Dhabi," Watson cracked.

Somehow, Watson ended up talking about the Blue Angels, which are based near where he's from in the Florida Panhandle. He noted that he was given a flight suit by a high school friend who had seen active duty in Iraq.

"I put it on," Watson said. "But he's a midget, so ...."

Watson noted that he stitched put his own surname on the flight suit.

"It's game-used," he cracked. "So it's more valuable that way."

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 26, 2011 9:17 am

Miller: Tiger's gone from Tucson to Tyson

MARANA, Ariz. -- He was bounced in the first round, sent packing back to Orlando, the driving range across the street from his home, his latest swing coach, with another bruise to his resume and another fallen peg in the world golf ranking.

Tiger Woods will be No. 4 in the world, or worse depending on how the weekend plays out at the Accenture World Match Play Championship, the lowest ranking since before he won his first major at the Masters in 1997, but he remains very much a front-burner topic.

Just ask the analysts.

Friday night, the Golf Channel aired a state-of-the-game roundtable with the game's brightest talking heads: Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo, Roger Maltbie and Brandell Chamblee. The state of Tiger's game essentially superceded any talk of this week's developments at Dove Mountain.

Miller said he feels like he is watching the second installment of an all-time American sporting tragedy. 

"It's a little bit like a Mike Tyson story to be honest with you," Miller said. "Sort of invincible, scared everybody, performed quickly under pressure, and until the Buster Douglas came along, of life, Tiger started to hit that in his life."

Tyson was convicted or rape charges, took an upset beating at the hands of Douglas and was never the same in or outside the ring.

"His life crumbled and it's like Humpty Dumpty," Miller said. "He was on the high wall way above all the other players and had a great fall, and there's pieces all over the place and [he's] trying to put them together.

"It's a tough thing because as my father said the psyche in golf is very delicate, it's very fragile, and when you lose your psyche and your confidence, there's nothing you can do to get that back except for play more tournaments and get put your rounds out there if they're bad, but turn it around and start playing some good rounds and posting some good scores, otherwise you're just doing it on the practice tee."

As he has previously, Chamblee questioned Woods' insistence on making a series of swing changes.

"I think he is the eternal warrior against complacency," Chamblee said. "He's always trying to sharpen the knife. But really what is he trying to do? If you look at the success he had from 2000 to 2002, he won seven of 11 major championships. Let's just say he finally gets all the stuff that he's trying to do with this golf swing, and where does he want to be on the other end of it, in a spot where he can win major championships by wide margins, which was exactly where he was, and all he's done is cost himself a couple years when he'd have been racking up major championships.

"You look at him now and he looks completely lost. He looks like a hunting dog with a bad nose out there; he's on this trail, he's on that trail stuck in between the golf swing that he had in 2000 because he is trying it looks to me to get more upright, but he still has that same lower body action that he had with Hank Haney. It's more rotary, it's more of a flat swing sort of rotation, so he's stuck between these two golf swings. 

"But whether it's with Butch [Harmon] or when he had the perfect golf swing, and here we see him in the playoff when he was just going on and on and making all these practice swings, and that tells you right there that he is playing golf swing, not golf shot."
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