Tag:match play thursday
Posted on: February 24, 2011 7:05 pm

Fresh faces, new plotlines set for Match Play

MARANA, Ariz. -- Sorta like Tiger Woods and his golf swing, the game itself is seemingly going through a transition period.

Even though the top-rated youngster in the game was trounced on the second day, the round of 16 at the Accenture Match Play Championship will feature more far peachfuzz than it will graybeards.

Rory McIlroy, the top-ranked player in his 20s, was dispatched quickly and emphatically by Ben Crane on Thursday, but the other youngbloods certainly picked up the slack for him.

Of the 16 players to advance to the third round, exactly half the field is in their 20s or younger, led by Italy's unflappably poised Matteo Manassero, 17. The oldest guy in the field of 64 advanced, too -- Spain's inimitable Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is 47.

Given the numbers, it appears that we'll have a fast infusion of fresh faces on the weekend. Of the players still standing, only Jimenez and two-time champion Geoff Ogilvy have ever advanced to the quarterfinals in this event.

There's another newsy wrinkle, too, if that's the right term when talking about the next generation. German star Martin Kaymer, 26, can supplant Lee Westwood as world No. 1 if he advances to the finals on Sunday. Westwood again failed to survive the second round and was bounced Thursday.

Of the 16 players under age 30, Manassero, 23-year-old Jason Day and 22-year Rickie Fowler all are playing in a professional match-play event for the first time.

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2011 5:46 pm

Westwood heads eastward after 2nd-round loss

MARANA, Ariz. -- Lee Westwood picked a bad time to blink.

As a result, his result at the world's biggest match-play tilt was again all too familiar.

The world No. 1 three-putted the pivotal 16th hole from 20 feet for a bogey, letting opponent Nick Watney off the hook, and never recovered, losing 1 up to the American in the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Westwood, who has played in the event 11 times, has never advanced past the second round.

Watney held a 1-up lead when he hit his tee shot on the 16th into a greenside trap, then left his first explosion shot in the bunker. Westwood had two chances to win the hole and pull even, missing a 20-footer for birdie, then misfiring from four feet for par.

"I don't know what happened at the 16th," he said.

Thirty minutes later, Westwood had a 15-footer for birdie on the 18th to extend the match, but missed on the low side of the hole.

"I haven't worked a lot on my putting and it showed in the last couple of days," said Westwood, who will play next week at the Honda Classic.

He was credited with five birdies and an eagle on his card, but the bogey on No. 16 was his third of the day. Watney, who advanced to the third round for the second straight year, had six birdies and the lone bogey on the 16th.

Westwood became the third top-seeded player to lose in his bracket, joining Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on the bench at an event that is suddenly a bit short on star power as the weekend approaches.

20 feet for bogey

Tiger Woods, with three victories, is the lone player to win the event as the No. 1 player in the world.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2011 5:16 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 5:29 pm

Last man in field, might be last to leave

MARANA, Ariz. -- We're hitting the golfing refresh button here, just to chronicle the supposed occupational handicaps J.B. Holmes faced when he arrived at the Accenture Match Play Championship this week.

He had never played the course.

There wasn't time for a practice round.

It was 1 a.m. and he had to get out of bed 4 1/2 hours later in order to play his first-round match.

He was the lowest-seeded man in the 64-player field.

So, for the Vijay Singh-style slaves to arduous preparation, Holmes is blowing holes in the notion that hard work before a tournament usually pays dividends.
"You waste all your good shots in preparation," Holmes cracked.

He had no time, or anything else to waste. He made the field at the final hour thanks to a withdrawal, and rushed to Arizona from Orlando, arriving after midnight. He was in the fourth match off the tee Wednesday.

He caught up on his sleep Wednesday night and dispatched favored Ernie Els, 1 up, in the second round on Thursday. He and his caddie, who also has never seen the course before setting foot on it Wednesday at dawn, toured the Dove Mountain track straight off the yardage book, basically by dead reckoning.

Holmes, a Walker and Ryder cup veteran who lost in the first round in his lone Accenture appearance, is starting to get the hang of this match-play fare. He certainly has the advantage of power -- nearly everybody on the board is hitting into every green before Holmes, who gets to react to the shots they hit because he's unholy long off the tee.

"I was 40, 50 yards past Ernie a few times today," Holmes said. "I would assume it's intimidating to see that."
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2011 5:02 pm

Manny being Manny -- winning at age 17

MARANA, Ariz. -- Matteo Manassero freely admits that when he arrived in the Sonoran Desert this week, he didn't have a lot on his occupational to-do list.

Pretty easy to understand why. He'd never before played in the Accenture Match Play Championship, never set foot on the golf course, and felt a little awed to some degree about his opponents this week -- the top 63 players in the world.

Oh, not to mention that he's all of 17 years old.

"My expectations were none, actually," he laughed.

Well, then, he's clearly exceeded them, hasn't he.

The youngest ever to play in the event, the kid they call Manny knocked off Charl Schwartzel in the second round and won 1 up, making the round of 16. Which is approximately his age.

A native of Italy, Manaserro was asked who he idolized as a kid. When was that, like, yesterday?

He mentioned his idol, Seve Ballesteros, as well as Tiger Woods. The latter, hardly a geezer, turned pro when Manassero was 1. Between guys like Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Manny -- who all made the Sweet 16 in their first tournament appearance -- it's looking like Romper Room out here.

Manassero held a 2-up lead with four holes to play, then hit some loose shots, including one on the 16th that caromed off the greenside grandstands and into the top of a cactus. Knowing he was going to require a penalty drop, he conceded the hole. He had never hit a ball out of a cactus before and wasn't going to start learning now.

"We don't have any in Europe," he laughed.

He reclaimed the lead when he staked a perfect 7-iron to four feet for an easy birdie on the 17th and won with a par on the last.

Manassero, who became the youngest ever to win a Ruropean Tour event last year at age 17, entered the week at No. 59 in the world rankings. He was hoping to perhaps win a match and move into the top 50, which would secure a spot in the World Golf Championships event at Doral in two weeks.

Maybe we should start talking about winning.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2011 4:16 pm

Fowler gives Mickelson the pink slip

MARANA, Ariz. -- Rickie Fowler might have to make the concierge call.

The most colorfully attired American in the game, Fowler showed up for his second-round battle at the Accenture Match Play Championship against world No. 5 Phil Mickelson looking like a bottle of Pepto Bismol.

Mickelson, being congenitally predisposed to crack wise on just about everything, took particular note of Fowler's pink shoes.

All of a sudden, after dismantling Mickelson 6 and 5 on Thursday, there's a question about whether the 22-year-old brought enough color-coordinated outfits to get through the week. Making his first appearance in the event, the 2010 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year might have to do some recycling. He's looking like he could stick around into the weekend, too.

"Well, the hotel offers dry cleaning," Fowler cracked. "So I'll be OK."

he cleaned Mickelson's clock, that's for sure. Already 4 up through 10 holes, Fowler eagled the 11th when he laced a 4-iron to 20 feet and converted. Two holes later, with the same iron in hand, he knocked his approach to within two feet for a conceded eagle to win the match.

Mickelson, who has made a point of being a big brother figure to his fellow Southern Californian, gushed about Fowler's attaributes afterward.

"He's really a complete player and he put  it all together today," Mickelson said. "I just really like the guy and I think he'll do a lot for American golf."

For Mickelson, it was another disappointing setback in a so-so winter stretch. He has played in the match-play event 11 times and only once advanced past the third round.
Posted on: February 24, 2011 3:49 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 3:50 pm

McIlroy finds humor in early departure

MARANA, Ariz. -- Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.

So that's exactly what Rory McIlroy, a victim of the second-worst whipping in Accenture Match Play Championship history, did.

Having just been seal-clubbed 8 and 7 by American veteran Ben Crane, he was already cracking jokes before he climbed out of the shuttle vehicle that ferried him back to the clubhouse.

His manager, Chubby Chandler, laughed as McIlroy drove up: "I didn't expect to see you so soon."

"Same here," McIlroy said.

It was noted that there was a silver lining of sorts -- McIlroy's match only lasted 11 holes and he was finished so early, he didn't miss lunch.

"I could almost have a second breakfast," he cracked.

McIlroy dug himself a hole when he hit two balls in the water on the par-3 third. Apart from that, Crane was giving the 21-year-old a first-hand look at why he's considered one of the best in the world with a putter in hand. Crane had five birdies.

"He never let up," McIlroy said. "he got up early and I didn;t do anything.

"If he plays like that the rest of the week, he'll be very tough to beat. He just didn't give me a sniff."

Classic example: Already 5 up, Crane's approach into the ninth green came to rest about 35 feet from the hole. McIlroy knocked a nice shot to about 20 feet, below the cup. Advantage, Little Mac, it seemed. Then Crane dropped the rolling bomb, raised a fist in the air, and McIlroy dejectedly missed his birdie attempt to halve the hole.

While some worried that McIlroy might be utterly deflated by the outcome, that was hardly the case. Sometimes, in match play, you run across a hot guy that nobody is going to beat that day. Crane has already upset two higher-seeded players.

"I find this easier to take than getting beat on the last," McIlroy said.

The worst beating in event history was administered by Tiger Woods upon Stephen Ames, a 9-and-8 defeat. Crane's victory marked the second time in an 18-hole match that a player was felled 8 and 7.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2011 1:29 pm

Rising sun sets quickly in Match Play desert

MARANA, Ariz. -- Forget the raging and highly entertaining argument about whether the European Tour has better players than the PGA Tour at the moment.

The evidence suggests those tours can circle 'round the campfire, join hands and sing Kumbaya in complete harmony as it relates to another pro circuit that again took a beating this week on the global stage.

There were five players who made the Accenture Match Play field by virtue of their world ranking and performance on the Japan Tour, and none of them survived the first round.

Ranked as high as 32nd in the world, the fivesome of Kyung-tae Kim, Ryo Ishikawa, Yuta Ikeda, Hiroki Fujita and Brendan Jones all were disaptched in the opening round on Wednesday.

For years, the tour has taken a hit for being over-rated in terms of the weight it has been assigned in the Official World Golf Ranking, yet when players from that circuit play in Europe or the States, the results have mostly been forgettable. With a smattering of embarrassing.

This isn't xenophobia run amok. It's analogous to a football team from the Mountain West Conference piling up an undefeated record and angling for a BCS bid. Well, that team might be darned solid, but it's not taking the same weekly beating as a team from the Big Ten or the SEC. It's just not apples to apples.

Ishikawa, a terrific 19-year-old who is currently ranked No. 32 in the world, had been mostly been spanked by his global elders when he's left his homeland. In his last 12 starts over in 2010-11 events sanctioned by the PGA Tour, for instance, he has missed five cuts and posted one top-25 finish.

Ishikawa has terrific promise. But he is not one of the world's 50 best players. If he's the best that tour has to offer, feel free to add that critical fuel to the discussion fires about whether the OWGR needs to be reworked or rejected.
Category: Golf
Posted on: February 24, 2011 12:58 pm

Match-play bracketology is a cruel mistress

MARANA, Ariz. -- If you bothered to fill out a brackets for the Accenture Match Play Championship and got wiped out in the first round, you are hardly alone.

I'm supposed to know a thing or two about these guys, and I picked 21 of 32 opening matches correctly.

So, given the obvious absence of common sense in my regard, we applied two completely unscientific approaches after the fact to see if the results were any better -- flipping a coin and picking the top-seeded player in each match.

A coin toss proved to be absolutely fruitless. The heads-or-tail route correctly picked nine of the 32 winners.

Picking the top-ranked seed in the four brackets yielded wins in 17 of the 32 matches, but there was a key caveat. One of the wins was by J.B. Holmes, who was plugged in to a No. 6 seed after taking over for Tim Clark, who withdrew. Holmes otherwise would have been a lower seed than his first-round rival, Camilo Villegas.

So in other words, the pick-the-higher-seed method produced a 50 percent victory clip.

In the media center pool, using old-fashioned gut instinct and a smattering of luck, Golf Channel's Rich Lerner picked 26 of the match winners, including upset victories by Matteo Manassero and Ryan Palmer, both match-play rookies as professionals.

In other words, sort of like in the March Madness pool for the NCAA Tournament, the only way to ensure you will go home with any money is to not bet anything in the first place.
Category: Golf
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