Notes Aussies On a Roll at La Costa

By Associated PressFebruary 25, 2005, 5:00 pm
2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayCARLSBAD, Calif. -- The brilliant move of the day at the Match Play Championship was by a PGA Tour rules official, who shortened the par-4 sixth at La Costa Resort by 45 yards, allowing golfers to drive the green on the dogleg-left hole.
That led to one of the best shots of the day, a drive by Davis Love III to within 10 feet. Lee Westwood conceded an eagle putt and Love went on to win, 7 and 6.
Mickey Bradley, who was responsible for the setup on the front nine, decided to help players get through the hole quicker because two rounds were played on Friday. The hole was shortened from 378 yards to 333.
The move allowed big hitters to launch drivers to the green over a thicket of trees rather than laying up on the fairway short of the creek that protects the hole.
While walking up the par-3 fifth, Love watched from across the small valley as Tom Lehman and Stewart Cink hit drivers on No. 6.
'When they got to their balls, we kind of gauged,' Love said. 'Tom was short and right, and it looked like Stewart was almost green-high on the left.
'So we just figured I'd hit driver,' Love said. 'The hardest thing is how far - not really how far is it over the creek, how far is it to the green or the bunkers. So once I saw what they did, I knew I could hit a driver. I hit a good one.'
Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh both drove the green on No. 6. They both were eliminated in the second round, Woods by Nick O'Hern and Singh by Jay Haas.
Love lost his third-round match to Cink in 20 holes.
It was a g'day for Aussies, as three golfers from Down Under advanced to Saturday's quarterfinals in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Adam Scott beat Sergio Garcia 4 and 3 in the third round Friday, while Nick O'Hern beat Luke Donald 5 and 4, and Robert Allenby stopped Kirk Triplett 2 and 1.
Australia doesn't have a player with Greg Norman's flair at the moment, 'but golf's never been this strong down there,' Scott said.
'And I think everyone back home should probably take notice a little bit more of that because the guys back home give us a pretty hard time about golf in Australia and the Tour. But I think we're probably the strongest golfing nation in the world.'
Of the 64 players who started this tournament, 10 were from Australia.
Coincidentally, Aussie tennis great Rod Laver, the last man to win the Grand Slam of tennis, was among the spectators on Friday. Laver lives in Carlsbad and is a member at La Costa.
Match play is fluky enough, but what does a golfer say while he's handily beating a friend? That's what Davis Love III had to figure out after jumping to a quick lead over Lee Westwood en route to a 7 and 6 win.
'It had gotten a little too quiet out there,' Love said. 'If it's somebody I don't know very well, or somebody that I really would prefer to beat, you don't feel quite as bad. But when it's your buddy, what do you say when they're 3-down? You want to walk out ahead of them and keep quiet.'
Westwood did provide some levity. When Love hit a shot into a bunker while holding a big lead, Westwood said: 'Now I think I've just seen the door open.' Said Love: 'We couldn't stop laughing. What do I say to that? You never know what to say. But he's a good guy and took it well.'
Stewart Cink did the politically incorrect thing by beating 2006 Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman 2 and 1 in the second round Friday morning.
'I told my caddie last night I was hosed either way, because if I beat him I'd hurt his feelings and he wouldn't want to take me,' Cink said. 'And if I didn't beat him, he wouldn't pick me because he'd think I didn't play well in the match. Either way I just - no, probably Tom won't even remember the match.'
The Match Play Championship starts off with four brackets of 16 golfers, similar to the NCAA basketball tournament's four regions of 16 teams.
That's where the similarities end. While upsets provide the March Madness in the NCAAs, upsets aren't good for the box office or TV ratings in match play.
'We're certainly used to having a great leaderboard on Sunday with the names you recognize,' Davis Love III said. 'And here anybody can beat anybody. Next thing you know we've got four guys on the last two days that aren't Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.'
That's exactly what happened, after Woods lost in the second round to Nick O'Hern and Mickelson lost in the third round to David Toms. The world's top-ranked player, Vijay Singh, also lost in the second round, to Jay Haas.
'This is a tough format for TV,' Love said before he was eliminated by Stewart Cink in the third round. 'The early rounds are almost more exciting than the later rounds.'
Said Kirk Triplett: 'You don't get that Cinderella story kind of feel here.'
Malaysia did Vijay Singh a favor by refusing him permanent residency years ago because he would have never become the No. 1 golfer had he lived here, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said.
Razak said Malaysia simply did not have a competitive environment for athletes to succeed on the world stage, according to a report Friday in the New Straits Times newspaper.
Najib told a gathering of Malaysian sports officials on Thursday that Singh - who was born in Fiji - had applied for Malaysian 'permanent resident' status when he was a resident pro in the country in the 1980s while trying to break into the European Tour and U.S. circuit. But his application was rejected for unknown reasons.
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