McDowell survives, but top four seeds out at Match Play

By Doug FergusonFebruary 21, 2014, 12:49 am

MARANA, Ariz. – Getting to the round of 16 in the Match Play Championship was all that mattered Thursday.

Jordan Spieth made it look like child's play. Graeme McDowell aged another 10 years with another stunning escape. And it proved too difficult for Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, who lost in extra holes on another wild day at Dove Mountain.

''I thought I was dead and buried both days,'' McDowell said.

One day after he rallied from 3 down with three holes to play to win in overtime, McDowell was two holes behind on the 15th tee when he made an 8-foot birdie, halved the next hole with a 10-foot par, won the 17th with a birdie and then holed a 6-foot par putt on the 18th for a 1-up win over Hideki Matsuyama of Japan.

In two matches, McDowell has stood on the tee with his match all square only four times - and two of those were at the start of the match.

Jason Day already has played 40 holes in two rounds. He won a tough match against Thorbjorn Olesen in the opening round, then rallied from 3 down early in his match against Billy Horschel and beat him 22 holes.


WGC-Accenture Match Play scoring

WGC-Accenture Match Play bracket

WGC-Accenture Match Play: Articles, videos and photos


''Doesn't matter how you get it done,'' Day said. ''Find a way to win.''

The top seeds lost their way.

Stenson, the No. 1 seed, fell behind early against Louis Oosthuizen and never caught up in a 4-and-3 loss. It was the sixth straight year, dating to Tiger Woods winning the Accenture Match Play Championship in 2008, that the top seed failed to make it out of the second round.

Rose (No. 2) and McIlroy (No. 3) followed him.

In one of the best matches of the day, Ernie Els poured in one clutch putt after another to stay in the match, and then beat the reigning U.S. Open champion. Els made got up-and-down on the 18th hole by making a 6-foot par putt. Els and Rose both made 10-foot birdie putts on the 19th hole, and then Els finally got a break to go his way in a format that has haunted him over the years.

His approach settled on the slope of the bunker's collar, and while the shot didn't go as planned, it was close to perfect.

''It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime shots, really,'' Els said. ''I caught it a smidgen thin, and it just came out perfectly. It hit the bank and just trickled over to about 4 feet. It was an impossible shot, but it was obviously the right one at the time.''

Rose left his shot in the bunker.

McIlroy had his hands full against English, who has two PGA Tour wins in the last nine months. Boy Wonder managed a strong comeback, however, winning three straight holes for a 1-up lead with two to play. English responded with a 20-foot birdie putt to square the match, and off they went to overtime.

McIlroy went from the left rough to the desert on the 19th hole, and his only hope was to play an explosion shot that came off perfectly. It didn't, sailing over the green by the television tower. He made double bogey and was headed home to Florida, though hardly depressed.

''He played really solid today and didn't really do much wrong, didn't really give me anything,'' McIlroy said. ''I don't feel in any way disappointed leaving so early because I feel like my game is there. I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks.''

Sergio Garcia at No. 5 is now the top seed remaining after his 3-and-1 victory over Bill Haas. Next up for Garcia is Rickie Fowler, who is finding this format to his liking. Coming off three straight missed cuts, Fowler outlasted one of golf's hottest players, Jimmy Walker, in 18 holes.

Kuchar had a 1-up victory over Ryan Moore in a match so close that 15 of the 18 holes were halved. Kuchar, the defending champion and a former U.S. Amateur winner, improved to 17-3 in this tournament. Hunter Mahan didn't take his first lead until the 17th hole in a 2-up win over Richard Sterne of South Africa.

Kuchar and Mahan are the only players to reach the third round in each of the last four years.

Next up for Kuchar is Spieth, who has been a factor in four of the five tournaments he has played this year. Mahan faces McDowell, which prompted one British writer to jokingly ask McDowell if they had ever played each other.

McDowell beat Mahan in the final match of the Ryder Cup four years ago in Wales, making a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole.

Getty Images

Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

Getty Images

Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

Getty Images

Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

Getty Images

Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”