Opening day of Match Play full of surprises

By Doug FergusonFebruary 23, 2012, 1:21 am

MARANA, Ariz. - Luke Donald won’t be playing the 18th hole at Dove Mountain this year, either.

Donald, so dominant in winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship last year that he closed out every match before the 18th hole, became only the third No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round Wednesday in another predictably crazy day on Dove Mountain.

Ernie Els, who only got into the 64-man field when Phil Mickelson took his family on a ski vacation, delivered the biggest shocker in the first round with a 5-and-4 victory.


Day 1 WGC-Match Play recaps | Full bracket | Tiger Tracker


“I don’t think it would have mattered who I played today. I just didn’t play well,” Donald said. “I struggled. I gave away too many holes and made too many mistakes. You can’t do that in match play against anyone, let alone Ernie.”

Tiger Woods nearly found that out against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

Woods had to play left-handed in one of his three journeys into the desert. He trailed the Spaniard with four holes to play, and both of them looked beatable. That changed when Woods drove the par-3 15th green to win with a two-putt birdie, won the 16th with a par and then closed out the Spaniard with an 8-foot par putt for a 1-up win.

“We both made our share of mistakes, there’s no doubt about that,” said Woods. “But somehow, I was able to move on.”

That was the only objective in this World Golf Championship, a single-elimination format in which the only proper use of the word “upset” is the mood of the 32 guys who are headed home.

Among them:

— Ian Poulter, the Match Play winner two years ago, suffered his worst loss in nine appearances when Bae Sang-moon beat him, 4 and 3.

— Bill Haas, coming off that monster win at Riviera just three days ago, looked like a winner when he was 1 up on the 17th green and had a 5-foot birdie putt. Ryo Ishikawa holed from 18 feet, Haas missed, and the Japanese star made par on the 18th to win.

— In the most thrilling match of the opening round, Jim Furyk was on the verge of sending Dustin Johnson home early for the fourth straight year when Johnson hit his tee shot into the desert and had to take a penalty drop on the 20th hole. Furyk chipped across the green and three-putted for bogey to lose.

— Rafael Cabrera-Bello was 3 up with three holes to play against Jason Day when he bogeyed three straight holes, and Day beat him with a 4-foot birdie putt on the 19th hole.

The other top seeds didn’t have too many problems, although U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy had a nervous moment.

He won four straight holes on the back nine to seize control against George Coetzee and was 3 up with three to play when McIlroy lost the next two holes with bogeys, then popped up a tee shot and made par a challenge. Coetzee, however, blew his approach some 60 feet long on the 18th and three-putted for bogey, giving McIlroy a 2-up win.

Lee Westwood never trailed in his 3-and-1 win over Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium. The test for Westwood comes on Thursday against Robert Karlsson, when he tries to advance to the third round for the first time. Martin Kaymer easily dispatched Greg Chalmers, while Steve Stricker outlasted Kevin Na.

McIlroy and Westwood now have a chance to replace Donald at No. 1 in the world if either were to win this week.

Donald will head home to Florida to shake off a poor start to his season.

“It’s a terrible ride home, believe me,” said Els, who has lost five times in the opening round. “I feel for Luke. He’s got a lot of pressure on him. Yeah, I know exactly what it feels like.”

A year after becoming the first player to win money titles on the PGA and European tours, Donald was not a factor at Abu Dhabi or Riviera, and this the first time he’s had three straight events out of the top 30 since August 2009.

“I’m not sure where to start,” Donald said. “I just didn’t play very well. It’s disappointing. I’ve been working really hard. To lose control of the golf ball like I did today is really frustrating, but I believe the hard work will start paying off soon.”

Fernandez-Castano got some attention this week for saying Woods was “beatable” and not at his best. “He’s beatable, too,” Woods replied, and the way they played, both were right.

Woods lost the opening two holes and looked as though he might fall 3 down until making a 10-foot par save. Woods won three of the next five holes, one of them with a 50-foot birdie putt, and that’s when the match became a case of give-and-take.

Woods was on the verge of going 2 up until he three-putted the ninth and Fernandez-Castano got up-and-down for bogey. Three holes later, Woods had to make a par to avoid falling 2 down.

He wasn’t wild all the time, but it cost him when he was – a left-handed shot out of the desert on No. 2, too much club that sent him over the 11th green and into the desert. But he settled down right about the time the Spaniard began to struggle with the putter, missing putts inside 10 feet on the 15th and 16th holes that enabled Woods to take the lead.

“I think if there was one day to beat Tiger Woods, this was it,” Fernandez-Castano said. “I didn’t take the opportunity. I missed a few shots. And of course, you can’t miss spots if you want to beat one of the greatest in history.”

Johnson had no business winning his match.

He already was 3 down when he drove into the desert. He was given relief, but didn’t check the path of his swing, and his club hit a cactus on the way back, leading to a muffed shot that stayed in the desert and required a penalty drop. He was hitting his fourth shot from the desert. Furyk was hitting his third from the desert.

Johnson wound up winning the hole with a bogey.

He managed to take the lead going to the 18th, only to bogey. Then, on the par-5 second hole, Johnson had to take another penalty drop from the desert and appeared to be beaten until Furyk chopped up the rest of the hole for bogey.

“It’s a funny golf course. Anything can happen,” Johnson said. “And I just hung in there.”

It never looked more bizarre than when Retief Goosen hit into the desert, took a penalty drop, pitched out and holed a 156-yard shot for his birdie. Snedeker jarred a 40-foot birdie putt to halve the hole. It was only fitting that their match was the longest of the day, going 21 holes until Snedeker won with a par.

Next up for Woods is Nick Watney, who had little trouble disposing of British Open champion Darren Clarke. Woods has not made it out of the second round the last two times he has played.

moves on to play Anders Hansen, who beat K.T. Kim, 5 and 3. The Big Easy is in dire need of ranking points as he tries to get into the next World Golf Championship at Doral in two weeks, and tries to get into the top 50 by the end of March to avoid missing the Masters for the first time in nearly 20 years.


Watch live coverage of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Golf Channel, Thursday/Friday 2-6PM ET; Saturday noon-2PM ET; Sunday 8AM-1PM ET. NBC coverage can be seen live Saturday/Sunday, 2-6PM ET.

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CareerBuilder purse payouts: Rahm wins $1.062 million

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 12:50 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of sudden death to win the CareerBuilder Challenger. Here's a look at how the purse was paid out in La Quinta, Calif.:

1 Jon Rahm -22 $1,062,000
2 Andrew Landry -22 $637,200
T3 Adam Hadwin -20 $306,800
T3 John Huh -20 $306,800
T3 Martin Piller -20 $306,800
T6 Kevin Chappell -19 $205,025
T6 Scott Piercy -19 $205,025
T8 Brandon Harkins -18 $171,100
T8 Jason Kokrak -18 $171,100
T8 Sam Saunders -18 $171,100
T11 Harris English -17 $135,700
T11 Seamus Power -17 $135,700
T11 Jhonattan Vegas -17 $135,700
T14 Bud Cauley -16 $106,200
T14 Austin Cook -16 $106,200
T14 Grayson Murray -16 $106,200
T17 Andrew Putnam -15 $88,500
T17 Peter Uihlein -15 $88,500
T17 Aaron Wise -15 $88,500
T20 Ricky Barnes -14 $57,754
T20 Stewart Cink -14 $57,754
T20 Brian Harman -14 $57,754
T20 Beau Hossler -14 $57,754
T20 Charles Howell III -14 $57,754
T20 Zach Johnson -14 $57,754
T20 Ryan Palmer -14 $57,754
T20 Brendan Steele -14 $57,754
T20 Nick Taylor -14 $57,754
T29 Lucas Glover -13 $36,706
T29 Russell Knox -13 $36,706
T29 Nate Lashley -13 $36,706
T29 Tom Lovelady -13 $36,706
T29 Kevin Streelman -13 $36,706
T29 Hudson Swafford -13 $36,706
T29 Richy Werenski -13 $36,706
T36 Jason Dufner -12 $27,189
T36 Derek Fathauer -12 $27,189
T36 James Hahn -12 $27,189
T36 Chez Reavie -12 $27,189
T36 Webb Simpson -12 $27,189
T36 Tyrone Van Aswegen -12 $27,189
T42 Bronson Burgoon -11 $18,983
T42 Ben Crane -11 $18,983
T42 Brian Gay -11 $18,983
T42 Chesson Hadley -11 $18,983
T42 Patton Kizzire -11 $18,983
T42 Hunter Mahan -11 $18,983
T42 Kevin Na -11 $18,983
T42 Rob Oppenheim -11 $18,983
T50 Alex Cejka -10 $14,025
T50 Corey Conners -10 $14,025
T50 Michael Kim -10 $14,025
T50 Kevin Kisner -10 $14,025
T50 Sean O'Hair -10 $14,025
T50 Sam Ryder -10 $14,025
T50 Nick Watney -10 $14,025
T57 Robert Garrigus -9 $13,039
T57 Tom Hoge -9 $13,039
T57 David Lingmerth -9 $13,039
T57 Ben Martin -9 $13,039
T57 Trey Mullinax -9 $13,039
T57 Brett Stegmaier -9 $13,039
T63 Scott Brown -8 $12,449
T63 Wesley Bryan -8 $12,449
T63 Brice Garnett -8 $12,449
T63 Sung Kang -8 $12,449
T67 Talor Gooch -7 $12,095
T67 Tom Whitney -7 $12,095
T69 Matt Every -6 $11,623
T69 Billy Hurley III -6 $11,623
T69 Smylie Kaufman -6 $11,623
T69 Keith Mitchell -6 $11,623
T69 Rory Sabbatini -6 $11,623
T69 Chris Stroud -6 $11,623
75 John Peterson -5 $11,210
76 Abraham Ancer -4 $11,092
77 Ben Silverman 4 $10,974
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard


On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.