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.


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“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.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.