Power Rankings: WGC-Accenture Match Play

By Will GrayFebruary 18, 2013, 5:03 pm

This week the PGA Tour holds its first World Golf Championship of 2013, as 64 of the game's best head to Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. for the Accenture Match Play Championship. Divided into four brackets, players will compete all week in individual, single-elimination matches until a winner is crowned.

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Hunter Mahan is back in the field this year, ready to defend the title that he won last year over Rory McIlroy in the final match. Here are 10 players to watch this week in one of the most unpredictable events of the year:

1. Tiger Woods: Making his first start since a dominant win at Torrey Pines, Woods enters as the No. 2 overall seed in search of his first Match Play title since 2008. Though he hasn't advanced past the second round in three appearances since, his game appears able to carry him to the third round and beyond this week. 

2. Charl Schwartzel: Flat-out the hottest player in the world right now. After several high finishes over the past two months, the South African tied for third on the friendly kikuyu grass at Riviera. No one will have more confidence this week at Dove Mountain.

3. Rory McIlroy: The top overall seed, McIlroy made it to the finals last year but missed the cut in his lone professional start of 2013 in Abu Dhabi. Rust and new equipment may still be factors, but the Ulsterman can't be overlooked.

4. Ian Poulter: The match play ninja. Poulter won this event in 2010, won the Volvo Match Play the following year and his Ryder Cup singles record is well-documented. Poulter was ousted in the first round each of the last two years, but the Englishman may be poised for another deep run this week.

5. Luke Donald: A winner here in 2011, Donald has won at least two matches in five of eight appearances in this event. The Englishman will begin the week as the top seed in the Snead bracket after a solid showing at Hogan's Alley last week.

6. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar made the quarterfinals last year after a third-place showing the year prior, and showed positive signs with an opening 64 at Riviera. A potential second-round matchup with Sergio Garcia looms, but the Players champion has shown an affinity for both the venue and format this week.

7. Louis Oosthuizen: Making his first start in the U.S. since a strong run through the 2012 FedEx Cup Playoffs, Oosthuizen already has a win under his belt at the Volvo Golf Champions last month. Though perhaps the least-hyped top seed, the South African's game tee-to-green is among the best in the world.

8. Nick Watney: Has made it to the third round each of the last three years, including ousting Tiger Woods a year ago. Though he has struggled somewhat since a T-4 at Torrey Pines, Watney's draw may open up if he can defeat match play veteran David Toms

9. Adam Scott: Quietly notched a tie for 10th at Riviera after a successful 'off-season' that included a win in his native Australia. Though he has only won two matches in six MPC appearances since 2007, the Aussie's game is showing no signs of early-season rust. 

10. Webb Simpson: The U.S. Open champ appeared in position for a win at Riviera, but nonetheless added another solid finish to his early 2013 season that now includes three top-20s in five starts. Should he keep up his strong play, a third-round match with Tiger Woods may await.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.