Stat attack!: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship review

By John AntoniniFebruary 24, 2014, 3:09 am

If Jason Day’s thrilling extra-hole victory in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship was indeed the tournament’s last appearance in the Tucson, Ariz., area, the Australian and runner-up Victor Dubuisson sure gave Dove Mountain a sendoff that will be remembered. In the first championship match to go to overtime since the inaugural Match Play event in 1999, Day outlasted Dubuission in 23 holes Sunday to become the winningest player – percentage-wise – in Match Play history and the fifth Aussie to win a World Golf Championship title. Dubuisson continued his remarkable climb on the world ranking, can take Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour for the rest of the year, and almost certainly took the lead in a statistic that the infinite ShotLink database does not calculate. You know the one, proximity to the hole on chip shots from cactus with rocks, sand, twigs, television cables and six-inch rough between the ball and the hole.

Day’s victory gives him a 14-3 record in four Match Play appearances. His .824 winning percentage allows him to overtake Matt Kuchar as the tournament’s winningest player with 15 or more matches.

Best winning percentage (15+ matches) in WGC-Match Play history

 Rank Player Record Percentage 2014 finish
 1 Jason Day 14-3 .824 Champion
 2  Matt Kuchar 17-4  .810  Third-round loser
 3  Geoff Ogilvy 20-5  .800  Did not play 
 4  Tiger Woods 33-10 .767  Did not play
 5 Hunter Mahan 17-6  .739  Third-round loser
 6  Nick O'Hern 11-5  .688  Did not play
 7  David Toms  24-11  .686  Did not play
 8  Davis Love IIi  19-10  .655  Did not play
 9  Luke Donald  17-9  .654  First-round loser
 10  Henrik Stenson  13-7  .650  First-round loser

Day built upon his success in the 2013 Match Play touranment. He finished third a year ago, losing to eventual champ Matt Kuchar in the semifinals before beating Ian Poulter in the consolation match. Day is the seventh player to play six matches in the tournament two years in a row and the first to go from consolation winner to tournament champion in back-to-back years.

Players who reached the final day of the WGC-Match Play two years in a row

 Player Year One Year two
 Jason Day 2013 Consolation winner 2014 Champion
 Hunter Mahan 2012 Champion 2013 Runner-up
 Paul Casey 2009 Runner-up 2010 Runner-up
 Stewart Cink 2008 Runner-up 2009 Consolation winner
 Henrik Stenson 2007 Champion 2008 Consolation winner
 Geoff Ogilvy 2006 Champion 2007 Runner-up
 Tiger Woods 2003 Champion 2004 Champion

Day is the first Australian to win a World Golf Championship event since Adam Scott won the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Australian World Golf Championships winners

 Player Tournament
 Jason Day 2014 Accenture Match Play
 Adam Scott 2011 Bridgestone Invitational
 Geoff Ogilvy 2008 Accenture Match Play
 Geoff Ogilvy 2006 Accenture Match Play
 Craig Parry 2002 NEC Invitational

Scott and Ogilvy have also won major championships, and although Day has an enviable major-championship record – three runner-up finishes in his last 11 major starts – a victory in a 2014 major is far from certain. In the last 10 years only two Match Play champions would go on to win a major in the same season.

Best finish in a major by the reigning Match Play champ (2004-2013)

 Year Match Play winner Best major result
 2013 Matt Kuchar T-8, Masters
 2012 Hunter Mahan T-12, Masters
 2011 Luke Donald T-4, Masters
 2010 Ian Poulter T-10, Masters
 2009  Geoff Ogilvy T-15, Masters
 2008 Tiger Woods Won, U.S. Open
 2007 Henrik Stenson T-1,7 Masters
 2006 Geoff Ogilvy Won, U.S. Open
 2005 David Toms T-10, PGA Championship
 2004 Tiger Woods T-9, British Open

Day’s victory Sunday also moved him to third on the final West Coast Swing money list for 2014, trailing Jimmy Walker and Bubba Watson. Day earned more than $1.5 million at Dove Mountain and supplemented that with a $366,000 check for his T-2 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Leading money winners on the West Coast Swing

 Rank Player Earnings Best finish
 1 Jimmy Walker $2,455,180 Won: Sony, Pebble
 2 Bubba Watson $1,953,890 Won: No. Trust
 3 Jason Day $1,909,200 Won: Match Play
 4 Zach Johnson $1,637,600 Won: Hyundai
 5 Dustin Johnson $1,551,150 2: Pebble, No. Trust
 6 Jordan Spieth $1,439,225 2: Hyundai
 7 Patrick Reed $1,405,152 Won: Humana
 8 Kevin Stadler $1,250,884 Won: Phoenix
 9 Scott Stallings $1,176,977 Won: Farmers
 10 Victor Dubuisson $1,061,906 2: Match Play

Dubuisson, with his more than $1 million on the PGA Tour in 2013-14, can accept Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour for the rest of the year. That means he can take unlimited sponsor exemptions. He is already exempt into the major championships and is now 23rd on the world ranking, a remarkable climb from 259th, his position on the ranking a little more than two years ago.

Victor Dubuisson’s climb on the world ranking

 Rank Time Period Note
 259 December 31, 2011  
 132 December 31, 2012  
 114 March 24, 2013 T-4 Malaysian Open
 100 October 13, 2013 First time in top 100
 39 October 27, 2013 Won Turkish Airlines Open
 32 December 31, 2013 Qualified for 2014 Masters
 23 February 23, 2014 Runner-up at WGC-Match Play

In additon to the majors, Dubuisson is exempt into the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in two weeks, where he’ll get another chance at Jason Day and the rest of the world’s best players. The good thing is, last time we checked, Donald Trump hadn’t planted any cactus on the recently renovated Blue Monster course.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.