Running blog: WGC-Accenture Match Play Day 1

By Rex HoggardFebruary 22, 2012, 11:25 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – Day 1 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is underway at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain. senior writer Rex Hoggard is on site with a running blog of the opening-round action. (Click for: Scoring)

All times ET

6:24 p.m.: In world No. 1 Luke Donald’s defense there weren’t many players in the 64-man WGC-Match Play field that could have beaten Ernie Els on Wednesday, but that doesn’t make the 5-and-4 loss any easier to swallow.

Els, who was 3 under through 14 holes including clutch putts of 12 feet at No. 12 (par) and 21 feet at No. 13 (birdie), became just the third 64th-seeded player to upend a top seed at this event.

6:02 p.m.: Consider it a good karma deal that Keegan Bradley rolled over WGC-Match Play magician Geoff Ogilvy 4 and 3 on Day 1. 

Bradley, who lost a playoff on Sunday in Los Angeles and had been heavily criticized for spitting during the telecast, flew back east on Sunday to attend the funeral of his best friend's father. 

He didn't get to Tucson until late Monday night and had just one chance to play the Dove Mountain course. The fact that he beat the two-time Match Play winner in his first WGC only made his hurried week that much more special.

5:28 p.m.: This is not the same Luke Donald who went 89 holes last year at Dove Mountain on his way to a record victory. 

At the par-5 11th, for example, the world No. 1 played a poor wedge shot well short of a back-left pin and three-putted to go 3 down.

4:57 p.m.: We asked Jason Day’s caddie before the round on Wednesday at Dove Mountain what his calculation was to adjust to the thin Arizona air. He said figured he’d add an extra 5 yards early in the morning and maybe go an extra 10 yards later.

Col Swatton, however, couldn’t adjust for his man’s adrenaline and the Australian struggled early in his match against Rafael Cabrera Bello, falling 3 down with three holes to play.

“You can’t calculate how much you’re pumped up. Sometimes you can hit an 8-iron 190, sometimes it’s just 170 (yards),” Day said.

The duo got it right on the first extra hole with Day rifling his 9-iron from 150 yards to 3 ½ feet for birdie and the victory.

4:19 p.m.: Although it is still early with world No. 1 and defending WGC-Accenture Match Play champion Luke Donald 1 down to Ernie Els through six holes, talk of a possible upset is starting to heat up.

Just twice since the Match Play began in 1999 has the No. 1 seed lost to the No. 64 seed. Steve Stricker lost to Ross McGowan in 2010 when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson missed the event and in 2002 Peter O’Malley beat Woods. 

3:35 p.m.: Matteo Manassero advanced past the first round for the second consecutive year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and climbed to No. 61 in the World Golf Ranking but cannot drive his new BMW.

The Italian can’t legally drive his new car until he turns 19 on April 19 and completes a series of requirements to earn his driver’s license.

“I have been kind of lazy,” Manassero said of the driving requirements. 

3:14 p.m.: Last year in his first WGC-Match Play, Matteo Manassero beat Steve Stricker on Day 1, 2 and 1. On Wednesday he clipped a similarly steady American, Webb Simpson, 3 and 2.

Last year in the second round Manassero beat Charl Schwartzel, which may not be good news for Alvaro Quiros or Martin Laird, one of whom he will face on Thursday.

3:01 p.m.: Much was made of the time Steve Stricker spent putting with Tiger Woods on Tuesday at Dove Mountain, but as one member of Team Tiger pointed out, Woods also spent time working with Stricker on his chipping.

It’s interesting only because Stricker’s 2-and-1 Day 1 victory over Kevin Na featured just 7 of 17 greens hit in regulation. Seems the advice giving was a two-way street.

2:53 p.m.: Dustin Johnson trailed for 14 of the 20 holes he played on Day 1 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Johnson bogeyed the 18th to force extra holes against Jim Furyk but he parred the second extra hole to advance.

In four Match Plays DJ had failed to advance out of the first round.

2:14 p.m.: Early upset special at WGC-Match Play Championship is Ryo Ishikawa’s comeback against Bill Hass, who needed two extra holes on Sunday to win in Los Angeles.

Ishikawa rallies from 3 down with five holes to play with birdies at Nos. 14, 15 and 17, and advances with a par at the last for a 1-up stunner.

1:49 p.m.: Zach Johnson gets up and down from 60 yards short of the green for par at the last to force extra holes against Hunter Mahan. 

Mahan three-putted from 80 feet at the 17th to squander a 1-up lead.

1:24 p.m.: Y.E. Yang gets on the board first, clipping Graeme McDowell, 2 and 1, in the day's opening match.

McDowell's work week was less than four hours or, with the $45,000 he will receive for his tie for 33rd, about $2,600 a hole. 

1:01 p.m.: Dove Mountain's 15th is always a compelling hole during the WGC-Match Play Championship. The 'driveable' par 4 has decided many matches over the years, but on Wednesday for Round 1 officials may have missed the point.

The tee markers are forward of the back edge of the tee by 17 yards, leaving 325 yards to the pin.

In the first group of the day Y.E. Yang and Graeme McDowell both came up short of the green and in the second group Zach Johnson laid up with a fairway wood and Hunter Mahan hit driver about 20 yards short of the green to make a birdie and take a 1-up lead.

 12:50 p.m.: Zach Johnson rolls in 9-footer for birdie at the 14th hole to square his match with Hunter Mahan. Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III: this would be a good foursome option in September. 

12:21 p.m.: The day’s first match is through 13 holes with Graeme McDowell 1 down to Y.E. Yang. Not a good sign that G-Mac lost to Yang, 3 and 2, last year in Round 3. In an unrelated item, the duo has gone a baker’s dozen under three hours.

11:51 a.m.: The early word was Thomas Bjorn was being slowed by an ailing  back at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. He’s 2 up on Francesco Molinari through seven holes.

11:12 a.m.: The buzz early Wednesday at Dove Mountain was that Thomas Bjorn’s ailing back could keep him from playing the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship but the Dane rallied in the morning cold and was 1 up through four holes against Francesco Molinari.

Rules would allow for Bjorn to be replaced in the 64-player field if an alternate could be located in time. Ryan Moore, 67th in the world golf ranking when the field was set two weeks ago, would be the first alternate but officials said he is at home in Las Vegas and wouldn’t be able to make it to Tucson in time in the event of a last-minute withdrawal.

A first-round loss at the Match Play is considered a tie for 33rd, worth 24 FedEx Cup points, about $45,000 in prize money and last year received a little over two world ranking points.

By comparison, players who finished tied for 29th last year at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which is played opposite the Match Play, didn’t receive any world ranking points, earned $23,500 and 19 FedEx Cup points.

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.

Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:45 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.

On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.

“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.

“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”

Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.

New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.

In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.

Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.

“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.

His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.

“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”

Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro

By Rex HoggardNovember 18, 2017, 10:24 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.

That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”

That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.

“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.

Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME

By Nick MentaNovember 18, 2017, 8:47 pm

Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.

Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)

What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.

Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.

Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.

Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.

Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.

Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.