Running blog: WGC-Accenture Match Play Day 2

By Randall MellFebruary 23, 2012, 11:08 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – Day 2 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is underway at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain. GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell is on site with a running blog of the second-round action. (Click for: Scoring, Day 1 running blog)

All times ET

6:08 p.m.: Matt Kuchar defeats Bubba Watson 3 and 2 to advance into the third round. Kuchar will meet Martin Kaymer.

Though Kuchar was 40 yards behind Watson’s drives all day, he wore out Watson with his iron play and short game. Kuchar also defeated the longer Watson in the third-place match here last year.

“You look to last year, and look at Luke Donald, short and steady player, goes on to win it, it can work,” Kuchar said. “I think length is always an advantage. And I think definitely an advantage around here. Bubba can just hit short irons into these greens and make them stop. I'm hitting longer irons and trying to land it on the front of the green and hope I catch the right hill or mound and hope it ends up in a good position. So, it’s a little more difficult, but you don't have to look very far to see what happened last year.”


5:56 p.m.: On the range before defeating Robert Karlsson 3 and 2, Lee Westwood watched his racehorse, Rerouted, finish second in Dubai.

“He’s a good horse,” Westwood said. “He just doesn’t win.”

Westwood said the horse finishes second a lot.

“I can relate to that,” Westwood cracked.

Westwood has his eye on a victory this week. He meets the Nick Watney-Tiger Woods winner in the third round. In 12 WGC-Accenture starts, this is the first time Westwood has advanced to the third round.


4:47 p.m.: Aussie John Senden on his stunning 6-and-5 rout of Jason Day, the No. 7 player in the world: “I had the pressure on him early. I had good putts on one, three and four and was 3 up. He sort of made the mistakes to force the match to go further and further my way.”


4:15 p.m.: Mark Wilson vs. Dustin Johnson will offer a severe contrast in styles Friday in the third round. Wilson ranks 159th in driving distance, averaging 280 yards per drive. Johnson ranks seventh in driving distance, averaging 306 yards per drive. Wilson’s tactician’s game prevailed last year, when he defeated Johnson in the first round in 19 holes.


3:51 p.m.: Stricker's scouting report of Mahan: 'Good match play player. He's in every hole, doesn't hit it crooked. His all-around game is good. We have been at it before, and we have been teammates before on a Presidents Cup team and Ryder Cup team. It's going to be tough. It's tough playing a friend, too. You have got to put that friendship aside for a day and try to beat him.'


3:41 p.m.: Hey, Hunter Mahan, no softening up the competition before moving in for the golf kill.  

Mahan on third-round opponent Stricker: “Steve has a great perspective on life because he was a great player early on and then he kind of oh lost it, kind of disappeared. Then he's worked his butt off to get back to this position and being a top-5 player in the world. It's pretty amazing. He's a great guy to talk to. He's so open, so nice. I mean, he's just a normal guy who plays golf for a living and that's it. There's no more – there's no celebrity to him whatsoever. He's a great guy to be around and has great energy.'

Hunter Mahan’s 5-and-3 rout of Y.E. Yang sets up a third-round match against Steve Stricker, who defeated Mahan in this event four years ago, winning in the second round in 20 holes. 


3:03 p.m.: Y.E. Yang never had a chance with the day’s first match closed out. Hunter Mahan birdied five holes in a row on the front side, six of the first eight on his way to a 5-and-3 runaway. Mahan's back in the third round, where he advanced last year before losing to Martin Kaymer. Mahan will get the Stricker/Oosthuizen winner.


2:56 p.m.: Kyle Stanley and Brandt Snedeker can’t seem to shake each other.

Their second-round match marks the third time they’ve played together in eight days. Snedeker, if you’ve forgotten, is the guy who won the Farmers Insurance Open when Stanley collapsed at the end.

Through four holes Thursday, they’re all square.

Stanley, if you’re keeping score, got the best of Snedeker in both their first- and second-round pairings at the Northern Trust Open last week. Stanley shot 74-68, Snedeker 75-70, but Snedeker (T-17) finished the tournament a shot better than Stanley (T-24).


2:21 p.m.: Ernie Els made his belly putter sing at the second, rolling in a delicate 5-foot downhill birdie putt to win the hole. He is all square now with Peter Hanson. Is there a more sentimental favorite than the Big Easy this week? The former No. 1 barely snuck into the field.


1:46 p.m.: Bubba Watson blasted his pink-headed and pink-shafted driver 330 yards down the middle at the second hole, 40 yards past Kuchar's driver. Kuchar, though, won the hole to go 1 up. Kuchar got up and down for par. Watson couldn't do the same from virtually the same position, though Watson was in longer grass.


1:37 p.m.: Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar are chatting up a storm early in their match. I didn't think Georgia and Georgia Tech grads did anything but talk trash to each other. Somebody alert Charlie Rymer. We are all square through one hole in this Bulldog/Yellow Jacket matchup.


1:21 p.m.: Bubba Watson just rocketed a hybrid at the first tee about 10 yards farther than Matt Kuchar hit his driver. Ouch!


1:10 p.m.: Ernie Els is on the practice putting green, looking pretty good with that belly putter as he prepares to meet Peter Hanson in about 40 minutes. Who would have thought Els would prevail so soundly Wednesday against world No. 1 Luke Donald, normally a fabulous putter? And who would have thought Els would putt so well on these severe greens? It bodes well not only for Els' bid to make it to this April's Masters, but to have a chance there. He said last week it ought to be banned, but I wonder if he will reconsider if it revives his game. Els is No. 68 in the world. He needs to climb into the top 50 over the next five weeks to earn a Masters' invite, or win a PGA Tour event before the Masters.


12:23 p.m.: There are some fabulous third-round possibilities, particularly on the right side of the bracket (Gary Player/Sam Snead brackets). Here is what is possible Friday, depending on the second-round outcomes:

Rory McIlroy vs. Keegan Bradley – Two young major championship winners.

Charl Schwartzel vs. Jason Day – Schwartzel says “the mind” is the most important club in the bag. Day worked some match-play “mind games” last year.

Tiger Woods vs. Lee Westwood – Tiger against the guy who ended his run at No. 1 in the world.

Matteo Manassero vs. Ryo Ishikawa – Youth isn’t wasted on the young. They’re the two youngest players in the field.


11:35 a.m.: The scorekeeper wished Steve Stricker a 'Happy Birthday' at the first tee. 'Shhhhhh,' Stricker told her. 'Don't tell anyone.' Stricker turns 45 today. He also leads off Accenture's second round, striping the first tee shot of the day down the middle in match against Louis Oosthuizen.


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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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.