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.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

Getty Images

Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

Getty Images

List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).