Ultimate Match Play: Round 1 results; Round 2 matchups

By Jason SobelJanuary 29, 2013, 11:00 am

Our 16-man field for the Ultimate Match Play Championship has been whittled down to the Elite Eight.

And it’s a very Elite Eight, indeed. (Click for: Ultimate Match Play overview | Player bios)

Higher seeds Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer easily cruised through their opening-round matches with each player receiving at least three-quarters of the GolfChannel.com online vote, while Gary Player and Tom Watson narrowly pulled out mild upsets to advance.

(1) Jack Nicklaus def. (16) Phil Mickelson

Some believed that despite 18 career major championship titles, the top-ranked Nicklaus might struggle against fan favorite Phil Mickelson in the first round, but the Golden Bear received 92.8 percent of the votes to move on to the next frame in the bracket as the leading vote-getter thus far.


(9) Gary Player def. (8) Walter Hagen

Nicklaus will face longtime friend and rival Player in the second round. As the No. 9 seed in the tournament, Player barely ousted Walter Hagen, taking just 51 percent of the vote in that match – easily the closest in the competition so far.

“The only way to rank players is through the record books,” Player recently said on 'Morning Drive.' “All I know is he was a very great character. He might have arrived at the tee in his dining suit and I would have arrived after exercising – and he might have still beat me.”

Not this time.

The combined numbers between Nicklaus and Player are astounding. Together they own 97 career PGA Tour victories, including 27 majors. Extend that to global success and they’ve combined for well over 200 wins, easily the biggest total of any of the four second-round matchups.


(2) Tiger Woods def. (15) Seve Ballesteros

Much like the NCAA basketball tournament, the match between the 2 and 15 seeds featured a closer-than-expected result. Woods received “only” 78.9 percent of the vote against Ballesteros, though the noted short-game wizard could not extricate himself from trouble against the 14-time major champion.


(10) Tom Watson def. (7) Byron Nelson

The tournament’s ultra-intriguing matches continue, as Woods will square off against Watson in the next round. Playing his longtime mentor in the first round, Watson upended Byron Nelson by receiving 54.4 percent of the vote to move on to another much anticipated matchup.

This one will feature Woods playing against the man who will serve as his Ryder Cup captain next year at Gleaneagles – and despite having the same initials and both playing collegiately at Stanford University, they haven’t always seen eye to eye.

Though Watson has criticized him for not always “respecting the game,” he was effusive in his praise for Woods when named captain on Dec. 13.

“He's the best player maybe in the history of the game,” Watson maintained. “My relationship with Tiger is fine. Whatever has been said before is water under the bridge, no issues. … Obviously there's nobody else in the golf world who wanted to win more than Tiger, and he did it for so many years. He dominated this sport unlike anybody in the history of the sport.”


(3) Ben Hogan def. (14) Nick Faldo

In what was no doubt a frosty match with few words, Hogan defeated Nick Faldo with 88 percent of the vote in the opening round. As the No. 3 seed in the tournament, the Hawk figures to be a tough out because of a legion of fans who still revere his shot-making talents and ability to recover from a near-fatal car accident.


(6) Arnold Palmer def. (11) Gene Sarazen

Hogan will meet Arnold Palmer in the second stanza – and Arnie’s Army, too. One of the most popular players of all time, Palmer was buoyed by a 86 percent vote in his victory over Gene Sarazen.

Much like the dynamic between Watson and Woods, Hogan and Palmer also owned a complex relationship, with the elder often failing to recognize the aggressive youngster.

“Well, it was more a standoff relationship,” Palmer said in a 2009 radio interview. “It wasn’t what I would call the warmest relationship in the world, although I certainly had a great deal of respect for Ben Hogan and what he accomplished in the game. I think that it would be safe to say that from a distance we were friends, but we were never very close and of course one of the things that you just mentioned had something to do with that and the fact that it was always ‘Hi fella’ rather than calling me by my name.”


(4) Bobby Jones def. (13) Lee Trevino

The only amateur remaining in the tournament, Jones took 77.6 percent of the vote against Lee Trevino to continue his pursuit of a title against a field of pay-for-play performers.


(5) Sam Snead def. (12) Billy Casper

Jones will square off against Snead, the PGA Tour’s all-time leading winner, in the second round. Perhaps surprisingly, Snead received the second-highest vote total in the opening round, garnering 90.2 percent to breeze past Billy Casper.

Once again, this second-round matchup will feature two men between whom there was plenty of bad blood. Snead struggled with his putting, employing various methods throughout his career. When he found success using a croquet style in 1967, it was Jones who brought up his contempt for the method with U.S. Golf Association executive director Joseph C. Dey. One year later, the USGA and R&A jointly banned croquet style putting.

Voting is now open for the four second-round matches, with winners announced on Feb. 5.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.