Major Match Play Championship: Week 1

By Randall MellMarch 11, 2014, 10:30 am

What is the greatest major championship in golf history? That's for you to determine. Over the next four weeks, is allowing readers a chance to vote in our Major Match Play Championship. Here is everything you need to know:

Process for determining our 16 majors

Breaking down the 16 contenders

Major championship photo gallery

Week 1 voting: Vote now!

Without further ado, here are the eight first-round matches (with seeding and tournament winners in parenthesis).

Match 1

(1) 1986 Masters (Jack Nicklaus) vs. (16) 1953 British Open ( Ben Hogan)

No Nicklaus victory was more emotional; his unexpected 18th and final major championship triumph coming when so many had written him off at age 46. His magical back-nine charge in ’86 captured imaginations beyond the game.

Hogan won his first and only British Open title in ’53 at Carnoustie. It was his third major championship conquest of that year. He also won the Masters and the U.S. Open, but he wouldn’t get a chance to win the PGA Championship. The dates conflicted with the British Open. It was the greatest major championship run in a single year since Jones won the Grand Slam in 1930.

Match 2

(8) 1960 U.S. Open (Arnold Palmer) vs. (9) 1962 U.S. Open (Nicklaus)

Palmer didn’t just win the '60 U.S. Open in dramatic fashion. He won with paths of greatness dramatically crossing. Palmer came from seven shots behind in the final round at Cherry Hills to win his first and only U.S. Open title. He did so after famously driving the par-4 first green in the final round. Palmer prevailed on a day when a 20-year-old amateur named Nicklaus and a 47-year-old legend named Hogan also held leads. How good is that?

Nicklaus made his first professional victory the ’62 U.S. Open at Oakmont memorable by beating Palmer, the reigning king of golf. He did so in a playoff in Palmer’s backyard. They loved Arnie there in Pennsylvania, and they hated Jack. It marked the beginning of their rivalry.

Match 3

(4) 1950 U.S. Open (Hogan) vs. (13) 1923 PGA Championship ( Gene Sarazen)

Sixteen months after a head-on collision with a bus nearly killed him, Hogan won the U.S. Open in what is remembered as the “Miracle at Merion.” He hit that famous 1-iron to the last hole in regulation in ’50  to earn his way into a playoff with Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio.

In a battle of the professional titans of the time, Gene Sarazen defeated Walter Hagen, in 38 holes, in the finals of the ’23 PGA Championship. They dominated that major in that era, with one or the other winning it over seven consecutive years in the ‘20s.

Match 4

(5) 1977 British Open (Tom Watson) vs. (12) 2001 Masters (Tiger Woods)

Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus in what is remembered as the “Duel in the Sun” at Turnberry in ’77. In a classic, Watson and Nicklaus separated themselves from the field playing together Saturday and Sunday. Watson won by a shot shooting 65-65 with Nicklaus shooting 65-66.

Woods’ win at Augusta National in ’01 was historic, completing what was billed as the "Tiger Slam.” The victory made Woods the first man in the modern era to win four consecutive majors.

Match 5

(2) 1997 Masters (Woods) vs. (15) 1954 Masters (Sam Snead)

The world seemed to stop in awe in ’97 when Woods won his first major as a professional by a Masters’ record 12 shots. It was more spectacle than competition, a precursor of the domination to come. Woods was only 21, and the victory is remembered as his coronation, the crowning of a supreme new power in professional golf.

Snead’s victory was especially dramatic, a one-shot triumph over rival Hogan in an 18-hole Monday playoff. Snead once said, “The three things I fear most in golf are lightning, Ben Hogan and a downhill putt.” This was also the Masters amateur Billy Joe Patton looked like he was going to win after making a hole-in-one at the sixth in the final round but then squandering his chance by rinsing a shot on his way to a double bogey at the 13th hole.

Match 6

(7) 1913 U.S. Open (Francis Ouimet) vs. (10) 1930 U.S. Amateur (Bobby Jones)

Ouimet, a little known 20-year-old former caddie, walked across the street from his family’s home onto the Country Club at Brookline and pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the history of sport. He beat British titans Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in a playoff in ’13 to become the first amateur to win the U.S. Open. He put American golf on the map with a victory that made the front pages of newspapers around the world.

Jones lifted a nation’s spirit, winning the U.S. Amateur in ’30 to become the first player to win the Grand Slam, or the “Impregnable Quadrilateral,” as it was also called. His victory at Merion was a tonic in the aftermath of the stock market crash, with the Great Depression dawning. He remains the only player to sweep four major championships in a single season. The New York Times then called it “the most triumphant journey that any man ever traveled in sport.”

Match 7

(3) 2008 U.S. Open (Woods) vs. (14) 2000 PGA Championship (Woods)

Woods winced, grimaced and limped on his way to victory in ’08 with a torn ligament in his left knee and a fractured left tibia. While he has amazed us more than once with his feats over the years, this win was different in that for the first time he seemed to amaze himself. Despite all the pain, he won this U.S. Open at Torrey Pines over 91 holes, defeating Rocco Mediate in a playoff.

For all his domination in majors, Woods’ most thrilling win might have come in the 2000 PGA at Valhalla, where a 31-year-old journeyman pro named Bob May pushed him to the brink. Woods claimed his third major of that year in a dramatic Sunday finish that didn’t end until Woods prevailed in a three-hole playoff.

Match 8

(6) 2000 U.S. Open (Woods) vs. (11) 1975 Masters (Nicklaus)

Winning the U.S. Open in an astonishing 15-shot rout, Woods seemed to break the spirit of the field. He won at Pebble Beach in ’00 with the most dominant performance in the history of major championship golf. He finished at 12 under par, becoming the first player in U.S. Open history to finish double digits under par, in a week where nobody else broke par.

Nicklaus won his fifth Masters’ title and 13th major in a thrilling finish that shook all those pine trees on the back nine at Augusta National. In ’75, he outplayed Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller in a gut-wrenching finish that saw Weiskopf and Miller both miss birdie chances at the 72nd hole that would have forced a playoff. 

Getty Images

Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

Getty Images

DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.