Woods Survives Els Falls

By Sports NetworkFebruary 26, 2003, 5:00 pm
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Ernie Els, the hottest player in the world with four wins in five starts worldwide in 2003, was cooled off by Phil Tataurangi Wednesday in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Tataurangi, ranked 16th in the Gary Player bracket, bounced Els, 1-up, on the 20th hole in their first-round match at LaCosta Resort & Spa.
'I thought I struck it well, I thought I putted well,' said Els. 'I didn't get the ball close enough to the holes today. I felt I was playing pretty decent golf.'
Els was not the only No. 1 seed that was eliminated on Wednesday. Retief Goosen, the top-ranked player in the Ben Hogan bracket, fell to the oldest player in the field of 64, Jay Haas, 4 and 3.
Goosen, who rose to a No. 1 seed after Vijay Singh withdrew, fell apart on his second nine and after air-mailing the green and flubbing a chip at 15, the 2001 U.S. Open champion conceded the match to Haas.
Tiger Woods, the top-ranked player in the world and No. 1 seed in the Bobby Jones bracket, earned a 2-and-1 victory over Carl Pettersson. Woods already has surpassed his performance from a year ago when he was bounced in the opening round by Peter O'Malley.
'Obviously my expectations are pretty high,' said Woods, who needs this tournament to complete a career sweep of the World Golf Championships events. 'As far as last year is concerned, I put that away. You've got to focus on the shots and sometimes they're pretty tough out here.'
Phil Mickelson survived his opening-round contest with Robert Karlsson. Mickelson, the top seed in the Sam Snead bracket, took a 1-up lead when Karlsson bogeyed No. 17 and held on for the 1-up victory.
After nearly four inches of rain pounded La Costa over the last two days, Wednesday's action was played with lift, clean and place rules. That did not stop the upsets that seem to prevail in this match-play tournament.
Els did not take the lead in his match until the 17th hole. He needed to hang on at the par-5 closing hole to win the match but Els found trouble in the rough with his third shot.
The South African duffed his third into a greenside bunker but played a beautiful blast just short of the hole, forcing Tataurangi to concede par. Tataurangi, who entered the field after Nick Faldo withdrew with the flu, holed a 30-foot birdie putt at 18 to force the extra session.
On the first playoff hole, Tataurangi found a bunker but blasted out to five feet and made the gutsy par save. At the par-3 second, Tataurangi stuck his tee shot two feet from the hole while Els found a sand trap. After Els missed his bunker shot, he conceded the match to Tataurangi.
'So be it,' said Els. 'I'm disappointed, but this is what happens with 18 holes of match play. I knew he was going to make that putt (on 18).'
Pettersson, who finished second to Woods at the Buick Invitational two weeks ago, showed some nerves with a horrible tee shot at the first but those nerves seemed to leave on the walk to the green. Pettersson ran home a 30-foot birdie at the hole to go 1-up.
Woods built a 2-up lead at the par-3 16th tee and hit a beautiful 8-iron 15 feet right of the flag. He looked to be in great shape to make birdie and end the match but Pettersson, who missed the green short, chipped in and put pressure on Woods to halve the hole. Woods drained the putt then lagged his first putt to tap-in range at the 17th, forcing Pettersson to concede.
'I needed to make that putt,' said Woods, referring to his stroke at 16. 'It looked like I had that putt to win that match then it looked like I might lose the hole. I figured if I made that putt, I'd win the match.'
Defending champion Kevin Sutherland was 3 down to No. 2 Sergio Garcia in the Ben Hogan bracket as the two played 13. Sutherland won the next five holes to bounce the young Spaniard from the tournament and keep open his chances for a repeat.
'I played really poor on the front,' said Sutherland, who defeated David Duval in similar fashion last year, coming back from 2 down. 'I was hitting it all over the place. But match play is a funny thing. You get some momentum, and I definitely got it, and I was riding it pretty well. Sergio seemed like he was struggling a little bit and I was able to come back and win.'
Sutherland went on to a 2-and-1 victory and will face Justin Rose in the second round. Rose squandered a 2-up lead to Duval but prevailed on the 20th hole.
Duval was 2 down with three to play but birdied the 16th and 17th to draw even. He looked to be in command on the first extra hole, No. 1, but left a birdie putt six feet short.
Rose sank an eight-foot birdie putt at the second extra hole to win the match and bounce Duval out in 20 holes for the second straight year.
'It doesn't matter how it happened. I lost,' said Duval, who is mired in a slump since the beginning of 2002.
Mike Weir, a two-time winner on tour this season, and Loren Roberts engaged in the longest match in the tournament's history since it came under the World Golf Championships umbrella. Weir finally won 1-up on the 26th hole to set up a second-round contest with Jerry Kelly.
Colin Montgomerie's woes at this event continued on Wednesday. He was trounced by Alex Cejka 4 and 2 and for the second year in a row, the Scotsman made an early exit after a first-round loss to Scott McCarron in 2002.
Monty was not the only 3 seed to be beaten in the first round. Chris DiMarco lost 2 and 1 to Toshi Izawa in the Bobby Jones bracket.
Related Links:
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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.