MARANA, Ariz. – GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell is at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain for the opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. He is providing a running blog for the match between Ernie Els and Jeff Overton. Follow him on twitter (@RandallMell) for more updates or for complete scoring of all 32 matches, click here.
(4:07 p.m. ET) Ernie Els could only laugh at the weird twists and turns in his victory against Jeff Overton in 19 holes Wednesday at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
After losing the first three holes of the day, bouncing back to win five in a row in the middle of the round, Els won when Overton got himself in trouble in the desert. Els won after Overton pulled his approach shot left at the first extra hole (No. 1) into thick brush and couldn’t free himself.
“It’s crazy,” Els said. “It was a weird game, really weird. It was ugly.”
Els missed a couple of short putts early, hit just one of his first six greens in regulation and still managed to win.
After being eliminated in the first round five times in 10 previous starts at the Accenture Match Play Championship, Els was happy to advance, no matter how awkwardly. It was his first win in extra holes in this event. He lost the three other times he advanced to sudden death.
“My failure rate is pretty good here in extra holes,” Els said.
Els will meet J.B. Holmes in the second round.
“I’ve got some work to do,” Els said. “I need to play better tomorrow. This course suits J.B. Holmes to a tee.”
(2:44 p.m. ET) Els and Overton couldn't make putts most of the day, but they dropped some big ones coming home.
Overton's 10-foot par putt at 18 sends this to extra holes.
Els made a big par-saving 8-footer at the 17th.
(2:05 p.m. ET) Els lost the 15th hole without ever stepping on the green.
He is getting a good look at the desert today. He found his ball in the scrub brush aside the 15th fairway but couldn't make an escape.
It is all square with three to play.
(1:55 p.m. ET) Els turned to his caddie with more bewilderment on his face after pushing another tee shot right into rattlesnake country at the short par-4 15th.
Els is 1 up with four to go.
You get the feeling this won't be about who wins the match but who loses it.
(1:15 p.m. ET) Ernie Els has turned into a formidable locomotive.
With his victory at the 11th hole, he has won five holes in a row to go 2 up on Jeff Overton.
(12:23 a.m. ET) Match play is a strange animal.
After losing the first three holes, Els wins the final three on the back nine to square the match.
Momentum is a fickle master in this format. Els has it now with Overton looking shaky. Els got up and down at the ninth when Overton couldn't.
(12:23 a.m. ET) 'Can't make a 4-footer to save my life . ... Ridiculous!'
Those weren't the mutterings of Els coming off the seventh green, but of Overton after he missed a short putt for par.
Els is rallying in a match distinguished by some shaky putting all around.
With Overton's miss at No. 7 and Els' big birdie after escaping from some desert scrub brush following a wayward drive at the eighth, Els is only 1 down now.
(11:47 a.m. ET) Els got one back at the fifth hole when Overton three-putted for a bogey to move Els to within 2 down, but he gave that right back at the sixth hole.
Els mis-clubbed in the wind, leaving his 185-yard approach short in the bunker and made his third bogey in six holes. Els has hit just one green in regulation over the first six holes.
(11:28 a.m. ET) Ernie Els' putting is a problem early. He's missed back-to-back 3 1/2 footers for par. With a chance to win the hole at No. 4, he pushed a short putt right. With Overton also making bogey, Els is still 3 down.
Els would be 2 over through four, Overton 1 under.
(11:03 a.m. ET) Ernie Elis is off to a shaky start. Els missed a 3-1/2 footer for par at the third hole and is 3 down to Overton after three. Overton birdied the second hole for birdie-birdie start.
Els is 10-11 overall in Accenture, Overton is 0-0.
(10:30 a.m. ET) Tough start for Ernie Els, who is 1 down to Jeff Overton after the first hole.
Els had a rough time in this event from 2006-08 and was eliminated in the first round each of those years. In 10 Accenture starts, Els has been sent packing five times after one round. Jonathan Byrd embarrassed him in '08, routing him 6 and 5 in the opening match.
In '09, Els rebounded strong, advancing all the way to the quarterfinals before losing. Back in '01, he made it all the way to the semifinals, losing to Pierre Fulke. That's the farthest Els has advanced in this.
Last year, the Big Easy beat Ryan Moore 4 and 3 in the first round and then lost to Retief Goosen in 20 holes in the second round.