Running blog: WGC-Accenture Match Play Day 1


MARANA, Ariz. – Day 1 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is underway at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain. senior writer Rex Hoggard is on site with a running blog of the opening-round action. (Click for: Scoring)

All times ET

6:24 p.m.: In world No. 1 Luke Donald’s defense there weren’t many players in the 64-man WGC-Match Play field that could have beaten Ernie Els on Wednesday, but that doesn’t make the 5-and-4 loss any easier to swallow.

Els, who was 3 under through 14 holes including clutch putts of 12 feet at No. 12 (par) and 21 feet at No. 13 (birdie), became just the third 64th-seeded player to upend a top seed at this event.

6:02 p.m.: Consider it a good karma deal that Keegan Bradley rolled over WGC-Match Play magician Geoff Ogilvy 4 and 3 on Day 1. 

Bradley, who lost a playoff on Sunday in Los Angeles and had been heavily criticized for spitting during the telecast, flew back east on Sunday to attend the funeral of his best friend's father. 

He didn't get to Tucson until late Monday night and had just one chance to play the Dove Mountain course. The fact that he beat the two-time Match Play winner in his first WGC only made his hurried week that much more special.

5:28 p.m.: This is not the same Luke Donald who went 89 holes last year at Dove Mountain on his way to a record victory. 

At the par-5 11th, for example, the world No. 1 played a poor wedge shot well short of a back-left pin and three-putted to go 3 down.

4:57 p.m.: We asked Jason Day’s caddie before the round on Wednesday at Dove Mountain what his calculation was to adjust to the thin Arizona air. He said figured he’d add an extra 5 yards early in the morning and maybe go an extra 10 yards later.

Col Swatton, however, couldn’t adjust for his man’s adrenaline and the Australian struggled early in his match against Rafael Cabrera Bello, falling 3 down with three holes to play.

“You can’t calculate how much you’re pumped up. Sometimes you can hit an 8-iron 190, sometimes it’s just 170 (yards),” Day said.

The duo got it right on the first extra hole with Day rifling his 9-iron from 150 yards to 3 ½ feet for birdie and the victory.

4:19 p.m.: Although it is still early with world No. 1 and defending WGC-Accenture Match Play champion Luke Donald 1 down to Ernie Els through six holes, talk of a possible upset is starting to heat up.

Just twice since the Match Play began in 1999 has the No. 1 seed lost to the No. 64 seed. Steve Stricker lost to Ross McGowan in 2010 when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson missed the event and in 2002 Peter O’Malley beat Woods. 

3:35 p.m.: Matteo Manassero advanced past the first round for the second consecutive year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and climbed to No. 61 in the World Golf Ranking but cannot drive his new BMW.

The Italian can’t legally drive his new car until he turns 19 on April 19 and completes a series of requirements to earn his driver’s license.

“I have been kind of lazy,” Manassero said of the driving requirements. 

3:14 p.m.: Last year in his first WGC-Match Play, Matteo Manassero beat Steve Stricker on Day 1, 2 and 1. On Wednesday he clipped a similarly steady American, Webb Simpson, 3 and 2.

Last year in the second round Manassero beat Charl Schwartzel, which may not be good news for Alvaro Quiros or Martin Laird, one of whom he will face on Thursday.

3:01 p.m.: Much was made of the time Steve Stricker spent putting with Tiger Woods on Tuesday at Dove Mountain, but as one member of Team Tiger pointed out, Woods also spent time working with Stricker on his chipping.

It’s interesting only because Stricker’s 2-and-1 Day 1 victory over Kevin Na featured just 7 of 17 greens hit in regulation. Seems the advice giving was a two-way street.

2:53 p.m.: Dustin Johnson trailed for 14 of the 20 holes he played on Day 1 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Johnson bogeyed the 18th to force extra holes against Jim Furyk but he parred the second extra hole to advance.

In four Match Plays DJ had failed to advance out of the first round.

2:14 p.m.: Early upset special at WGC-Match Play Championship is Ryo Ishikawa’s comeback against Bill Hass, who needed two extra holes on Sunday to win in Los Angeles.

Ishikawa rallies from 3 down with five holes to play with birdies at Nos. 14, 15 and 17, and advances with a par at the last for a 1-up stunner.

1:49 p.m.: Zach Johnson gets up and down from 60 yards short of the green for par at the last to force extra holes against Hunter Mahan. 

Mahan three-putted from 80 feet at the 17th to squander a 1-up lead.

1:24 p.m.: Y.E. Yang gets on the board first, clipping Graeme McDowell, 2 and 1, in the day's opening match.

McDowell's work week was less than four hours or, with the $45,000 he will receive for his tie for 33rd, about $2,600 a hole. 

1:01 p.m.: Dove Mountain's 15th is always a compelling hole during the WGC-Match Play Championship. The 'driveable' par 4 has decided many matches over the years, but on Wednesday for Round 1 officials may have missed the point.

The tee markers are forward of the back edge of the tee by 17 yards, leaving 325 yards to the pin.

In the first group of the day Y.E. Yang and Graeme McDowell both came up short of the green and in the second group Zach Johnson laid up with a fairway wood and Hunter Mahan hit driver about 20 yards short of the green to make a birdie and take a 1-up lead.

 12:50 p.m.: Zach Johnson rolls in 9-footer for birdie at the 14th hole to square his match with Hunter Mahan. Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III: this would be a good foursome option in September. 

12:21 p.m.: The day’s first match is through 13 holes with Graeme McDowell 1 down to Y.E. Yang. Not a good sign that G-Mac lost to Yang, 3 and 2, last year in Round 3. In an unrelated item, the duo has gone a baker’s dozen under three hours.

11:51 a.m.: The early word was Thomas Bjorn was being slowed by an ailing  back at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. He’s 2 up on Francesco Molinari through seven holes.

11:12 a.m.: The buzz early Wednesday at Dove Mountain was that Thomas Bjorn’s ailing back could keep him from playing the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship but the Dane rallied in the morning cold and was 1 up through four holes against Francesco Molinari.

Rules would allow for Bjorn to be replaced in the 64-player field if an alternate could be located in time. Ryan Moore, 67th in the world golf ranking when the field was set two weeks ago, would be the first alternate but officials said he is at home in Las Vegas and wouldn’t be able to make it to Tucson in time in the event of a last-minute withdrawal.

A first-round loss at the Match Play is considered a tie for 33rd, worth 24 FedEx Cup points, about $45,000 in prize money and last year received a little over two world ranking points.

By comparison, players who finished tied for 29th last year at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which is played opposite the Match Play, didn’t receive any world ranking points, earned $23,500 and 19 FedEx Cup points.

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.