The morning started as most others, breakfast and chit chat, but we all realize how real this Big Break, as once again we were one less player at the table.
We had an interesting breakfast letter, one that was going to ruffle feathers to say the least, at least mine. The early morning first elimination was going to be a 'call out' session. We all had cards under our seats. The lower card was going to pick whom he wanted a 'show down' with, until all players were picked.
Something told me that when Mark didn't pick me – as we all assumed he would pick Anthony – the number two pick held by Chan, was going to be used to pick me. And low and behold it was me and I can say that I was not the least bit happy. Being called out is not a pleasant thing, worse when it comes from Chan. There are reasons behind my thoughts, but I was pissed and ready to send him a lullaby.
Simple rules. First player hits a shot in the fairway, next player hits and must hit his shot further and also in the fairway. Great elimination that made every player think his way through shots. It seemed that my fellow competitors started out somewhat cautiously, starting short and progressing to longer and longer shots. As I sat there, Ray and I agreed that it was time to up the elimination and just go for the jugular when it was our turns. As my match started and I was walking back to the tee, I was ready to send Chan a very direct message. That message being, “You picked me and I'm now going to show you that you made a mistake. A mistake that could send you home to eat all the grass that you want.”
As I stepped to the tee, I was going to my 'money' club, my 18 degree Adams utility wood. I know this surprised a few of the guys, but my mind was locked and loaded to hit this shot. I was so calm and ready and when that ball left the club, although not struck as solid as I would have liked, I knew the seed was planted. I hit a mediocre shot of 237 yards. I wasn't worried about what Chan was going to hit but knew he better hit a 3 wood to have any chance. When he picked a hybrid, I pretty much knew he had to hit his best or no chance. He hit it good, but it wasn't good enough and I did my job. I was safe and Chan was not. Lullaby sent.
Fortunately for me, I did not get to see the 2nd elimination because of a great excursion that Golf Channel provided for the winners of the first elimination. After watching the 2nd elimination on TV, I wish I would have seen it, because it was a very unique challenge and it would have been fun to watch the guys perform. I must say, Mike hit two GREAT shots and he deserved to advance.
Four players were up for elimination, Chan (the lowest), James, Stu and Anthony. Chan being the loser from the second elimination had the choice of choosing two players to join him in the elimination. I knew he wasn't going to pick James, so he chose Anthony and Stu. The challenge was four locations, total score and if there was a lone leader after 3 locations, he would automatically advance to the next show. Through three locations, Chan was the leader and therefore advanced to a episode four. But there was still much to be decided. Anthony and Stu had to play the remaining hole with Anthony holding a one stroke advantage. All Anthony had to do was halve the hole and he advanced. There was only one problem with that thought, Stu wasn't ready to go home yet. Anthony made par and Stu had about a 10 footer to send the match to extra holes and boom, that is exactly what he did. On the first extra hole, they both hit fair tee shots. Stu hit first and hit a good shot, just below the pin, about 10 feet again. Anthony, however hit a poor lob wedge to about 60 feet and the two putt was no gimme. Just when you think the match is swinging in a different direction, Anthony drains the bomb of his life. Stu had his destiny in his hands, but unfortunately, his putt slid by the high side and Stu's run on Big Break came to an end.
In closing, I must say that it was a pleasure and joy to get to meet and learn more about Stu. This young man has had a tough battle in his life, a battle that he will have for the remainder of his life and having dealt with a family member who had similar issues, I know golf is easy when it comes to this battle. I have faith in Stu and I'm happy to always be a lending ear to him. As for Anthony, he played great and needs to have more inner confidence. He deserves to believe in himself more than he does.
Not DJ, not Poulter: Kisner most proud to take down Kuchar
AUSTIN, Texas – On his way to this week’s Final Four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Kevin Kisner has beaten world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and the European match play ninja Ian Poulter. But neither match could compare to his duel with Matt Kuchar early Saturday.
“I was more jacked to beat [Kuchar], really. Kuch is such a good player and our games are so similar,” said Kisner, who defeated Kuchar in the round of 16, 1 up. “We both made eight birdies this morning and I barely snuck out of there. I thought it was a lot of fun.”
By comparison, his quarterfinal bout against Poulter wasn’t nearly as electric. Kisner won two of the first four holes when the Englishman made bogey (No. 3) and when he was conceded the fourth hole, hecruised to an 8-and-6 victory for the week’s most lopsided win.
“I don't know Ian that well, so I don't really have a history with him, other than watching him kill us in the Ryder Cup,” Kisner laughed.
Things won’t get any easier for Kisner on Sunday when he’ll play Alex Noren in the semifinals. The Swede has been dominant this week and is considered one of Europe’s top players heading into this year’s Ryder Cup.
Hahn: 'My fault for not expecting the worst from fans'
Fan behavior has made headlines all year long on the PGA Tour, and the topic of conversation doesn't look like it’s going away anytime soon.
The latest example came on Friday at the WGC-Dell Technologies March Play, when James Hahn took to Twitter to complain that a fan deliberately yelled in his backswing on the 15th hole during his match with Jason Dufner, which he lost 3 and 2.
“Whether we like it or not, this is where the game is going,” he tweeted. “My fault for not expecting the worst from fans. Just sucks to lose a match that way.”
Fought hard today after a bad start. 2 down, 4 to go, guy yells purposely on my back swing. Whether we like it or not, this is where the game is going. My fault for not expecting the worst from fans. Just sucks to lose a match that way.— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) March 24, 2018
The two-time PGA Tour winner followed up his original tweet, clarifying that he can expect bad behavior from all golf fans while still loving and respecting them.
Edit to previous tweet. I respect and love all golf fans but I can expect bad behavior from them. And I'm not blaming the fan for losing the match. Just disappointed I lost the deciding hole in that fashion.— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) March 24, 2018
He also pointed out a major difference in comparing golf to other sports, saying some PGA Tour players go to far greater lengths than the typical NFL star to engage with fans on a daily basis.
I'm all good with fans having fun but here's the difference. You want to treat golf like every other major sport. When's the last time Tom Brady signed autographs and took pictures with your kids after every game. Rickie and Phil do this 2 hours a day. Have cake and eat it too. https://t.co/5G3YTNKGyk— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) March 24, 2018
Thanks for the support! Take the good with the bad, golf fans are still the best. https://t.co/v8Fg2AK4r3— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) March 24, 2018
The incident comes on the heels of several recent player run-ins with fans, including Justin Thomas at the Honda Classic, Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Sergio Garcia earlier this week at Austin Country Club.
On Wednesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said that inappropriate fan behavior related to alcohol sales is something his staff is monitoring.
Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Elite Eight
Here is how things played out in the Round of 16 on Saturday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. The week began with 64 players taking on Austin Country Club,but the field is dwindling. Click here for Day 3 match results:
Match 97: Bubba Watson (35) def. Brian Harman (18), 2 and 1. Watson was 1 down going to the eighth hole, but he won four of the next five holes to turn around this battle of lefties. A 12-foot putt for eagle at the 12th dropped, giving him a 3 up lead coming home. It was Watson’s second eagle of the day. He looks as if he’s still riding the confidence from that Genesis Open victory last month. Watson will advance to play Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals.
Match 98: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Charles Howell III (59), 1 up. Aphibarnrat won in a late comeback, winning the final two holes. He holed a 9-foot putt for birdie at the 17th to square the match and won with an 8-foot birdie at the last. He had not led all day, not until that last birdie putt dropped. The 28-year-old Thai improved to 4-0 on this world stage after sweeping his group in the round-robin play. A four-time European Tour winner, Aphibarnrat is looking for his first PGA Tour victory. He will meet Bubba Watson in the quarterfinals.
Match 99: Kyle Stanley (45) def. Sergio Garcia (7), 3 and 1. Stanley birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes to go 3 up, and then he held off Garcia’s run at him, eliminating the world No. 10 with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes. With the victory, Stanley has a chance at a nice Texas two-step, a chance to eliminate the two highest ranked players left in the field, the only players left among the top 10 in the world ranking. But, there’s hard work to do in the quarterfinals, where Stanley will meet world No. 2 Justin Thomas.
Match 100: Justin Thomas (2) def. Si Woo Kim (50), 6 and 5. Thomas remains on fire in this format, steamrolling Kim a day after completing a round-robin sweep of his group by blowing away Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5. The Kim match felt like it was over shortly after it started, with Thomas making the turn 5 up. Thomas will advance to play Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals.
Match 101: Cameron Smith (46) def. Tyrell Hatton (12), 2 and 1. Smith found himself behind early, falling 2 down after Hatton opened with back-to-back birdies, but Smith quickly rallied to win one of the best matches of the day. He birdied four of the next five holes to go 1 up. Hatton lost despite making seven birdies on the round. He lost despite making birdies at the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to the red-hot Smith, who made eight birdies. Smith will meet Alex Noren in the quarterfinals.
Match 102: Alex Noren (13) def. Patrick Reed (19), 5 and 3. In this Fire vs. Ice match, Ice won, with Noren making easy work of Reed. Really, though, Reed never got a flame going, and Noren wasn’t going to help him the way Jordan Spieth did a day before. Reed was 2-over on his card before finally making his first and only birdie of the day at the 13th. Somewhere, European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn must have been smiling, watching Noren easily take down the formidable American match-play dynamo. Noren will meet Cameron Smith in the quarterfinals.
Match 103: Ian Poulter (58) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 2 and 1. Poulter’s match-play mojo is going strong again, with the Englishman summoning the intensity that has made him so formidable in the Ryder Cup over the years. He was on fire Saturday, making eight birdies over the first 15 holes, if you count the concession he received hitting a wedge to 18 inches at the 13th hole. Poulter put a special putter in the bag this week, using the same flat stick that helped him lead the Euros to their historic comeback victory against the Americans at Medinah in 2012. Though Oosthuizen made four birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, he still couldn’t make it close. Poulter will meet Kevin Kisner in the quarterfinals.
Match 104: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 1 up. Kuchar applied all kinds of pressure on Kisner on the back nine, but he couldn’t get Kisner to fold in the best match of the day. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last. After missing a 15-footer for birdie at the 18th, Kuchar watched Kisner sink a 12-footer for his birdie to win. Kisner will meet Ian Poulter in the quarterfinals.
Match 105: Bubba Watson (35) def. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28), 5 and 3. This was a tight match until Aphibarnrat’s short game failed him on the back nine, with a chunked chip at the 10th, a clumsy pitch at the 12th and a heavy heavy pitch at the 13th helping Watson win four consecutive holes. Watson played his way into the semifinals of this event for the second time in his career. He ended up fourth in 2011. Watson will meet the Justin Thomas in the semifinals.
Match 106: Justin Thomas (2) def. Kyle Stanley (45), 2 and 1. Thomas moved into position to win more than the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship. He moved into position to take the world No. 1 ranking from Dustin Johnson. All that stands between Thomas and the top ranking now is Bubba Watson. If Thomas beats Watson in the semifinals, he is assured of going to No. 1. Thomas started slowly against Stanley, missing a 3-footer for par to lose the second hole. It marked the first time Thomas trailed in a match all week. All square making the turn, Thomas won the 10th, 11th and 12th holes and then held off Stanley the rest of the way. Thomas will meet Bubba Watson in the semifinals.
Match 107: Alex Noren (13) def. Cameron Smith (46), 4 and 2. With birdies at three of the first six holes, Noren took an early 3-up lead. Noren, however, made it more interesting than he would have liked the rest of the way. Noren lost the seventh hole with a three-putt bogey and lost the eighth failing to get up and down for par. Smith, though, never pressed Noren after getting that opening. He failed to make a birdie the entire round. Noren, who has won six European Tour events since the summer of 2015, has been knocking on the door to his first PGA Tour title this year. He lost the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff in January and finished third at the Honda Classic last month. Noren will meet Kisner in the semifinals.
Match 108: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Ian Poulter (58), 8 and 6. Poulter gift wrapped Kisner an early 2-up lead, and Kisner pounced after that. Poulter, who was on such a torrid run until meeting Kisner, three-putted to lose the third hole with a bogey and then pulled his tee shot deep in a hazard to lose the fourth hole. Kisner birdied the fifth and sixth holes to race to a 4-up lead. Poulter had no answers. After making eight birdies in the morning Round of 16 , Poulter didn’t make a birdie against Kisner, who will face Noren in the semifinals.
Garcia bounced in Austin: 'On to Augusta'
AUSTIN, Texas – For the 16th time in his career, Sergio Garcia’s week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play ended earlier then he would have hoped, but this time he has plenty of distractions to ease the sting.
Garcia lost his Saturday morning match to Kyle Stanley, 3 and 1, marking the 15th time in his Match Play career he’s failed to advance to Sunday, but at least he has plenty to keep him busy with a newborn at home and his return to the Masters looming in two weeks.
“On to Augusta,” said Garcia, who is not playing next week’s Houston Open. “It's exciting. Obviously when we get there, it's going to be interesting to see how we feel and everything. But it is definitely exciting.”
Garcia defeated Justin Rose in a playoff to win last year’s Masters, his first major triumph, so his return to Augusta National will be unlike anything he’s ever experienced.
His duties as defending champion will include hosting Tuesday’s Champions Dinner. No word on Garcia’s menu for the event, but various sources have confirmed it will be something “Spanish.”