Els in Match Play semis for first time in 13 years

By Doug FergusonFebruary 22, 2014, 11:45 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – The love-hate relationship Ernie Els has with the Match Play Championship is taking a major turn for the better.

Els made a birdie from the desert on the par-5 eighth hole to take the lead for good Saturday against 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, reaching the semifinals in this fickle tournament for the first time in 13 years.

It was the first time all week that Els made more birdies than bogeys, yet he somehow has survived.

''At times I haven't played my best, as you guys have well-documented and know,'' Els said with a laugh. ''But it's match play. I've just done enough to get through.''

Graeme McDowell was the only other player with greater fortune on his side, but that ended Saturday.

McDowell had reached the quarterfinals even though he never led a single hole while any of his three matches were in progress. Just his luck, he finally took a lead and wound up losing the match to Victor Dubuisson of France.


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Typical of his week, it went down to the wire.

They were all square with five holes remaining when Dubuisson hit a beautiful chip from the rough in front of a corporate suite behind the 16th green and saved par, while McDowell missed a 6-foot par putt to fall behind.

After matching pars on the 17th, Dubuisson's shot into the 18th rolled off the false front. He chipped perfectly and was conceded his par, and McDowell then missed a 25-foot putt to extend the match.

''Lucky, lucky to even be here today,'' McDowell said. ''But actually played quite nicely most of the day. It all boiled down to my putter actually let me down. I had a chance on 14 for the hole, chance on 15 for the hole, missed a short one on 16. My luck is going to run out sooner than later.''

Els plays Dubuisson, a rising star in the European ranks who won the Turkish Open when Tiger Woods finished third.

In other quarterfinal matches:

- Jason Day reached the semifinals for the second straight year with a 2-and-1 win over Louis Oosthuizen, who played with a nagging back injury.

- Rickie Fowler lost a 3-up lead to Arizona grad Jim Furyk, only to win the last two holes for a 1-up victory for a shot at Day. Furyk was in the same spot as Dubuisson on the 18th hole, but his first chip rolled back down the hill toward his feet.

Fowler is the No. 53 seed, the highest to reach the semifinals since Zach Johnson was No. 59 in 2006 when it was held at La Costa.

Els long held a reputation as a wizard in match play, having captured the World Match Play Championship seven times when it was at Wentworth and featured smaller fields and 36-hole matches. This version hasn't been kind to him.

He reached the semifinals in 2001 at Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, only to lose to Pierre Fulke. Els didn't imagine it would take this long to get back, though he understands that anything can happen – and usually does – over 18 holes of match play.

''I really had a love-hate relationship with this event, as you guys well know,'' he said. ''I was lucky enough to get in the field a couple of years ago and beat Luke Donald in the first round. But most of the time, I lost in the first round here either on the 18th or 19th hole. It's been a frustrating time in this event.''

The semifinals will be Sunday morning, following by the championship match.

''I'm just very glad to be here on Sunday,'' Els said. ''Hopefully, it goes good tomorrow. I still feel I've got a really good one in me.''

Fowler never looked like he would need to go 18th holes the way his match against Furyk started. And then he was happy to get there. Furyk was 3 down with only six holes remaining when he made three straight birdies and won a fourth straight hole at No. 16 with a par when Fowler flubbed a chip. Furyk missed the fairway on the 17th, however, allowing Fowler to square the match.

On the 18th, Furyk came up just a fraction short of perfect and saw the ball roll back down the false front of the green. His chip was heavy, and that one rolled back toward his feet and led to bogey. Fowler navigated a quick birdie putt down the slope to a concession range and escaped.

''Disappointed,'' said Furyk, in the quarterfinals for the first time in 14 appearances in this World Golf Championship. ''I fought all way back from 3 down. I had all the momentum and I didn't put the ball on the fairway on 17 and didn't put the ball in the fairway on 18. I don't feel I handed the match away, but I definitely made it too easy on him the last two holes.''

It was the third straight round in which Fowler was trailing with three holes to play, and he pulled out wins against Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia and Furyk. The only easy time Fowler had was against Ian Poulter.

''It's nice to get a win no matter how it happens,'' Fowler said.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”