Good fortune can trump good form at Match Play

By Doug FergusonFebruary 19, 2013, 12:13 am

MARANA, Ariz. – Bring together the top 64 players in the world and no one knows what to expect.

Especially at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Hunter Mahan, the defending champion, was asked Monday to list the top three players who have the best reputation in this format. He made logical choices in Luke DonaldTiger Woods and Ian Poulter.

Donald, who won this event in 2011, has a magnificent short game and can produce the kind of shots that change momentum in a match. Poulter, the star of just about every Ryder Cup he plays, has such a strong self-belief that he can will his way to wins, as he did at Dove Mountain in 2010. And Tiger, well, is Tiger.

''Just a great player and he doesn't like to lose,'' Mahan said.


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Before anyone pencils in a bracket that puts those three players in the semifinals, consider recent history.

Donald was No. 1 in the world and lost in the first round a year ago. Poulter hasn't made it beyond the opening round since he won the Match Play Championship.

Woods, the only back-to-back winner of this World Golf Championship, hasn't made it out of the second round since his last win in 2008.

The brackets are set up like they are in other sporting events, whether it's a Grand Slam event in tennis or the NCAA basketball tournament. The difference in golf is that over 18 holes, there's not much to separate No. 1 from No. 64.

It all starts to unfold Wednesday on The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, a Jack Nicklaus design that features massive slopes on the greens and might not be much fun to play if not for the format of match play.

Rory McIlroy is the No. 1 seed and takes on Shane Lowry in the first of two matches between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Graeme McDowell faces Padraig Harrington in the opening round. Woods opens against Charles Howell III, while Poulter faces Stephen Gallacher of Scotland.

Most of the players arrived Monday for practice or to see the golf course.

All of them would like to stick around as long as possible.

''If you get to the weekend, it's one of the most fun weeks of the year,'' Geoff Ogilvy said last week. ''If you lose the first round, it feels like the worst week of the year.''

Ogilvy failed to qualify for the first time since he won in 2006 when it was held at La Costa, though he isn't the only one missing. Retief Goosen ended his streak of playing in the Match Play for 13 consecutive years by not being high enough in the world ranking.

The top 66 qualified because Phil Mickelson (family) and Brandt Snedeker (sore ribs) are not playing.

David Toms knows both sides of this feeling. It was fun when he reached the championship match against Woods in 2003, and it was a blast two years later when he smoked Chris DiMarco in the finals to win. And then there was the time he lost to Sergio Garcia in the opening round three years ago.

''I lose my first match and then I got picked for drug testing,'' Toms said. ''I said, 'Don't you think you should test the guy who just won?' But it's a great week if you have a chance at the end.''

The tough part, of course, is getting started.

It's not a good feeling to lose early, particularly for some of the international players who have crossed oceans to get here. Such was the plight of Thomas Bjorn one year. He played 14 holes and was on his way back to Europe.

Mahan was asked the feeling of losing the opening match, climbing into the van for a slow, long ride back to the clubhouse.

''You just don't want to be there anymore, unless you win,'' he said. ''Then, you don't have a problem signing anything that anyone wants you to sign. But it's a weird feeling. The van can't move fast enough. People can't get out of the way fast enough. Everything bothers you. And if someone asks you, 'How was your day?' you want to punch them.''

There have been some quick tempers over the years.

Woods, the one year he lost in the opening round as the No. 1 seed, walked down the 18th fairway alone at La Costa with a few thousand people in tow, not saying a word. Ernie Els is known as ''Heisman'' after losing in the opening round.

That's the gesture he once made when he saw a reporter approaching.

A European Tour official approached Pat Perez for a comment after he lost one year. Perez offered three words. Two of them couldn't be printed.

Mahan said of Perez: ''He probably does all the things I think about.''

Good form doesn't always count for much, either.

The past two winners on the PGA Tour in the week before Match Play both lost in the opening round – Bill Haas to Ryo Ishikawa, Dustin Johnson to Camilo Villegas.

As for match play reputations, Justin Rose might be worth part of the conversation. He won an exhibition in Turkey last year that was medal match play – head-to-head with the lowest 18-hole score winning – and then did pretty well in that other exhibition, the Ryder Cup.

It was his 35-foot putt against Mickelson on the 17th hole at Medinah that was the most critical toward Europe's stunning rally on the final day.

''I definitely would like to ride that wave of momentum and confidence,'' Rose said. ''There (were) a couple of matches in Turkey that I pulled off a shot when I had to. Obviously, the Ryder Cup I pulled off a shot when I had to. It's always a bit of fortune to hit the right shot at the right time.''

That's what the Match Play Championship ultimately is all about – good fortune, and good golf helps create that fortune.

Mahan, who defeated McIlroy in the championship match last year, was asked what he learned about being successful in match play.

''You have to play good,'' he said. ''That's the only thing that matters.''

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Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.



Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

"If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

"Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

"In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

"I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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Wallace holds off Olesen to win BMW International

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''


Full-field scores from the BMW International Open


Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.

Sunghyun Park (left) and Minchel Choi (right). Getty Images

Choi, Park qualify for Carnoustie from Korean Open

By Nick MentaJune 24, 2018, 2:54 pm

Two players - Minchel Choi and Sanghyun Park - qualified for next month's Open Championship at Carnoustie via the Open Qualifying Series on Sunday.

Choi (69) held off Park (66) to win the Korean Open by two shots.

This was the Qualifying Series debut for the Korean Open, whiched awarded Open Championship exemptions to the tournament's top two finishers inside the top eight and ties who were not already qualified.

Choi, the 532nd-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, punched his ticket in his first professional win.

Park, the 146th in the world, is a six-time Korean Tour champion who has already won twice this season. 

Both players will be making their first ever major starts.

“I am absolutely honored to be playing in The Open and I wanted to win this championship to give me [that] opportunity," Choi said. "I cannot believe that I have won today. I am so happy and excited."

“It is a great honor to have qualified for The Open and make my first appearance in the championship," Park added. "I’ve watched The Open on television every single year and I can’t really believe that I have qualified, it is amazing."

The Open Qualifying Series continues next week at the Open de France, where as many as three exemptions will be awarded to the three leading players inside the top 10 and ties who are not already qualified.

The 147th Open will be held at Carnoustie from July 19-22.

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.