McDowell comeback, upsets highlight Round 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 20, 2014, 12:26 am

MARANA, Ariz. – Graeme McDowell pulled off the biggest surprise Wednesday in an opening round of comebacks in the Match Play Championship.

McDowell was 4 down through seven holes and still three holes behind with three to play when he staged an improbable rally against Florida neighbor Gary Woodland. McDowell seized on Woodland's mistakes to win the next three holes, and then put him away with a 6-foot birdie putt on the 19th hole.

''I'm sure he's extremely disappointed right now – and I'm extremely elated,'' McDowell said. ''I'm surprised to be sitting here, having won. Yeah, I hit a couple of quality shots down the last couple of holes, but he had mistakes, as well. It's a brutal format.''

It's certainly brutal for 32 players that were headed home, a list that included Zach Johnson (3), Dustin Johnson (6) and Steve Stricker (9) among the top 10 seeds.

Eleven of the 32 matches went at least 18 holes, with five of them decided in overtime.

PGA champion Jason Dufner also rallied with some help. He was three down with five holes to play when Scott Stallings chopped up two holes, Dufner made a key birdie, and Dufner won on the first extra hole with a par.


WGC-Accenture Match Play scoring

WGC-Accenture Match Play bracket

WGC-Accenture Match Play: Articles, videos and photos


Eight players trailed with six holes remaining and went on to win. That included Henrik Stenson, who avoided becoming the third straight No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round of golf's most unpredictable tournament.

Stenson, awarded the top seed because Tiger Woods and Masters champion Adam Scott chose not to play, trailed Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand with five holes to play. The big man struggled with his putter, however, missing a 4-footer for par on the 14th to lose the hole, and an 8-footer for birdie on the 15th that would have given him the lead. Stenson made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and won the match when Aphibarnrat failed to match his birdie on the 17th by missing from 5 feet.

''I'm still in shock,'' Stenson said. ''It was a tough match.''

Second-overall seed Justin Rose held off Scott Piercy, and fourth-seeded Rory McIlroy had little trouble against Boo Weekley to advance to the round of 32 on Thursday.

Richard Sterne of South Africa had no trouble against Zach Johnson in a 5-and-4 victory. It was the fourth straight year the American lost in the first round. Dustin Johnson fell behind early to Peter Hanson and never caught up – losing, 4 and 3. Dustin Johnson now has lost in the opening round five times in six appearances.

Stricker, who only decided to come to Match Play after his brother had liver transplant surgery over the weekend, lost to George Coetzee of South Africa.

The day was filled with blowouts and overtime.

Sergio Garcia missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to beat Marc Leishman. They wound up playing the longest match of the opening round, which Garcia won in 22 holes with a 6-foot birdie on No. 4.

Brandt Snedeker never led in his match against David Lynn of England. He halved the match with a par on the 17th hole, and then won in 20 holes when Lynn failed to birdie the easy par-5 second hole.

Harris English beat Lee Westwood in 15 holes, while Matteo Manassero sent Luke Donald home after only 14 holes.

In other matches:

- Rickie Fowler, coming off three straight missed cuts, caught Ian Poulter on a bad day and sent the Ryder Cup star packing with a 2-and-1 victory. ''It feels like a big win after those missed cuts,'' Fowler said. ''It was nice to be the underdog. I had nothing to lose.''

- Jordan Spieth made back-to-back birdies and then put away Pablo Larrazabal on the 18th hole when both drove into the same bunker. Larrazabal's shot went 5 yards further and was blocked by the lip. ''That could easily have been me,'' Spieth said.

- Bubba Watson was giving holes away early before winning three straight holes on the back nine in a 2-and-1 win over Mikko Ilonen of Finland.

Still, no match epitomized the wild nature of this format than McDowell's win over Woodland.

They live down the street from each other at Lake Nona. They practiced together last week. They flew out to Arizona together. And they had to play each other in the first round on a course where Woodland figured to have a big advantage with his length. McDowell played a practice round with Brooks Koepka, the first alternate, to get used to being outdriven by some 50 yards.

His worst fears were realized. Woodland already was 4 up through seven holes. McDowell pecked away at the lead, but still thought he had blown it when Woodland made his 8-foot birdie on the 15th hole, and McDowell missed from 6 feet.

''I thought it was over,'' McDowell said. ''You're not coming back from 3 down against a guy that's playing as well as him. Yeah, I'm still going to try to hit my shots. But it required a mistake from him to give me half a sniff, even.''

Woodland obliged. His shot on the par-3 16th sailed over the green, and it took two chips to get on the putting surface. Woodland had wedge into the 17th and pulled it well to the left. McDowell made a 12-foot birdie, and then squared the match when Woodland went from the left bunker to the right bunker on the 18th and conceded the hole.

One birdie later, it was over.

''It feels like a Sunday afternoon on Wednesday,'' McDowell said.

Getty Images

Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

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

Getty Images

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.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


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.

Getty Images

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.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“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.”