Running blog: WGC-Accenture Match Play Day 1

By Rex HoggardFebruary 22, 2012, 11:25 pm

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.

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Chappell returns to Valero as defending champ

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 9:48 pm

It's impossible for any of the players at this week's Valero Texas Open to forget who captured the trophy last year.

That's because most players stay at the JW Marriott hotel that's a short walk from the first tee at TPC San Antonio, and the defending champion's face is emblazoned on the hotel's room keys. This week, that honor belongs to Kevin Chappell.

"You get some sly comments from players about their room key," Chappell told reporters Wednesday. "'Oh, I'm tired of looking at you.' And I'm saying, 'Believe me, I'm tired of being in everyone's room.'"

The position of defending champ is one Chappell relishes this week as he returns to the site of his maiden PGA Tour victory. A one-shot win over Brooks Koepka led to a euphoric celebration on the 72nd green, and it helped propel Chappell to his first career spot on the Presidents Cup team in October.

Chappell has missed the cut each of the last two weeks, including the Masters, but he also recorded top-10 finishes at the CareerBuilder Challenge, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Arnold Palmer Invitational. It's reason enough for Chappell to feel optimistic heading back to a course where he was a runner-up in 2011 and finished T-4 in 2016.

"This year's been a little bit of a strange year for me. I usually don't find form until about here, usually a slow starter," Chappell said. "But having three top-10s before this event, I've kind of found some form. I'm looking to turn those top-10s into top-5s, and the top-5s into wins. That's the challenge moving forward this year."

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Scott returns to Valero with major streak in jeopardy

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 8:34 pm

Adam Scott is back in the Lone Star State as he looks to keep alive a majors streak that has stretched across nearly two decades.

The Aussie tends to play a relatively light schedule during the spring, often times skipping every event between the Masters and The Players. But this time around he opted to return to the Valero Texas Open for the first time since 2011 in an effort to capitalize on the form he found two weeks ago at Augusta National, where he tied for 32nd.

"Hopefully kind of pick up where I left off on the weekend, which was really solid, and get a bit of momentum going because that's what I haven't had this year," Scott told reporters. "Trying to put four good rounds together and get the most out of my game for a change."

Scott has won each of the four stroke-play events held annually in Texas, completing the so-called "Texas Slam" before the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play relocated to Austin. That includes his win at TPC San Antonio back in 2010, when he closed with rounds of 66-67 for a one-shot victory.

After a seven-year hiatus, Scott is back San Antonio after a solid but underwhelming spring stretch. He cracked the top 20 at both the Honda Classic and Valspar Championship, but his worldwide top-10 drought stretches back nearly a year to the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June. As a result, the former world No. 1 has dropped to No. 59 in the latest rankings.

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"I'm trying to be really in tune with where my game's at and identify why I'm just not having better results," Scott said. "To kind of change that, I've got to change something, otherwise I'm just going to do the same thing."

That ranking will become even more important in the coming weeks as Scott looks to keep his streak of consecutive majors intact. He has played in 67 straight dating back to The Open in 2001, second only to Sergio Garcia's 75 among active players. But Scott's five-year exemption for winning the 2013 Masters has run its course, meaning he is not yet exempt for the upcoming U.S. Open.

Barring a win next month at TPC Sawgrass, Scott's only way to avoid a trip to sectional qualifying will be to maintain a position inside the top 60 in the world rankings on either May 21 or June 11.

The key for Scott remains easy to identify but hard to fix. While he ranks fifth on Tour this season in strokes gained: tee-to-green, he's 194th in strokes gained: putting. Scott won in consecutive weeks in 2016 with a short putter, but otherwise has largely struggled on the greens since the anchoring ban took effect more than two years ago.

"Hopefully a quick turnaround here and things start going in the right direction, because I think I can have a really great back end of the season," Scott said. "My ball-striking is where I want it; I like where my short game's at. I just need to get a bit of momentum going on the greens. It's easy to do that on the putting green at home, but that doesn't always translate out here. I think I've just got to make it happen out here."

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After personal struggles, Compton still standing

By Rex HoggardApril 18, 2018, 4:08 pm

The first line of Erik Compton’s PGA Tour biography provides all the context you need to understand the 38-year-old’s plight: “Because of viral cardiomyopathy, had first heart transplant on Feb. 26, 1992 and took up the game of golf as part of his rehabilitation.”

The second heart transplant came in 2008. Those brushes with mortality can produce some next-level introspection, but as Compton closed his eyes and contemplated his most recent situation, his mind drifted to places that most professional athletes spend a lifetime trying to avoid.

Following his opening round late last month at the Tour’s Savannah Golf Championship, Compton considered retirement. He openly unpacked the emotions of going through a divorce. He conceded that the trappings of life on the PGA Tour can be consuming and, at least for him, uncomfortable.

Throughout his eventful career Compton has donned many hats. He’s been a hero to many who see his perseverance through so many medical setbacks as an example of what can be accomplished when you stop listening to people who are quick to tell you something can’t be done.

He’s been a contender, finishing second at the 2014 U.S. Open and spending five full seasons competing against the game’s best at the highest level.

But on this spring day in Savannah, he embraces the role of sage.

“The competition,” Compton answers, when asked what he misses the most about the PGA Tour. “The lifestyle is grueling, but it was eating at me before. When I was married, there was a lot of pressure. It’s easy to get caught up and spend a lot of money. You live a different lifestyle when you have some success. I made a lot of money for a couple of years, and I didn’t really feel comfortable with it, to be honest. You know one day it’s not going to be here. Guys don’t understand how quickly it can be taken away.”

Compton understands, maybe better than anyone in the game.

He understands that one moment you’re standing on the 18th green at Pinehurst, being cheered by thousands of fans for what was by any measure a magical performance at the ’14 U.S. Open; and the next moment, you’re back in a hospital bed, attached to another IV contemplating an unknown future.

Compton lost his Tour card in 2016 and spent last season on the Tour trying to play his way back to the big leagues with even worse results.

His divorce, which was emotionally complicated by his daughter, Petra, made competing difficult.

“It’s a tough thing to go through, with kids there’s a lot emotions that go into that. It’s hard to play golf and make a living. You get off the golf course and you’re dealing with attorneys and trying to figure out how to do that while you’re playing golf. It’s not easy,” he said. “A lot of guys have had to go through that. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It’s a tough thing to go through. We had some differences, and that’s what needed to happen.”

Beyond his divorce, there were more health issues. The two-time heart transplant recipient was sidelined last year by arthritis in his feet, the byproduct of gout. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. It never is with Compton.

Compton’s foot issues were initially misdiagnosed, and he was advised to ice his right foot after every round, but that only crystalized the gout and forced him to undergo a procedure on his right toe to alleviate the pain.

His condition was further complicated when he contracted cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin that was caused by athlete’s foot. That led to two days in a South Florida hospital last month that forced him to miss the Mexico Open, which he won in 2011, helping him earn his Tour card.

Compton has spent more time in hospitals than some people spend commuting to work, which would prompt the inevitably question – why me?

“No,” he laughs. “I’m excited now. This is the best I’ve felt in a year and a half. I have a doctor who can look out for me when I have these issues. I thought with the arthritis I’d have to take a medical [exemption]. These are the things that go through my head at night.”

If Compton’s glass seems a bit half full considering his plight, both professionally and personally, he’s arrived at his optimistic crossroads honestly. Whereas most athletes depend on compartmentalization and a reluctance for linear thinking, Compton has chosen retrospection.

“We all have a tendency to live in our minds beyond where we are, and that’s Tour life,” he said. “You think you’re a better player than you might be. You think you have more money than you might have.”

But for Compton those memories that others work to bury deep have provided a focal point in his journey back to the Tour. Every day, for example, he revisits that final round at Pinehurst, when he proved to himself and the world that he had the game to compete in a major championship.

He remembers the thrill of competing at the highest level and how energizing golf can be when your mind and body cooperate.

“I’ve moved on, and I’m trying to get my life in order and simplify and rebuild the work that I put in for so many years. The players are so good, but I still think that if I can get off of the [ Tour] and onto the PGA Tour, I still have the game to play,” he said. “You don’t realize how great you have it until it’s gone.”

There doesn’t seem to be much that Compton doesn’t perceive these days, and it appears that the last line of that biography hasn’t been written yet.

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Power Rankings: 2018 Valero Texas Open

By Will GrayApril 18, 2018, 2:43 pm

The PGA Tour heads back to Texas this week for the Valero Texas Open. A field of 156 players will tackle the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, where the winner receives a pair of cowboy boots in addition to the trophy.

Be sure to join the all-new Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge - including a new One & Done game offering - to compete for prizes and form your own leagues, and log on to to submit your picks for this week's event.

Kevin Chappell won this event last year by one shot over Brooks Koepka. Here are 10 names to watch in San Antonio:

1. Charley Hoffman: This event may soon be christened the Hoffman Invitational given the veteran's dominance in hill country. Hoffman has finished T-13 or better 10 times since 2006, including a runner-up in 2011 and a victory two years ago. He has four top-25s in his last six starts entering the week, including a T-12 finish at the Masters.

2. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar remains his reliable self, with a T-23 finish at Harbour Town his fourth top-30 finish in as many weeks. In a field devoid of starpower and on a course where a controlled ball flight will be key, Kuchar's name rises to the top and that position is reinforced by his four straight top-25s here from 2012-15.

3. Luke List: List nearly broke through at the Honda Classic earlier this spring, but he hasn't let up since that playoff loss to Justin Thomas. List tied for third last week in South Carolina, and he has finished T-26 or better in each of his eight stroke-play starts dating back to the Farmers Insurance Open.

4. Sergio Garcia: Garcia had a hand in re-designing this week's venue along with Greg Norman, but he hasn't played here since 2010. Still, he's the only player ranked inside the top 20 and outside of a disaster on the 15th hole at Augusta National has been playing some solid golf this year, with three top-10s preceding his Masters missed cut.

5. Brendan Steele: Steele earned his first career victory at this event during his rookie season back in 2011, and he tends to play some of his best golf in San Antonio with three top-15 finishes since. Steele has played sparingly since a T-3 finish in Phoenix, but he notched a pair of top-20s in two WGC events before missing the cut in Augusta.

6. Billy Horschel: Horschel has been feast-or-famine in this event, with three top-4 finishes sandwiched around a pair of missed cuts over the last five years. The former FedExCup champ has been quiet this season, but he broke through last week with a T-5 finish at Harbour Town which showed that some more good play could be in store for a player known to ride a hot streak or two.

7. Ryan Moore: Moore has quietly bounced back from a disappointing 2017 season, with three straight top-30 finishes highlighted by a T-5 finish last month at Bay Hill. Moore has played sparingly in San Antonio, but over his last two trips (a T-8 finish in 2012 and a T-18 finish last year) he has only one round over par on a difficult track.

8. Adam Scott: Scott has won every stroke-play event contested in Texas, including a win at TPC San Antonio in 2010. While he has played only once since, he returns this week as he looks to get his game back to its former heights. The results haven't all been bad, though, as Scott notched a pair of top-20s in Florida and now heads to a course that should accentuate his tee-to-green advantages.

9. Kevin Chappell: The defending champ hasn't been heard from much in recent weeks, but he's still a name worth mentioning at this event. Chappell earned his maiden win in dramatic fashion last year, and he was also a runner-up in 2011 and finished T-4 in 2016. He has missed the cut each of the last two weeks but did crack the top 10 in Palm Springs, Pebble Beach and Orlando.

10. Jimmy Walker: A resident of nearby Boerne, Walker will have plenty of fan support this week at an event where he outlasted Jordan Spieth for the title back in 2015. That remains the highlight of a four-year run that included three top-20 finishes, as Walker tied for 13th last year and returns on the heels of a T-20 finish at the Masters.