Running blog: WGC-Accenture Match Play Day 5

By Rex HoggardFebruary 26, 2012, 10:48 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – The final day of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is under way at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain. senior writer Rex Hoggard is on site with a running blog of the semifinal- and final-round action. (Click for Scoring)

All times ET

5:48 p.m.: Hunter Mahan closed out Rory McIlroy on the 17th hole, winning 2 and 1.

5:32 p.m.: Hunter Mahan's championship-winning 16 footer for birdie at the 16th hole grazed the left edge of the cup but failed to drop. Mahan remains 2 up with two holes to play.

5:25 p.m.: Hunter Mahan and Rory McIlroy trade birdies at the 15th hole, and the American remains in control of the match. McIlroy is 5 under for his last five holes but still 2 down.

5:13 p.m.: Rory McIlroy has birdied his last two holes and cut Hunter Mahan's lead to 2 up heading into the drivable 15th hole.

5:02 p.m.: Hunter Mahan calmly rolled in a 5-foot birdie putt at the 13th hole to match Rory McIlroy and maintain a 3-up lead.

As they say in baseball, it's getting late early for McIlroy.

4:34 p.m.: Rory McIlroy gets one back on the par-5 11th, chipping in for eagle from in front of the green to cut Hunter Mahan's lead to 3 up.

4:24 p.m.: Things continue to go Hunter Mahan's way at Dove Mountain. The American almost holed his approach shot at the 10th hole and moved 4 up on Rory McIlroy, when the Ulsterman failed to convert his birdie from 15 feet.

4:12 p.m.: After a quiet start, Hunter Mahan has built a 3-up lead in the championship finale at Dove Mountain. Mahan matched McIlroy's par at the ninth to make the turn in control.

4:03 p.m.: The mistakes that Rory McIlroy largely avoided for four days have caught up with him at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. McIlroy lost the seventh hole after hitting his approach short and leaving his chip in a collection area. At the par-5 eighth, McIlroy hit his drive in a bunker, his third shot long and two-putted for bogey to fall 3 down.

3:46 p.m.: The start of Sunday's championship match was a little too eventful for Rory McIlroy's caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. As he walked down the first fairway, Fitzgerald was informed his shorts, which are white with blue stripes, did not conform to PGA Tour regulations, although they were the same shorts he wore during Sunday's semifinal match. 

A member of Camp Rory was dispatched to get a pair of conforming shorts, but officials relented and allowed him to keep caddying without a quick change.

3:31 p.m.: It took six holes, but we finally have some red on the championship match scoreboard. Hunter Mahan roped his tee shot to 1 1/2 feet, and Rory McIlroy conceded the birdie to fall 1 down.

3:23 p.m.: More of the same in Sunday's championship match, although both players looked steadier at the par-4 fifth hole. Rory McIlroy two-putted for a textbook par, and Hunter Mahan matched him to keep the match all square.

3:15 p.m.: After solid starts, both players look rattled at the fourth hole. Rory McIlroy's drive ends up under a bush in the desert. The Ulsterman scrambles for bogey, while Hunter Mahan also makes bogey but from the middle of the fairway with a wedge in his hand.

2:57 p.m.: The championship group is living up to its billing through three holes. Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan traded 5- and 4-foot birdie putts, respectively, at No. 3. The two have combined for four birdies today.

2:50 p.m.: Despite a tee shot that found the desert, Hunter Mahan matches Rory McIlroy at the second with a birdie to keep the match all square. Good news for McIlroy he did hole a 3 footer, about the same distance he missed from at No. 1.

2:32 p.m.: Chipping contest at the first hole with both players flying the green. Rory McIlroy misses a 4-footer for par, while Mahan hits a poor chip to 12 feet and makes bogey. All square.

2:20 p.m.: Not sure Hunter Mahan will have many nerves in his 18-hole finale against Rory McIlroy. He's playing for $1.3 million at Dove Mountain compared to the $11.2 million he played for at East Lake last fall (FedEx Cup and Tour Championship crown).

12:58 p.m.: It will be Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan in Sunday's 18-hole championship match.

McIlroy beat Lee Westwood, 2 and 1, to advance for a chance to play for the title and the top spot in the World Golf Ranking.

12:51 p.m.: Mark Wilson's 55 footer for birdie slipped past the cup at the 17th and Hunter Mahan two-putted from 39 feet for a 2-and-1 victory and a spot in Sunday afternoon's final.

The day's second semifinal between Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood is still on the course. The Ulsterman leads 2 up through 16 holes.

12:35 p.m.: Hunter Mahan bogeys the par-3 16th hole and Mark Wilson cuts his lead to 2 up to extend the match.

It's the first time since Friday a match has made it to the 17th hole.

12:27 p.m.: Dove Mountain’s 15th hole, 321 yards for today’s semifinals, played its part perfectly on Sunday.

Trailing by one hole, Mark Wilson gambled and hit driver into a bunker short of the green and made par while Hunter Mahan also hit driver just short of the green and made a relatively stress-free birdie to extend his lead to 2 up with three holes to play.

12:10 p.m.: Lee Westwood’s drive at the par-5 13th hole sails into the gallery left of the fairway and into the sweater of a spectator, which prompted a moment of levity when the Englishman’s caddie asked the woman, “Would you mind walking 250 yards forward?”

Unfortunately for Westwood he made par to lose the hole and drop to 3 down in his semifinal match against Rory McIlroy.

11:57 a.m.: Since playing his first five holes in 1 over, Rory McIlroy is 5 under over his last seven holes to move 2 up on Lee Westwood after 12 holes. In order he’s holed putts of 24 feet (No. 12), 2 feet (No. 11), 7 feet (No. 9), 14 feet (No. 8) and 28 feet (No. 6).

11:54 a.m.: Back-to-back birdies for Mark Wilson at Nos. 10 and 11 to keep pace with Hunter Mahan at Dove Mountain and remain 2 down, but par at the 12th is good for a win to cut the lead to 1 down. Go figure.

11:48 a.m.: Rory McIlroy ricochet his second shot at the par-5 11th hole through the desert and was fortunate to make birdie from right of the green to keep his 1-up lead on Lee Westwood.

On Saturday McIlroy said the key to his 3-and-2 victory over Sang-Moon Bae was his performance on the par 5s, which he played in 3 under for the match. The Ulsterman is 2 under on Dove Mountain’s par 5s on Sunday.

11:38 a.m.: Rory McIlroy has birdied three of his last five holes and moved 1 up on Lee Westwood after falling 3 down early in the match. The most McIlroy trailed all week before Sunday was one hole on Wednesday against George Coetzee, whom he beat, 2 up.

11:33 a.m.: A lot of talk about the World Golf Ranking implications if either Lee Westwood or Rory McIlroy win this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play. Either player would overtake Luke Donald for the top spot with a victory, but it’s also worth noting that Hunter Mahan, who is 2 up on Mark Wilson through 11 holes in the semifinals, could move into the top 10 with a victory and Wilson would move into the top 15 if he were to claim his first WGC.

11:06 a.m.: Following Saturday’s blowouts Sunday’s semifinals are shaping up to be shootouts by comparison.

Hunter Mahan made the turn 2 up against Mark Wilson while Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy are all square following a birdie at the eighth by the Ulsterman. Saturday’s quarterfinals marked the first time in 14 years not a single match made it to the 18th green.

10:35 a.m.: Unlike most average golfers Hunter Mahan is not haunted by the shank at the fifth, going 2 up on Mark Wilson with a routine par at the seventh hole. In the anchor semifinal match, McIlroy wins his second consecutive hole, and makes his first birdie of the day, at the sixth and moves to 1 down against Lee Westwood.

10:30 a.m.: Lee Westwood lips out a 10-footer for par at the fifth hole to move to 2 up on Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman had not trailed since the 11th hole on Wednesday but fell behind Westwood at the second and slipped further back with a bogey at the third hole.

10:10 a.m.: It’s not the first time a professional has hit a shank, but it may be the most high-profile occurrence considering Hunter Mahan’s reputation as one of the game’s preeminent ball-strikers.

From the middle of the fifth fairway with a 2-up lead over Mark Wilson, Mahan’s approach shot from 131 yards darted 60 degrees to the right and onto the sixth tee box. He failed to get up and down for par and lost the hole.

9:58 a.m.: Hunter Mahan goes 2 up on Mark Wilson with a birdie at the fourth hole. The two have not halved a hole yet, with Mahan winning Nos. 1, 2 and 3 but dropping the third with a bogey.

9:50 a.m.: Lee Westwood birdies the second to go 1 up against Rory McIlroy. For the second consecutive year the world’s No. 1 ranking comes down to the semifinal match at Dove Mountain.

Last year Martin Kaymer needed only to advance to the final to take the top spot, while Westwood and McIlroy need to win this week to unseat Luke Donald. But before they can think about that they need to survive this morning’s semifinal.

9:34 a.m.: Eventful first hole for both semifinal matches. Hunter Mahan went 1 up when Mark Wilson opened with a bogey and Lee Westwood missed a 12-footer to trade pars with Rory McIlroy.

9:25 a.m.: Tough to question the new format at the WGC-Match Play, but today's semifinal match between Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood could be the week's most compelling bout yet there are no more than 50 fans waiting along the first fairway to watch the action.

In past years the quarterfinals and semifinals were played on Saturday, leaving the finale for Sunday.

9:05 a.m.: Today’s two semifinal matches may be too close to call, but for betting purposes GTC may have an advantage.

At a local grill not far from Dove Mountain GTC spotted Mark Wilson and his caddie having dinner Saturday. After the two left, Lee Westwood and his entourage were seated at the same booth. Tough to ignore an omen like that.

Rory McIlroy, however, receives style points for his dining choice. The Ulsterman went to Lil Abner’s Steakhouse, a Tucson landmark and one of the best BBQ stops on the PGA Tour.

Watch live coverage of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Golf Channel, Sunday 8AM-1PM ET. NBC coverage can be seen live Sunday, 2-6PM ET.

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Lopez fires flawless 63 for lead in Arkansas

By Associated PressJune 23, 2018, 12:41 am

ROGERS, Ark. – Since its first year on the LPGA Tour in 2007, the crowds at the NW Arkansas Championship have belonged to Stacy Lewis.

Another former University of Arkansas star staked her claim as the hometown favorite Friday when Gaby Lopez shot a career-low 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead at Pinnacle Country Club.

Like Lewis, the two-time winner of the tournament, Lopez starred as a three-time All-American for the Razorbacks before joining the LPGA Tour in 2016. Despite flashes of potential, Lopez had yet to join Lewis among the ranks of the world's best - missing the cut in her last two tournaments and entering this week ranked 136th in the world.

For a day, at least, the Mexican standout felt right at home atop the leaderboard in her adopted home state.

''I feel like home,'' Lopez said. ''I feel so, so comfortable out here, because I feel that everyone and every single person out here is just rooting for us.''

Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship

Moriya Jutanugarn was a stroke back along with Minjee Lee, Catriona Matthew, Nasa Hataoka, Lizette Salas, Mirim Lee and Aditi Ashok. Six others finished at 6 under on a day when only 26 of the 144 players finished over par, thanks to some mid-week rain that softened the greens and calm skies throughout the day.

Jutanugarn finished second at the tournament last year and is trying to win for the second time on the LPGA Tour this year. Her younger sister, Ariya, is already a two-time winner this year and shot an opening-round 66.

Lewis, the former world No. 1 who won the event in 2007 in 2014, finished with a 66. She's expecting her first child in early November

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu, coming off a victory Sunday in Michigan, shot a 67.

Friday was Lopez's long-awaited day to standout, though, much to the delight of the pro-Arkansas crowd.

After missing the cut her last two times out, Lopez took some time off and returned home to Mexico City to rest her mind and work on her game. The work paid off with two straight birdies to open her round and a 6-under 30 on her front nine.

Lopez needed only 25 putts and finished two shots off the course record of 61, and she overcame a poor drive on the par-5 18th to finish with a par and keep her place at the top of the leaderboard. Her previous low score was a 64 last year, and she matched her career best by finishing at 8 under.

''(Rest) is a key that no one really truly understands until you're out here,'' Lopez said. ''... Sometimes resting is actually the part you've got to work on.''

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Harman rides hot putter to Travelers lead

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:28 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – There are plenty of big names gathered for the Travelers Championship, and through two rounds they’re all chasing Brian Harman.

Harman opened with a 6-under 64, then carded a 66 during Friday’s morning wave to become the only player to finish the first two rounds in double digits under par. The southpaw is currently riding a hot putter, leading the field in strokes gained: putting while rolling in 12 birdies and an eagle through his first 36 holes.

“Putted great today,” said Harman, who ranks 22nd on Tour this season in putting. “Got out of position a couple of times, but I was able to get myself good looks at it. I started hitting the ball really well coming down the stretch and made a few birdies.”

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Harman, 31, has won twice on the PGA Tour, most recently at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship. While he doesn’t have a win this year, he started his season in the fall by reeling off five straight finishes of T-8 or better to quickly install himself as one of the leaders in the season-long points race.

Now topping a leaderboard that includes the likes of Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy, he realizes that he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s going to leave Connecticut with trophy No. 3.

“The putter has been really good so far, but I’ve been in position a lot. I’ve had a lot of good looks at it,” Harman said. “I’m just able to put a little pressure on the course right now, which is nice.”

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10-second rule costs Zach Johnson a stroke

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 12:06 am

CROMWELL, Conn. – Zach Johnson heads into the weekend one shot back at the Travelers Championship, but he was a matter of seconds away from being tied for the lead.

Johnson had an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 3 at TPC River Highlands, his 12th hole of the day, but left the ball hanging on the lip. As Johnson walked up to tap the ball in, it oscillated on the edge and eventually fell in without being hit.

Was it a birdie, or a par?

According to the Rules of Golf, and much to Johnson’s chagrin, the answer was a par. Players are afforded “reasonable” time to walk to the hole, and after that they are allowed to wait for 10 seconds to see if the ball drops of its own accord. After that, it either becomes holed by a player’s stroke, or falls in and leads to a one-shot penalty, resulting in the same score as if the player had hit it.

According to Mark Russell, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competitions, Johnson’s wait time until the ball fell in was between 16 and 18 seconds.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“Once he putts the ball, he’s got a reasonable amount of time to reach the hole,” Russell said. “Then once he reaches the hole, he’s got 10 seconds. After 10 seconds, the ball is deemed to be at rest.”

Johnson tried to emphasize the fact that the ball was oscillating as he stood over it, and even asked rules officials if marking his ball on the edge of the hole would have yielded a “bonus 10 seconds.” But after signing for a 2-under 68 that brought him within a shot of leader Brian Harman, the veteran took the ruling in stride.

“The 10-second rule has always been there. Vague to some degree,” Johnson said. “The bottom line is I went to tap it in after 10 seconds and the ball was moving. At that point, even if the ball is moving, it’s deemed to be at rest because it’s on the lip. Don’t ask me why, but that’s just the way it is.”

While Johnson brushed off any thoughts of the golf gods conspiring against him on the lip, he was beaming with pride about an unconventional par he made on No. 17 en route to a bogey-free round. Johnson sailed his tee shot well right into the water, but after consulting his options he decided to drop on the far side of the hazard near the 16th tee box.

His subsequent approach from 234 yards rolled to within 8 feet, and he calmly drained the putt for an unexpected save.

“I got a great lie. Just opened up a 4-hybrid, and it started over the grandstands and drew in there,” Johnson said. “That’s as good of an up-and-down as I’ve witnessed, or performed.”

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Travelers becoming marquee event for star players

By Will GrayJune 22, 2018, 11:29 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Get lost in the throngs following the defending champ, or caught up amongst the crowds chasing the back-to-back U.S. Open winner, and it’s easy to forget where this tournament was a little more than a decade ago.

The Travelers Championship was without a sponsor, without a worthwhile field, without a consistent date and on the verge of being jettisoned to the PGA Tour Champions schedule. The glory days of the old Greater Hartford Open had come and gone, and the PGA Tour’s ever-increasing machine appeared poised to leave little old Cromwell in its wake.

The civic pride is booming in this neck of the woods. Main Street is lined with one small business after the next, and this time of year there are signs and posters popping up on every corner congratulating a member of the most recent graduating class at Cromwell High School, which sits less than two miles from the first tee at TPC River Highlands.

Having made it through a harrowing time in the event’s history, the local residents now have plenty of reason to take pride.

The Tour’s best have found this little New England hamlet, where tournament officials roll out the red carpet in every direction. They embrace the opportunity to decompress after the mind-numbing gauntlet the USGA set out for them last week, and they relish a return to a course where well-struck shots, more often than not, lead to birdies.

Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Ten years ago, this tournament was also held the week after the U.S. Open. Stewart Cink won, and for his efforts he received a paltry 36 world ranking points. But thanks to a recent influx of star-power, this week’s winner will pocket 58 points – the same amount Rory McIlroy won at Bay Hill, and two more than Justin Rose got at Colonial. Now at the halfway point, the leaderboard backs up the hefty allocation.

While Brian Harman leads at 10 under, the chase pack is strong enough to strike fear in the heart of even the most seasoned veteran: McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Zach Johnson, they of the combined eight major titles, all sit within three shots of the lead. Former world No. 1 Jason Day is one shot further back, and reigning Player of the Year Justin Thomas will start the third round inside the top 20.

Paul Casey and Bryson DeChambeau, both likely participants at the Ryder Cup this fall, are right there as well at 8 under. Casey lost a playoff here to Watson in 2015 and has come back every year since, witnessing first-hand the tournament’s growth in scope.

“It speaks volumes for what Travelers have done and how they treat everybody, and the work that Andy Bessette and his team put in to fly around the country and speak highly of this event,” Casey said. “And do things which matter, to continue to improve the event, not just for players but for spectators.”

Part of the increased field strength can be attributed to the Tour’s recent rule change, requiring players who play fewer than 25 events in a season to add a new event they haven’t played in the last four years. Another portion can be attributed to the short commute from Shinnecock Hills to TPC River Highlands, a three-hour drive and even shorter across the Long Island Sound – an added bonus the event will lose two of the next three years with West Coast U.S. Opens.

But there’s no denying the widespread appeal of an event named the Tour’s tournament of the year, players’ choice and most fan-friendly in 2017. While Spieth’s return to defend his title was assumed, both Day and McIlroy are back for another crack this year after liking what they saw.

“Anyone that I talked to could only say good things about the tournament about the golf course, how the guys are treated here, how the fans come out, and how the community always gets behind this event,” McIlroy said. “Obviously I witnessed that for the first time last year, and I really enjoyed it.”

After starting the week with all four reigning major champs and five of the top 10 players in the latest world rankings, only Masters champ Patrick Reed got sent packing following rounds of 72-67. The remaining top-flight contingent will all hit the ground running in search of more low scores Saturday, with Spieth (-4) still retaining a glimmer of hope to keep his title defense chances alive, perhaps with a 63 like he fired in the opening round.

The Tour’s schedule represents a zero-sum game. Outside of the majors and WGCs that essentially become must-play events for the game’s best, the rest of the legs of the weekly circus become victim of a 12-month version of tug-of-war. Some players like to play in the spring; others load up in the fall. Many play the week before majors, while a select group block off the week after for some R&R far away from a golf course.

But in an environment where one tournament’s ebbs can create flows for another, the Travelers has continued a steady climb up the Tour’s hierarchy. Once in jeopardy of relegation, it has found its footing and appears in the process of turning several of the Tour’s one-name stars into regular participants.

Rory. Jordan. Bubba. JT.

It’s been a long battle for tournament officials, but the proof is in the pudding. And this weekend, the reward for the people of Cromwell – population 14,000 – looks to be a star-studded show.

“All the events are incredible,” Thomas said. “But this is kind of one of those underrated ones that I think until people come and play, do they realize how great it is.”