Match Play final four not as different as they appear

By Rex HoggardFebruary 23, 2014, 12:39 am

MARANA, Ariz. – And then there were four.

Old and young, established star and newly minted phenom – the semifinalists smorgasbord at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is as eclectic a final four as this event has seen since the experiment ventured Down Under for the first edition in 1999 (for the record, that would have been Jeff Maggert, Andrew Magee, John Huston and Steve Pate).

In what appears to be the final World Golf Championship atop lonely Dove Mountain, mercurial match play delivered Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els and Victor Dubuisson to the most intimate Sunday on the PGA Tour.

For the first time all week, Els finally made it look easy. That he did against one of the hottest players in the game only serves to add to the South African’s legend this week.

Before Saturday’s quarterfinal bout against Jordan Spieth, Els was a combined 5 over par in his previous three matches and had, by his own admission, played well only in fits and starts. But on Saturday he birdied two of his first three holes to take a 2-up lead and never trailed on his way to a 4-and-2 victory.

“At times I haven't played my best, as you guys (the media) have well documented,” smiled Els, who last advanced to the semifinals at the Match Play in 2001. “But it is match play. It's a match-play event. I've just done enough to get through.”

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Els will play Dubuisson (pronounced dew-BWEE-shon) who robbed the week’s preeminent bandit, Graeme McDowell. G-Mac, who had not hit a tee shot with a lead all week, finally ran out of magic when his 23-footer at the last slipped past.

The subdued Frenchman has been the wild card at this week’s event, a mystery who at this point last year was 140th in the world and has now crashed the most exclusive game in town.

If American galleries are unaware of Dubuisson’s accomplishments, his deeds are sure to become the stuff of legend. His victory last year against the likes of Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson at the Turkish Airlines Open ignited a run that will likely land him on this year’s European Ryder Cup team.

“(Turkey) gave me some confidence to win, but you always want more and more. In any event there is this kind of stress because you want more all the time,” Dubuisson said.

With all respect to the mystery man and the old man, relatively speaking, the compelling half of Sunday’s shootout will be Day and Fowler. Combined the two would barely qualify for the Champions Tour – Day is 26, Fowler 25 – and they are considered poster players for the circuit’s Gen X set.

They can also relate to the sometimes unrealistic expectations dolloped onto players in the Tiger Woods era who are still a half-decade shy of their prime. Pegged early in their Tour careers as can’t-miss kids, the scrutiny has flowed since each won his lone Tour event.

For Fowler, who defeated Jim Furyk, 2 up, on Saturday, it’s what drove him to Butch Harmon last year. He wanted to be known for more than just his flat-billed hat and long hair, so he cut his hair and began cutting his teeth with the swing legend.

“I’m putting a lot more work in the last few months,” said Fowler, who teamed full time with Harmon in November. “He’s easy to listen to when he’s taken two guys to No. 1 in the world.”

Day also had a more intense offseason, with a particular focus on his putting, which has been stellar this week at Dove Mountain.

“He worked harder than ever,” said Day’s caddie/swing coach Colin Swatton. “The best thing that’s happened to him was winning (the World Cup in November). He was getting to the point where he was thinking, ‘When am I going to win again?’ It was good for him to get that.”

For Day – who took down an ailing Louis Oosthuizen, 2 and 1, in the quarterfinals – his climb to the final four was predictable following his runner-up finish at the Farmers Insurance Open a few weeks ago and his Match Play record. He was a semifinalist last year, losing to eventual champion Matt Kuchar before beating Ian Poulter in the consolation match.

Fowler, however, had never advanced past the third round at this event and arrived at Dove Mountain fresh off three consecutive missed cuts. He’s also had the most difficult road to the final four, having beaten Poulter (a perennial Match Play contender), Jimmy Walker (who with three wins this season is the game’s hottest player) and Sergio Garcia to reach the quarterfinals.

But then there is no history that matters in match play, particularly when the four semifinalists have endured a week’s worth of Sunday pressure before even arriving at the final turn.

As eclectic as the final four may seem, they all have one thing in common – resilience.

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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

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Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

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In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.