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Top seeds continue to struggle at WGC-Match Play

Shane Lowry
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SUTTON COLDFIELD, ENGLAND - JUNE 9 : Winners Andrew Slater (R) and Brian Rimmer of Little Aston pose for a picture during the Virgin Atlantic National Pro-Am Championship Regional Final at Little Aston Golf Club on June 9, 2010 in Sutton Coldfield, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)  - 

One day later, the theme at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship remains the same – if you're a top seed, you're probably in trouble.

After the top two players in the world ranking, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, fell in the opening round Thursday, Nos. 3 and 4 Luke Donald and Louis Oosthuizen duplicated their early exits Friday, both losing in the second round at Dove Mountain.

Playing No. 9 seed Scott Piercy, Donald never stood a chance, dropping each of the first three holes and falling 4-down when Piercy holed his approach on the fifth hole from 228 yards. With his opponent playing the first eight holes in 5 under, Donald was unable to mount a comeback before falling 7 and 6, the largest margin of defeat through two rounds of play.

Like Donald, Oosthuizen led at no point during his second-round match. Facing American Robert Garrigus, the South African lost each of the first two holes and was forced to spend the rest of the afternoon trying to catch up. The match was level after eight holes, but when Garrigus won both the ninth and 10th holes, he re-built a lead that he would not again relinquish.

With all of the No. 1 seeds eliminated, Bubba Watson is now the highest-ranked player left standing – though his match was not exactly easy. The Masters champion squandered a 3-up lead against Jim Furyk, missing short putts that would have won the match on both the 18th and 19th holes. When Furyk bogeyed the 22nd, though, Watson – the No. 2 seed in the Jones Bracket – was able to advance.

While the tournament is known for upsets, this year's edition has seen top-ranked players drop out faster than usual. For the first time since 1999, only one player in the OWGR top 10 will tee it up in the third round – and that's Watson, who is exactly 10th. Ian Poulter, who won this event in 2010, is the next highest-ranked player at No. 13, having beaten Bo Van Pelt 3 and 1 Friday.

While Charles Howell III was unable to reproduce the form that led to his upset win over Woods Friday, losing 6 and 5 to Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Irishman Shane Lowry was able to advance despite being the lowest-ranked player in this week's field. Lowry continued his strong play, failing to make a bogey in eliminating Carl Pettersson 6 and 5, marking the first time in this event's history that the No. 64 seed in the 64-man field advanced past the second round.

Saturday's third-round matches will include Matt Kuchar against Nicolas Colsaerts in the Hogan Bracket, while Watson will face Jason Day in the Jones Bracket. Defending champion Hunter Mahan is still alive, and will face 2011 runner-up Martin Kaymer in the Player Bracket while Poulter will face Tim Clark, who is still standing despite entering the week as the No. 15 seed in the Snead Bracket. Webb Simpson and Graeme McDowell were able to advance in the day's final matches, and will face Fernandez-Castano and Lowry, respectively, Saturday morning.