WGC Match Play, Day 1
By Torleif Sorenson on 2/20/14
This week's PGA Tour event is the (take a deep breath)... World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, being played at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain outside Tucson, Arizona. Day 1 offered a few surprises and some bizarre moments.
2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell was 4-down after seven holes and 3-down with three to play when his opponent, Gary Woodland, collapsed. At 16, Woodland's shot took a wicked bounce and landed between two corporate tents, resulting in a bogey and handing the hole to the Northern Irishman. At 17, Woodland's approach went to the wrong side of the green, while McDowell drilled a 12-foot birdie putt. 1-down with one to go. At 18, Woodland's green-side bunker shot flew into another bunker on the opposite side of the hole. At the first playoff hole, G-Mac stuck his approach to six feet and made the birdie.
"I'm sure he's extremely disappointed right now — and I'm extremely elated. 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."Henrik Stenson would readily agree; the tournament's top seed actually trailed Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat with five to go, but capitalized on Aphibarnrat's balky putting to win 2 and 1.
Several top-seeded players were shot down on Thursday; 3rd-seeded Zach Johnson got blown out by Richard Sterne, 5 and 4. (6) Dustin Johnson and (9) Steve Stricker also lost, but to be fair, Stricker may have had his ailing brother Scott on his mind. The Wisconsin native almost skipped the event because of his brother's liver transplant surgery.
Matt Kuchar won his match against Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, but not without a little drama:
Rory McIlroy found himself in the middle of an attack by a jumping cholla cactus:
Meanwhile, newly-shorn Rickie Fowler took down heavily favored Ian Poulter 2 and 1, thanks in part to a hot putter:
The tough thing for the PGA Tour this week is that they are up against the Winter Olympics, including the marquee match-up in men's ice hockey semi-final at noon ET Friday, when the United States faces Canada. Also hurting viewership is the fact that Tiger Woods, current Masters champion Adam Scott, and current Open champion Phil Mickelson all chose not to play this week.
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