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Day 1 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
By Seth Kerr
GolfWRX Staff Writer
When Tiger Woods got called out in 2006 by Stephen Ames, he steamrolled him 9 and 8 for the most lopsided win in the history of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. In a possible sign of just how far Woods has fallen, he could only muster a 1-up victory over Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano after being called out by him on Monday.
Their match was more about who would beat himself rather than beat their opponent. Both players struggled with errant tee shots, approach shots and missed opportunities on the green. Fernandez-Castano had a chance to tie the match on No. 18, but his 10-foot birdie putt slid by.
“I think if there was one day to beat Tiger Woods, this was it,” Fernandez-Castano said. “I didn’t take the opportunity. I missed a few shots, and, of course, you can’t miss shots if you want to beat one of the greatest in history.”
His opponent the next round, Nick Watney, dispelled of British Open champion, Darren Clarke, 5 and 4. Watney had a three-hole lead after five holes and never let Clarke into the match.
Another Butch Harmon disciple, Gary Woodland, struggled as well, losing 4 and 2 to Charl Schwartzel. Woodland, making his match play debut, bogeyed five holes and never had a chance in the match. While it is early in his relationship with Harmon, you have to wonder if Woodland is wishing he were back with his former coach, Randy Smith, and manager, Blake Smith (Randy’s son).
The upset of the day went to Ernie Els. Els demolished world No. 1, Luke Donald, 5 and 4. Last year, Donald never trailed in a match. Against Els this year, he never lead. With the loss, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy both have a chance to become No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings depending on their finish this week.
Westwood and McIlroy both continued their quest to get to No. 1 with victories over Nicholas Colsaerts and George Coetzee, respectively. Neither player was ever in much danger of losing their match, although McIlroy lost No. 16 and No. 17 before making par on No. 18 to close out Coetzee. Westwood will be looking to get past the second round for the first time in 11 tries at the match play tournament.
Keegan Bradley may have a spitting problem but on Wednesday, Geoff Ogilvy had a Keegan Bradley problem. Bradley had six birdies and one eagle to go along with no bogeys in beating Ogilvy 4 and 3. Bradley will face “The Mechanic,” Miguel Angel Jimenez, in the next round after besting Sergio Garcia 2 and 1.
Steve Stricker returned to competition after taking five weeks off after the Sony Open. Stricker took time to rest the herniated disk in his neck and work on strengthening the area. Stricker defeated Kevin Na 2 and 1, taking the lead on the 12th hole and finishing Na off on No. 17.
The most disappointed player flying home has to be Rafael Cabrera Bello. Cabrera Bello had a three-hole lead after five holes against Jason Day and a three-hold lead with three holes left. But Day fought back to force extra holes with two pars and a birdie on No. 18. Day finished off Cabrera Bello on the first extra hole with a 4-foot birdie to win.
The 15 matches won by the lower seed were the most since the first year of the event in 1999. Robert Rock and Matteo Manassero, both No. 15 seeds, won their matches to move on to the second round.
The match of the day tomorrow figures to be Nick Watney and Tiger Woods. Watney comes in hot after his trouncing victory over Darren Clarke, while Woods will be looking to regain some of the form he had early at Pebble Beach.
Round 2 coverage begins at 12 p.m. EST on Golf Channel.