By Seth Kerr
GolfWRX Staff Writer
Round 3 of the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship was all about finding a way to move on to the quarterfinals. Most of today’s winners won with relative ease, with only Sang-Moon Bae needing to halve the final hole for victory over John Senden 1-up.
The rest of the matches were decided much earlier with the most lopsided being Peter Hanson’s 5-and-3 win over Brandt Snedeker and Mark Wilson’s 5-and-3 victory over Dustin Johnson.
In a striking contrast, Wilson gets the most out of his body and his game, while Johnson continues to leave fans and golf experts wondering when he will turn the corner. You don’t have to be much of a golf fan to realize Dustin Johnson has all the physical attributes in the world, while Wilson looks like the average guy.
Most of us watch Johnson and wish we could hit it like him while we should be learning from Wilson, whose average-to-below-average length puts him at a disadvantage on Tour.
“I know people keep talking about how I hit it so short that I can’t compete,” said Wilson. “First of all, I don’t hit it very short and secondly, it all comes down to putting. It really does. So I just don’t know how many times I have to explain it.”
With all respect to Wilson, he is 159th in driving distance (tied with Steve Stricker), averaging just 280-yards off the tee compared to Johnson’s 306-yards. Where Johnson hits a pitching wedge, Wilson is hitting eight or even seven iron. If this were any other sport, Wilson wouldn’t have a shot, but this is golf.
Against Johnson, Wilson showed most of what matters in golf is what happens on the greens and a steady putter will trump 300-yard drives. In losing to Wilson for the second year in a row, Johnson hit just three of 12 fairways and missed more than half of the greens in regulation.
Matt Kuchar played a bogey-free front nine to take a two hole lead to the back against last year’s finalist, Martin Kaymer. Kuchar then birdied Nos. 10 and 11 to take a 4-up lead and put the match to bed.
Hunter Mahan birdied four straight holes on the back nine to thrash Steve Stricker 4 and 3. Mahan had an incredible nine birdies in the shortened round and never allowed Stricker to get anything going. Mahan jarred a putt from more than 55 feet for a birdie on No. 12, causing Stricker to pick up the ball from the hole and, in jest, throw it in the stands for a souvenir.
Lee Westwood took some revenge over Nick Watney, who had knocked out Westwood the previous two years. Westwood made seven birdies to win 3 and 2 and never trailed in the matching, pushing his streak to 49 straight holes without being behind.
In the understated manner the English are known for Westwood said, “I made a lot of birdies today and didn’t let Nick get into the match.”
Westwood will face long hitter, Martin Laird who finished off Scottish countryman Paul Lawrie, 3 and 1.
While the prognosticators are looking forward to a semifinal match up between Westwood and McIlroy in battle for No. 1, McIlroy better not look past Sung-Moon Bae. Bae, a rookie on tour this year, is no stranger to facing down McIlroy and winning after coming from behind in the 2009 Korea Open to beat McIlroy. Bae has played solid golf in all three matches and already beat one of Europe’s top match play players, Ian Poulter.
The Golf Channel will have coverage of Saturday’s matches from 12-2 p.m. EST. Coverage then shifts to NBC from 2-6 p.m. EST.