Top seeds victorious at Accenture Match Play
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2005 Accenture Match Play Championship | Round One | 25 Feb 2005
For the third time in the seven-year history of the prestigious event, the players seeded No. 1, respectively, in the Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Sam Snead brackets all advanced out of the first round.
In fact, a whopping 14 of the top 16 seeds soaked up the blessed sun, stepped gingerly on the soggy turf and survived the first-round marathon to play again. The winners will need intestinal fortitude, too, with two rounds on tap on Friday.
Of the top four seeds, Retief Goosen had the closest match, beating Aussie Stephen Leaney 1 up. Japan’s Shingo Katayama was no match for the world’s No. 1, falling 4 and 3 to Vijay Singh, while Tiger Woods, the two-time defending champ, beat Nick Price by an identical score.
Phil Mickelson, a two-time winner already this year, finally broke open a close match on the back nine with three birdies in his first four holes, eventually closing out Loren Roberts 3 and 1.
“It’s a relief to get by any match,” said Mickelson, who cruised to the quarterfinals last year. “I have been knocked out (in the first match) before, and it’s just not any fun. It just is no fun to be watching the whole thing on TV, and fortunately I got by the first round.”
“The top players are playing well, but the guys who got by their first matches are also playing well. This is where you don’t see any large discrepancies. I’d be surprised if you see some big match differences (going forward).”
Indeed. The Hogan bracket lost its second and third seeds by the narrowest of margins. Mike Weir was tripped up by Kirk Triplett in a 1-up decision while Darren Clarke, who won the Accenture Match Play Championship in 2000, was beaten by the same score by Graeme McDowell.
“It feels like an upset to me,” Triplett said. “I think if you look at this TOUR, there are 10 or 12 guys that are really on top of their game, and four or five, maybe, above that. After that, the rest of us, I think, are pretty even.”
Woods’ victory was his 13th straight and boosted his Accenture Match Play Championship overall record to 21-3. He won the first hole of his match Thursday with the World Golf Hall of Famer with a par and never looked back, leading 4 up at the turn.
“Today was most important to get off to a quick start in match play, and I was able to do that,” Woods said. “Nick gave me the first hole and I was able to stick it out. It was a nice little quick start.”
Getting the edge, any edge, quickly was important on Thursday when less than ideal playing conditions were the norm after the previous week’s monsoons.
The ninth hole, normally a stout par 4, was shortened to a 162-yard par 3 because parts of the fairway were too wet to provide adequate relief as players competed under lift, clean and place rules. Tournament officials will decide on Friday morning how to play the hole in the second round.
There were other challenges, too. The rough was, as Adam Scott put it “nasty” long.
“It doesn’t look like they’ve had a mower on that for weeks,” he said. “There’s definitely a premium on hitting the fairway out there.”
Scott even had to take a drop in the fairway bunker at the 18th hole. The ball plugged, but he was able to muscle a 6-iron out and eventually birdie the par 5 to close out his match with Trevor Immelman.
And by the time the final duels were drawing to a conclusion, the spongy greens were showing the ill effects of the literally heavy traffic. Goosen, who squares off against Fred Couples Friday morning, said the footprints were so deep, “they’re casting shadows.” Luke Donald compared them to “pizzas.”
Putting may have been more of a challenge than usual, but as Mickelson pointed out, “the thing about that was that your opponent had the same greens you did. You weren’t competing against guys that went off five hours ahead of you with perfect greens. It didn’t matter either way.”
What did matter was finally getting the US$7.5 million event under way after a day’s delay. The maintenance crew worked overtime, using sump pumps and buckets to bail out the water that had overtaken the golf course.
“It was playable,” said Craig Parry, who beat Tim Clark 1 up. “I was surprised we were about to get out, as much rain as we had. It was a river. The whole golf course was under water.”
And the weather forecast is only going to get better the closer the Accenture Match Play Championship gets to its 36-hole finale on Sunday.
Source – WGC
Photo – Anthony Powter