Notebook: It's back to earth for Shane Lowry
PHOTOS: WGC-Accenture Match Play (Sunday)
Check out images from the semifinals and finals on Sunday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
One day you’re good enough to beat Rory McIlroy on a World Golf Championship stage. A few days later, you take a back seat to Darron Stiles at a place called Mayacoo Lakes Country Club.
Welcome to the jam-packed, outrageously talented world of professional golf, Shane Lowry.
The personable Irishman, 25, still riding a wave of momentum from beating McIlroy and Carl Pettersson in the Accenture Match Play Championship, came one agonizing shot shy of a possible spot in this week’s Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Taking on the challenge of a Monday qualifier at Mayacoo, Lowry shot 67 when he needed to shoot 66 to at least get into a playoff.
Stiles was among four who shot that 5-under total, advancing along with Vaughn Taylor, Jamie Donaldson and Alex Noren.
Like Lowry, Donaldson and Noren were teeing it up in the Monday qualifier just a few days removed from their Match Play appearances. Donaldson, an Englishman, lost to Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, in Round 1, while Noren pounded Dustin Johnson, 6 and 4, before being ousted in Round 2 by Graeme McDowell on the 20th hole.
Now Taylor may not have been coming from a WGC affair, but he deserves a round of applause for another sterling effort. For a second straight year, Taylor came from outside the borders of America to fly to Florida Sunday night and then tee it up successfully the next morning. They don’t give FedEx Cup points for that at Camp Ponte Vedra, but you sure do deserve a lot of respect.
Last year, Taylor was joint 16th in the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, flew to Florida Sunday night, then breezed through the Monday qualifier the next day. He went on to finish T-18 in the Honda Classic. Not eligible for the Accenture Match Play Championship and with no opposite-field Mayakoba to enter this year, Taylor went to Panama and finished T-9 in the Web.com Tour season opener. Getting back to Florida in time to make it through the Honda Monday qualifier? No worries; he’s got this down to a science, it seems
For Donaldson and Noren, making it into the Honda field is a bonus, because they otherwise would have been sitting around, just waiting for next week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral. Not a bad little stretch for them now – a WGC, Honda, then another WGC.
Unfortunately, Lowry needed to get into the Honda for a chance to pump up his world ranking (62nd) to earn a spot into the Cadillac Championship at Doral. Not that he’s completely shut out; he does have a spot in the Puerto Rico Open opposite the Cadillac, which is important in that the next significant deadline of note is April 1. On that day, anyone not otherwise qualified who is inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking will earn a Masters spot.
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MONDAY’S MEN: There have been Fall Series events in the past that would have killed for the sort of field that teed it up in the Monday qualifier at Mayacoo.
Besides Noren, Donaldson and Lowry, two others who had spots in the Accenture – Marcel Siem and George Coetzee – traveled from Marana, Ariz., to give it a shot. Siem, who wasn’t dispatched in Round 1 until the esteemed Luke Donald made a birdie at the 18th, shot 74.
The notable names continued at 71, where Mark Calcavecchia came up short in his bid to make it in a 27th consecutive Honda Classic, shooting 71.
Others who tried, but missed:
How about Robert Karlsson? Actually how about Robert Karlsson times two. The one from Lynchburg, Va., shot 70, the one from London, 76.
The group at 70 included Billy Mayfair, Brett Wetterich, Nick O’Hern, Robert Damron and Robert Gamez. Frank Lickliter shot 72, Bill Andrade 73 and Lee Janzen 77.
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SECURITY BLANKETS: Given that it has a Wednesday start and players are never guaranteed that their tournament will last more than four hours, swing coaches are not the norm at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
But putting coaches? Heck, it looked like they were holding a convention at the practice green.
Before the weather got nasty, there was warm sunshine and so Dave Stockton, Howard Twitty and Stan Utley were able to get in plenty of work with their players. If it appears that more and more Tour players are wrapping their arms around putting coaches in addition to swing coaches, well, you are correct. The thing is, even Stockton – who was in Arizona to work with Rory McIlroy – shakes his head, amazed at how mechanical players have become with what should be the least technical swing in their game.
“We were just talking about this on the practice green,” Stockton said, nodding toward Twitty and Utley. “Guys have become so mechanical with their putting. We spend all our time telling them to stop being so mechanical. But they work so hard on swing mechanics, they let that creep into their putting.
“They have to get back to feeling the putting stroke.”
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THIS ’N THAT: A par 5 of thoughts, observations and musings:
• This friendship all of a sudden between Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods is . . . well, a bit unsettling. The best rivalries have distances built in. Methinks the youngster should be careful.
• Watching four of the seven competitors from a very strong South African contingent lose in Round 1, then two more lose in Round 2 at the Accenture, well, it leads us out on a limb, perhaps, but let’s say we don’t think they like the cold weather.
• Can’t say I disagree with Ian Poulter’s assessment that the consolation match at the Accenture is a waste of time.
• Paul McGinley made his first trip to Scotland since being named Ryder Cup captain. He said he would have come sooner, only he was afraid of the haggis.
• At some point Wednesday when snow was coming down, how many players in the Match Play field were thinking for the first time ever that Phil Mickelson had it right?
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DON’T LET THE SMILE FOOL YOU: If you’re thinking that not even the bitter cold and the frosty wind at the Match Play final could knock the smile off of Matt Kuchar’s face, consider that it hasn’t always been this way. He’s got a meaner side to him.
Well, for one day he did. Years and years ago.
“I can remember as a kid getting in big trouble,” he said. “I remember throwing my club into the water and having to be made to go fetch it . . . and then my clubs were taken away from me.”
Pretty gentle stuff? Maybe that’s because his dad Pete’s message got through.
“I remember that being just a terrible punishment, when my clubs were taken away.”
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DOVE MOUNTAIN? OR DEATH VALLEY? Some numbers to consider for your Match Play office pool next year:
• The championship moved to Dove Mountain in 2007, and Tiger Woods won the very next year. But that was when it was held at The Gallery. Since moving up the hill to the Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Woods is 2-4.
• Doesn’t matter which course it’s played on: Adam Scott clearly is not enamored with the place. He has lost in Round 1 five times in seven trips to Dove Mountain and has lost in Round 2 the other two times.
• The good news is, Bill Haas seems to have things figured out at Riviera, where he has finished T-12, first, and T-3, respectively, in the past three years. But Dove Mountain is another story. Haas has followed each of those strong efforts in L.A. with a first-round loss in the Match Play.
• In five trips to the Match Play, Dustin Johnson has lost in the first round four times.
• It hasn’t been a joy ride for Zach Johnson, either. He has lost in the first round three straight years now and like Scott, is 2-7 at Dove Mountain.
• If you see Martin Kaymer drawn against a guy whose talents are considered quiet but steady, then beware. The German has been eliminated by guys named Boo Weekley, Jim Furyk, Tim Clark, Luke Donald, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan.
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KEEP THIS IN MIND: He made it to the semifinals in his Match play debut in 2011 and has a solid 7-4 record in three visits to the tournament, but certainly Bubba Watson is not a big fan of the WGC event.
Not his flavor, this match-play stuff.
“Some guy can hit four balls in the desert and you’re only 1 up,” he said. “In a golf tournament, he shoots 80, you shoot 70, you’re 10 up. It’s just different.”
Now that we’ve clarified the obvious, the issue might need to be filed away for safekeeping if you’re another Watson . . . as in Tom, the 2014 Ryder Cup captain. Match play is a format that requires a different mindset and a firm commitment, and if Bubba is thrown off by it, then it might explain why in his team appearances he has been outclassed on Sunday.
In the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, he got drubbed by Miguel Angel Jimenez, 4 and 3, in singles. He was whipped by Ryo Ishikawa, 3 and 2, at the Presidents Cup in 2011, and last fall when given the important task of going out first against Luke Donald, Bubba was defeated, 2 and 1, in a match that was never as close as the score indicates.
He isn’t the first standout player accustomed to the stroke-play variety who has shown a dislike for match play, and it’s not an indictment at all. It’s just fodder to be filed away come time for Gleneagles in 2014, because taking a sour attitude about match play to the first tee is like being 1 down.
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FINAL TAP-IN: If you’re looking ahead to your Masters picks, you might want to think twice about hopping onto the Matt Kuchar bandwagon. No one has won the Match Play and the Masters in the same year, though Tiger Woods was second in 2008 and Luke Donald T-4 in 2011.
Looking at it from the other side, playing well in the Match play certainly hasn’t been necessary for the Masters champ. Of the past 10 Masters winners, five of them were second-round losers two months earlier at the Match Play and only once, Phil Mickelson in 2004, did someone get as far as the quarters.