No. 6 Ben Hogan bracket seed Jimmy Walker steadily built a sizeable lead early, thanks in large part to a three-hole run of wins on the front nine, then closed things out midway through the back nine to defeat Branden Grace in Wednesday’s first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play.
We’ll keep you posted on the highlights of the Walker vs. Grace match right here – and scroll down for our preview coverage.
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Hole No. 14: Par 4, 449 yards
Saying his hot run in recent months is a result of a lot of pars and a few birdies at times, Walker closes out his match with a birdie at the 14th. Grace’s early troubles and lack of birdies left him in a deficit that couldn’t be conquered.
WALKER WINS, 5 & 4
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Hole No. 13: Par 5, 583 yards
Grace’s first birdie of the day, two holes ago, is erased as he concedes this par 5 and falls back to 4 down – with just five to play.
THRU 13 HOLES: Walker, 4 up
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Hole No. 11: Par 5, 659 yards
Is Grace’s first birdie of the day too little and too late – or the start of something big? With seven holes to play, he’s got a big challenge if he’s to pull off the upset. But it sends a message that perhaps Walker can’t just make pars, as he’s done for six holes now.
THRU 11 HOLES: Walker, 3 up
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Hole No. 8: Par 5, 576 yards
Against a player on a roll like Walker is, bogeys are especially penalizing in Match Play. Grace, however, bogeys the par-5 eighth to fall four back before the turn. This could get ugly if Walker continues to play under par.
THRU EIGHT HOLES: Walker leads, 4 up
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Hole No. 5: Par 4, 536 yards
A second straight birdie gives Walker a three-hole lead that, if it wasn’t so early, could be called “commanding.”
THRU FIVE HOLES: Walker leads, 3 up
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Hole No. 4: Par 4, 393 yards
The first birdie of the match is Jimmy Walker’s – and gives him a quick two-hole margin as it comes on the heels of a Branden Grace bogey at the par-3 third hole. The only three-time winner of the PGA Tour season appears to still be in top form, at least in the early going.
THRU FOUR HOLES: Walker leads, 2 up
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Hole No. 1: Par 4, 460 yards
Walker and Grace match one another’s pars to start their round All Square. Walker is 131 spots ahead of Grace in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings, which favor recent performances more heavily than OWGR – but anything can happen in Match Play.
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- OWGR Rank: 24
- Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 35
- 2014 PGA Tour results: Won, Frys.com Open; T-12, Shriners Hospitals for Children Open; 6th, CIMB Classic; T-46, WGC-HSBC Champions; T-21, Hyundai TOC; Won, Sony Open; MC, Farmers Insurance Open; Won, AT&T Pebble Beach; T-20, Northern Trust
- Match Play results (since 2009): None
- Comments: Would you bet against him right now? Might not win it all, but sure wouldn’t be a bad pick.
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- OWGR Rank: 47
- Golfweek/Sagarin Rank: 166
- 2014 PGA Tour results: T-39, HSBC Champions
- Match Play results (since 2009): T-33 (2013)
- Comments: The South African got his first taste of Match Play last year before falling in the first round.
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Match Play preview coverage
The Golf Club at Dove Mountain is certainly fun to watch from home. And with match play, just about anything can happen, especially on this dramatic, rugged Jack Nicklaus-designed course in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountain Range just north of Tucson, Ariz. See photos and a strategic description of all 18 holes.
Henrik Stenson will enter this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship as the top seed, a year after his won the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai. Meanwhile, last year’s champ Matt Kuchar is coming off his first missed cut in nearly 18 months as 61 of the top 67 players in the world will play at Dove Mountain. Here’s a look at each player in the field.
Bubba Golf is back in vogue. Bomb it, find it, wedge it, putt it. That has worked so well lately that Bubba Watson finds himself high on the current Hot Golfer List, having won (Northern Trust Open on Sunday) and finished second (Waste Management Phoenix Open) in his last two PGA Tour starts. Hence, Watson comes to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship as a scary draw, if there is such a thing in the unpredictable culture of 18-hole match play.
The field is stacked and this is truly the “anything-can-happen” tournament of the year, as match play seems to even the playing field in golf. With Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott taking the WGC-Accenture Match Play off, a bit of intrigue might be lost, but the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter should provide some drama worth watching.
Rory McIlroy tops the list of odds to win this week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, with Dustin Johnson and Jason Day not far behind. McIlroy is listed at 12/1 to win the tournament, with Johnson and Day at 15/1.
Ian Poulter will have a little bit of experience on his side Wednesday, with another early-morning tee time in the this World Golf Championship. Although afternoon temperatures are predicted to be in the 80s, the early-morning groups will probably start out in sub-50 weather, so if there is cold anywhere, Poulter’s match against Rickie Fowler will have it. And it’s an intriguing match right out of the gates, as Poulter clearly has a fondness for this championship.