MARANA, Ariz. – Bobby Jones completed his epic Grand Slam in this style. Long before turning pro, Tiger Woods poured the foundation for his legacy with six straight USGA titles in this format.
It offers so much that stroke play can’t return, so with that, here’s a curtain call to the 2014 edition of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. There were 64 players at the start of the week; there are probably that many observations and thoughts; and at the exit, here is one man’s top 20:
• That 23-hole championship between Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson can be considered a long-overdue reward for having endured the ’05 David Toms 6 and 5 drubbing of Chris DiMarco and the ’08 Tiger Woods 8 and 7 thrashing of Stewart Cink.
• If you want to gush about Dubuisson’s insane up-and-downs at the 19th and 20th holes – a cactus at the former, a bush at the latter – go ahead. But Day begs you not to forget the the Frenchman’s bunker shot at the 18th that saved par and forced extra holes. “People have no idea how good that was, because he had to ride the spine of that ridge to get near the hole,” he said.
• Day had putts to win the final on six of the last seven greens – the 16th (34 feet), 17th (19), 18th (9), 20th (20), 21st (9), and 23rd (3). Though he only made the one at the 23rd, his 8-footer at the 19th hole to save par enabled him to be in position to win later.
• Fickle stuff, I: Pablo Larrazabal shot 4 under Wednesday but went home, beaten by Jordan Spieth’s seven birdies.
• Fickle stuff, II: Ernie Els was 3 over Wednesday and got to stay, courtesy of Stephen Gallacher’s rough ride.
• How fortunate was Els? He bogeyed both back-nine par 5s and picked up a hole on the Scotsman.
• It’s never fun to make the trip and never even get a lead in your first-round match, which is what happened to these eight players: Ian Poulter, Branden Grace, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Kevin Streelman, Joost Luiten, Kevin Stadler, Bernd Wiesberger and Dustin Johnson.
• It’s even more painful to trail after every single hole of your first-round loss, which was the case for five more players: Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Francesco Molinari and Jamie Donaldson.
• If it was the last ride down from Dove Mountain, no tears there. But the Tucson area still deserves a tournament.
• Victor Dubuisson made the semifinals in his Accenture debut, but you only have to go back to Bubba Watson in 2011 to find the last time that happened.
• Oh, and let’s not forget Ross Fisher in 2009. He did similarly.
• Cylindropuntia fulgida. We’re not expecting you to spell it, just to avoid it. We’re talking jumping cholla. Dastardly stuff.
• As Day and Dubuisson went to the par-4 first for their 19th hole, Rickie Fowler peeked at a TV outside the locker room and said, “Think I could sell my birdie there?” Minutes earlier, Fowler had birdied that same hole to beat Els for third place.
• Best match that went unnoticed: Round 2, Matt Kuchar vs. Ryan Moore. Kuchar won two holes, Moore won one, they tied the other 15.
• Or was it this one: Again, Round 2, Harris English vs Rory McIlroy. Thoroughly entertaining and explosive. English won in 19 holes as it went back-and-forth. English took seven holes, McIlroy six, and there were 11 birdies.
• Another first-round casualty who deserved better: Marc Leishman. He was 3-under for 22 holes, made just one bogey, and lost to Sergio Garcia.
• When asked about the major championships that he’s had a chance to win, only to fall short, Day was honest: “In golf, you have to choke some, and hopefully you win more than you choke some.”
• Day said that watching Dubuisson ignited some interest in another golf event that he’s never paid much attention to. “It’s definitely going to be an interesting Ryder Cup,” said Day. “I haven’t really watched the Ryder Cup in the past, but I’m definitely going to watch it this time.”
• Wonder if the PGA Tour media staff had to go out and buy French flags to place at the table of the interview room? They haven’t needed them since 2005, when Thomas Levet made his lone start in this event.
• Think Jean Van de Velde wishes he had even a sliver of Dubuisson’s recovery talents?