Note: Holmes prepares for Els match

J.B. Holmes lines up his putt on the third hole during the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.

J.B. Holmes lines up his putt on the third hole during the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.

MARANA, Ariz. – J.B. Holmes felt he needed to clear the air with the man he’ll play in Thursday’s second round of the Accenture World Match Play Championship.

“Man, I’m sorry about that,” he said to Ernie Els. “We waited and never saw anybody.”

Els, minutes after dispatching Jeff Overton on the 19th hole, smiled The Big Easy smile and laughed.

“No worries, man,” he said.

Holmes, playing in the fourth match against Camilo Villegas, had hit his second shot into the par-4 ninth green when Els was standing just off to the left. It didn’t come close to him, but Els and others were a bit stunned. In Holmes’ defense, however, Overton was involved in a long discussion about a drop and because he was out of view of Holmes and Villegas, it was presumed that the area was clear.

“We were safe,” Els said.

Whether Els is safe to advance through the second round remains to be seen, but he doesn’t expect it to be easy.

“This course,” he said in a reference to the Ritz Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, “fits J.B. to a tee.”

Holmes, who got into the field when Tim Clark withdrew, made eagle at the par-5 13th to go 3 up, then sent Villegas packing with birdies at the 15th and 16th.

It’s a much better start for Holmes than his only previous appearance in this tournament, in 2008 when he got whipped by Tiger Woods in Round 1. That’s why he wore a big smile, as compared to Els, who breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“I thought I was on form. I had done a lot of practicing (back home),” Els said. “But tournament golf is a different animal.”

Els was 3 down after three and made four bogeys in six holes to offer the day’s first stunning piece of news.

“I had him out of rhythm,” Overton said. “That’s what makes it so tough.”

He was referring to holes 7-11, five straight wins for Els, though only one came with a birdie. The others came courtesy of Overton’s putter.

“I just kept pulling it. I don’t know what was going on,” he said.

Though Overton battled back from 2 down through 11 to square the match with a 8-foot par putt at 18, he pulled his second shot into the desert at the par 4 first and lost the 19th hole. “Just trying to hit a big, sweeping hook into the middle of the green,” Overton said. “But I came over and overhooked it. It’s just a weird day after such a good start.”

• • •

Asked what the difference was between amateur golf and professional golf, Matteo Manassero blushed. “In amateur golf you don’t play Steve Stricker,” said the 17-year-old from Italy.

Well, in amateur golf you don’t set history by becoming the youngest to ever win a match in this World Golf Championship, either, so clearly Manassero is long gone from those ranks and firmly entrenched in the pro game. Two months shy of his 18th birthday, Manassero was 1 down at the turn, but played beautifully on the back to dispatch Stricker, 1 up.

“I achieved a victory against one of the best players in the world and a past champion of this event,” Manassero said. “I’m not expecting that much out of match play, because I’m not used to playing match play against such big players. So this is already very good for me.”

Manassero will play Charl Schwartzel, who beat Ryo Ishikawa on the 20th hole.

• • •

Each of the first three matches (Stewart Cink vs. Ian Poulter; Y.E. Yang vs. Alvaro Quiros; Els vs. Overton) went extra holes, even as matches were still getting under way. That meant that those at the back of the field saw their starting times pushed back.

Like Lee Westwood, the top seed who was in the 29th match.

“Well, I’ve had two lunches instead of one, that’s all,” Westwood said.

In all, eight of the matches went extra holes, Matt Kuchar and Anders Hansen going to deepest, with the American winning at the 22nd.

Among those who needed extra holes to win was last year’s runner-up, Paul Casey. Never more than 1 up, the Englishman bogeyed the 17th to fall all square, then won when Richard Green three-putted the 19th hole for bogey.

• • •

Geoff Ogilvy didn’t make a birdie until the ninth hole, at which time he went 3 up. Sort of explains how choppy Padraig Harrington played, eh? Harrington, in fact, didn’t make a birdie, shooting 3 over for 15 holes as he got beat in the first round for a third straight year.

“He’s an astonishing scorer,” Ogilvy said of the Irishman’s profound scrambling skills. “He’s got probably one of the most consistent short games out here and is a fantastic putter. So it was always going to be an awkward match.”

Ogilvy, who’ll meet Thomas Bjorn – a stunning winner over Tiger Woods – in Thursday’s second round, ran his record to 19-3 in this tournament and is seeking a third win.

“But obviously you can’t win the tournament without winning the first round,” the Aussie said.

• • •

Though nothing will ever match the shock value of 2002 when Tiger Woods, David Duval, and Phil Mickelson – Nos. 1, 2, 3 in the world at the time – lost in the first round, there were three top-10 players ousted Wednesday. No. 3 Woods was the highest ranked player to go, but so, too, did Nos. 8 (Stricker) and 10 (Jim Furyk).

Then again, Dustin Johnson and massive length getting pushed aside by Mark Wilson and his precision could be considered just that. Especially since Johnson, having started birdie-birdie, was 2 up through 15. But he bogeyed the par-3 16th, Wilson birdied the par-4 18th, then Johnson three-putted the par-4 first, the 19th hole, to pack his bags.

“I’m thrilled to not pack my suitcase yet,” Wilson said.

In all, eight of the world’s top 20 were defeated.

• • •

Three of the top four seeds advanced, including Phil Mickelson, who did so by virtue of his biggest first-round victory, 6 and 5 over Brendan Jones. In fact, Mickelson has won by a bigger margin only once in 10 previous trips to this championship – 7 and 6 over Ben Curtis in Round 2 in 2004. ... As if he didn’t have enough to worry about with the way opponent Ben Crane putts, Adam Scott slammed his left knee into a table and was hurting there. Crane won that match, 4 and 2. And Zach Johnson had a tender right foot that hobbled him in his battle with Justin Rose. ... Edoardo Molinari made seven birdies to get past Martin Laird, 3 and 2. ... Charley Hoffman made an eagle at the par 5 11th. That’s the good news. The bad? He was 7 down at the time, having played his first 10 holes in 6 over. Luke Donald closed him out at the 13th, as the Englishman has now advanced to the second round in all seven Accenture appearances. ... Hoffman was one of 12 players making their Accenture debuts. Of the 12, five won – Ryan Palmer (over Furyk), Rickie Fowler (over Peter Hanson), Bubba Watson (over Bill Haas), Jason Day (over Kim Kyung-tae), and Manassero. ... Furyk’s assessment of his 2-up loss to Palmer: “My short game was absolutely horrible. I had no business being in the match.” Furyk, though hitting 12 of 14 fairways, hit just eight greens and required 32 putts. ... Thirteen of the 25 Americans advanced to the second round, which is quite an improvement over a year ago when only eight made it into the second round. Of the 21 Europeans to tee it up, 13 of them won . ... For those who can’t let go of the Ryder Cup theme, 10 matches pitted Americans vs. Europeans. The Europeans went 6-4.

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