Notes: Jimenez, 48, bounces another young star
Friday, February 24, 2012
MARANA, Ariz. – He is the oldest player in the Accenture Match Play Championship field and every time he shows up at the first tee, what a surprise: his opponent keeps getting younger.
So to that, allow Miguel Angel Jimenez to smoke a fine cigar and tip a glass of good wine before proceeding with the business at hand.
Which is contorting his 48-year-old body to stretch out before advancing through this competition.
Match Play Championship: Round 2
Check out images from the second round at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.
Match Play Championship: Round 1
Check out images from the first round at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.
He did it again in the final match of Thursday’s second round, beating 25-year-old Keegan Bradley, 2 up. Only one day earlier, Jimenez had dispatched his fellow Spaniard, 32-year-old Sergio Garcia, also by 2 up. And for two days and 34 holes in which he has led for 31 of them, Jimenez gets a third-round assignment against 22-year-old Rory McIlroy.
Think that if you wish, but take note: Jimenez a year ago advanced to the quarterfinals, and he’ll gladly take his chances against the kid from Northern Ireland.
“Tomorrow, we’ll see what happens,” Jimenez said. “That’s the only way.”
Simple philosophy for a man who simply continues to show a delightful side to the game. Even his disappointed opponent saw that.
“He’s tough to play, but a lot of credit to him,” Bradley said. “He hung in there. But it’s fun to watch him play because he doesn’t do anything really flashy. He’s just a great player.”
Jimenez, who has yet to trail, jumped all over Bradley and never let go. He won the opening hole with a par, then the par-5 second and par-3 third with birdies.
“On the first three holes, 3 up. It helps a lot,” Jimenez said.
We’re pretty sure that goes back to the days of Old Tom, but it still resonates. Certainly, Bradley will attest to the difficulty of climbing out of such a hole against a guy who finds fairways and greens with due diligence. Though he twice got it back to 1 down, Bradley never could quite shake Jimenez’s grip. Then at the par-4 17th, it ended.
First, Bradley took an aggressive line and tried to carry a bunker down the right side. “It’s 315 to carry, which out here is nothing,” Bradley said. “It’s like 290. But it was a yard short of being perfect.”
Bradley from 152 yards hit what he thought was a perfect shot out of the bunker, only it carried a yard too long, settled in thick rough, and after watching Jimenez get it up-and-down from left of the green, the reigning PGA champion couldn’t do likewise.
His bogey ended a hectic, but interesting week, as Bradley had gone from the excitement of a three-way playoff at Riviera, to being a pallbearer back in Massachusetts for his best friend’s father, to a dramatic 4-and-3 win over Geoff Ogilvy in the opening round.
Surely, Bradley had designs of going even further in this tournament, only a phenomenon of sorts tossed up a roadblock. That the roadblock wears a ponytail and is two years shy of his Champions Tour membership card only tosses a whole lot more flavor into the mix.
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NO BLUE MONSTER FOR HIM: One day after hammering the tournament’s top seed, Luke Donald, the up-and-down Ernie Els got slammed by the 33rd seed, Peter Hanson.
With the loss, Els will not move up in the world rankings to qualify for the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in two weeks.
Hanson, meanwhile, moves on to play Brandt Snedeker.
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RED, WHITE AND BLUE: Of the 16 remaining players, nearly half of them are Americans. In fact, two of Friday’s third-round matches will be all red, white and blue – Steve Stricker vs. Hunter Mahan, and Mark Wilson vs. Dustin Johnson.
Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney are the other Americans still alive.
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I BELIEVE WE’VE MET BEFORE: When Watney watched Tiger Woods rip a 5-foot birdie try wide at the 18th hole, he had a 1-up victory that took him a moment to digest. After all, Watney and everyone else expected Woods to bury the putt and square the match.
But when the shock had settled, it meant old news to Watney: He was on to meet Lee Westwood for a third straight year in this tournament. What he’s hoping for is the same old story, because in 2010 and 2011, Watney beat Westwood.
Last year, Westwood was No. 1 in the world when Watney beat him, 3 and 2, in Round 2. But it’s a new year, a new set of circumstances, and the man who had just taken down Woods wasn’t about to get ahead of himself. But he did know that Westwood had easily defeated Robert Karlsson, 3 and 2.
“Obviously, he’s in form. There may be a bit of a revenge factor; I’m not sure. I know it’s going to be a really difficult match,” Watney said.
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OH, AND IT MIGHT FEEL THE SAME FOR HIM, TOO: You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a more unheralded American left in the field. No matter how many PGA Tour events Mark Wilson wins, he’ll perhaps be forever overlooked, but he’s been quite remarkable over two days.
Buoyed by an eagle at the par-5 second and taking advantage of his opponent’s sloppy play, Wilson beat Robert Rock, 3 up, to set up a third-round match against Dustin Johnson.
Yeah, yeah, we know. Wilson will be three ZIP codes behind Johnson off the tee. But take note: In last year’s opening round here, Wilson won on the 19th hole.
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GOOD REASON THEIR SHOWS WERE STOPPED: After posting first-round wins, a number of feel-good stories were left, but they fell quietly and, for the most part, it’s easy to see why.
Rock, a day after beating Adam Scott, made just one birdie against four bogeys as he fell to Wilson.
Francesco Molinari somehow survived against Thomas Bjorn on Wednesday, but against Dustin Johnson he was no match. The Italian failed to make a birdie and was 4 down through seven in an eventual 7 and 6 whipping.
Kyle Stanley, so near-flawless in a win over K.J. Choi in Round 1, never got untracked against Snedeker. He fought back to square the match with a birdie at the par-5 13th, but consecutive bogeys at 15, 16 and 17 spelled doom.
• • •
HE LOST TO WHO? Sure, Charl Schwartzel was an unknown in 2009 when he stunned Sergio Garcia in the opening round here. But fast-forward three years and the South African is well known as the Masters winner and a guy who easily was considered a favorite to win this championship.
So it’s not hard to imagine why he stormed off the 18th green, too upset to stop and talk following a loss to Sang-moon Bae.
Ranked 11th in the world, Schwartzel stormed to a 2-up lead through six holes and still was 1 up through 10. Next thing he knew, Bae, the world’s No. 44, birdied Nos. 11, 13, 14, and 15, and shockingly protected the slight lead to win, 1 up.
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SHORT AND LONG OF IT: Stripped to a bottom-line story, David Toms’ 2-and-1 loss to Martin Kaymer can be brought to the 17th hole, where he missed a 4-foot birdie try, or the 18th, where he was wide with a 15-foot bid.
Had he made those putts, Toms may have beaten the German, but another factor contributed mightily.
“I just played two days in a row against guys who are hitting it 60 yards past me,” Toms said of the opening win over Rickie Fowler and the loss to Kaymer. “They’re reaching the par 5s with irons; there’s only one I can reach.”
• • •
THIS ‘N THAT: Five of those still alive also reached Round 3 a year ago – Watney, Kuchar, Jimenez, Mahan and Kaymer . . . . . Watney is the only one to reach the third round three years in a row . . . . . While three of the four No. 1 seeds are still alive (only Luke Donald is out), only seven of the top 16 players are still alive . . . . . Going by world rankings, No. 1 is gone (Donald), but Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 are still in it and nine of the top 25 are still on the tee sheet . . . . . Lowest-ranked player still in the hunt? Jimenez, at No. 52.