Notes: Short-hitter or not, Wilson wins again
MARANA, Ariz. – Nearly every electronic scoreboard flashed numbers and bits of information that told fans a story that might have been deemed cute or insightful. To Mark Wilson, though, it’s an old story and one that he pays very little attention to.
After all, at every step of the way – junior golf to amateur golf to collegiate golf to pro golf – Wilson has been considered a short hitter.
So as Wilson progressed through his third-round game with Dustin Johnson at the Accenture Match Play Championship, the numbers-crunchers who feed minutia to the electronic scoreboard let everyone know what he was up against: Johnson ranks seventh in driving distance, Wilson 159th. Johnson averages 306 yards per drive, Wilson 280.
And, yes, the questions in the media center also centered around the disparity between the length Johnson hits it and Wilson hits it. But because he hears it all the time, Wilson felt a point had to be clarified. Sure, Johnson is long – very long – but in this day and age, Wilson says there are two categories out on the PGA Tour: Those who bomb it and those who hit it long.
“I mean, I can get it out there 290, so I don’t consider that short,” he said.
Now given that Wilson had just dispatched Johnson, 4 and 3, and ousted the heralded bomber for the second year in a row at this Accenture Match Play Championship, perhaps this overpowering-length business should be considered overrated. Instead, give credit to Wilson, who has swept past Bo Van Pelt, Robert Rock and Johnson to get a quarterfinal match with Peter Hanson.
Oh, and for the record, “Peter Hanson hits it a ton, and he’s two clubs longer than me too,” Wilson said.
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WITH EIGHT YOU GET LOW RANKINGS: While there are Nos. 2 and 3 in the world – Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, respectively – still alive, there are more players outside the top 30 than inside the top 20. Matt Kuchar, No. 14, is also alive, but Hanson (35th), Martin Laird (40th), Wilson (42nd), and Sang-moon Bae (44th) are still on the tee sheet, too. Rounding out the quarterfinals is Hunter Mahan (22nd).
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LONELY CLUB: There are just three Americans left in the field (Kuchar, Mahan and Wilson), but you don’t have to look too far to find when it’s been worse. In 2010 right here at Dove Mountain, only Stewart Cink carried a red, white and blue flag into the quarterfinals.
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EXPLAINING THAT GAP: There will be two quarterfinal matches Saturday, starting at 10:05 and 10:20 local time, then a gap of 1 hour 45 minutes before the other two games get under way. Strange, but the explanation, no surprise, revolves around television. The desire is to have two matches for Golf Channel (Peter Hanson vs. Mark Wilson; Matt Kuchar vs. Hunter Mahan) and two for NBC (Rory McIlroy vs. Sang-moon Bae; Lee Westwood vs. Martin Laird.)
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CLOSING NUMBERS: Bae not only is the most surprising name left, but he could be considered the one who has escaped the most danger. Of the 51 holes he has played, the South Korean has trailed for nine of them, and he’s faced the biggest deficit of anyone still around – he was 2 down through six in Round 2 against Charl Schwartzel.
Mahan is the only one left who also has been 2 down, but that was back on Wednesday through five holes against Zach Johnson.
Neither Westwood, in 49 holes, nor Hanson, in 46, has ever trailed, but the more impressive edge must be given to the Englishman. Westwood was all square after one hole in Round 1, but he has had the lead for the next 48 holes. Hanson has led for 43 of his 46 holes.
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BEGINNER’S LUCK?: Maybe something was lost in translation, but the surprise entrant in the quarterfinals, Bae, told reporters this was his first week playing match play.
A year ago, Bae, 25, was en route to winning the money list on the Japan PGA Tour and he had played in just four PGA Tour tournaments before finishing joint eighth at Q-School to earn his card. One could say he’s off to a decent rookie year, because Bae has made the cut in each of his first four starts, and he’s guaranteed at least $270,000 for advancing to the final eight.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering how he’s enjoying the riches of PGA Tour life, he confirmed that he’s happy.
“PGA is a blast,” he said, through an interpreter. “I love it.”