Match Play tee times: McIlroy, Stenson top bracket
MARANA, Ariz. – As defending champion of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in 2011, Ian Poulter was understandably quite proud of his reputation in this format and very much looking forward to the Dove Mountain challenge.
Then came his first-round draw – not so much the opponent (Stewart Cink) as the time (early). He expressed displeasure that a defending champion would get such an early tee time, when the mountain weather felt more conducive to slalom skiing. (Poulter was not aware of a format that officials followed that is the same every year.) That Poulter went on to lose in 19 holes to Cink hardly made his mood any better, but at least he’ll have a little bit of that experience on his side come Wednesday because he’s got another early-morning tee time in the this World Golf Championship.
To be exact, Poulter’s got the first tee time, going off at 7:25 a.m. local time against Rickie Fowler.
Now the forecast for this year’s competition at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., is at the other end of the spectrum from what we had a year ago (blizzard conditions) or in 2011 when Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer couldn’t start their final match on time because of snow. But even though 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-Fowler will have it.
It’s an intriguing match right out of the gates, for while Poulter clearly has a fondness for this championship (he’s 22-11 overall and has reached at least the semifinals three times in 10 tries, including last year), Fowler has barely been noticed at Dove Mountain. Save for a second-round win over Phil Mickelson in 2011, Fowler has struggled; he’s lost in Round 1 each of the last two years at Dove Mountain.
Given that 61 of the world’s top 64 players are in attendance, it goes without saying that there are a number of first-round matchups that will tickle your interest and you needn’t go much further beyond Poulter-Fowler to find another.
The seventh match out (8:25 a.m.) will feature Jordan Spieth vs. Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal. You’d be likely to call Larrazabal a youngster, except that he might feel like a grizzled veteran at the age of 30 and up against 20-year-old Spieth. If you’re thinking Spieth is the prohibitive favorite, take note that Larrazabal is only a few weeks removed from taking down mega-stars Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson to win in Abu Dhabi, his third European Tour conquest.
As for what other Wednesday games serve up interest, here’s one man’s take:
Steve Stricker vs. George Coetzee (8:05 a.m.): If only to see how Stricker handles the nearly five-month layoff since his last PGA Tour tournament.
Jason Day vs. Thorbjorn Olesen (9:25): Two young (26 and 24, respectively) and aggressive players with international flavor.
Matt Kuchar vs. Bernd Wiesberger (9:45): Rough re-entry into competition for Kuchar, who missed the cut in L.A., so it’s worth seeing how he handles a player with whom he’s totally unfamiliar with.
Graeme McDowell vs. Gary Woodland (11:25): Safe to say that McDowell will hit the first approach shot on most holes, which is a strategy that could work in his favor.
Luke Donald vs. Matteo Manassero (11:15): For those who love precision over power, brains over brawn.
Rory McIlroy vs. Boo Weekley (11:25): Hard to find a wider spectrum of personalities and playing styles than this one.
Lee Westwood vs. Harris English (11:35): Westwood should have his hands full with the fast-rising kid from Sea Island.
Henrik Stenson vs. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (12:05 p.m.): The Swede is the top-ranked player in the field, but the young Thai deserves great respect.
Justin Rose vs. Scott Piercy (12:25 p.m.): Biggest interest here is each man’s health; Rose (shoulder) worked off some rust in finishing T-45 in L.A., while Piercy (elbow) had a 76-83 weekend which makes you wonder.
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Full tee times for the Round of 64 at WGC-Accenture Match Play
Tee times for Wednesday’s first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. (all times EST):
9:25 a.m.: Ian Poulter, England, vs. Rickie Fowler, U.S.
9:35 a.m.: Jimmy Walker, U.S., vs. Branden Grace, South Africa.
9:45 a.m.: Bubba Watson, U.S., vs. Mikko Ilonen, Finland.
9:55 a.m.: Keegan Bradley, U.S., vs. Jonas Blixt, Sweden.
10:05 a.m.: Steve Stricker, U.S., vs. George Coetzee, South Africa.
10:15 a.m.: Graham DeLaet, Canada, vs. Patrick Reed, U.S.
10:25 a.m.: Jordan Spieth, U.S., vs. Pablo Larrazabal, Spain.
10:35 a.m.: Thomas Bjorn, Denmark, vs. Francesco Molinari, Italy.
10:45 a.m.: Sergio Garcia, Spain, vs. Marc Leishman, Australia.
10:55 a.m.: Bill Haas, U.S., vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez, Spain.
11:05 a.m.: Dustin Johnson, U.S., vs. Peter Hanson, Sweden.
11:15 a.m.: Victor Dubuisson, France, vs. Kevin Streelman, U.S.
11:25 a.m.: Jason Day, Australia, vs. Thorbjorn Olesen, Denmark.
11:35 a.m.: Jamie Donaldson, Wales, vs. Billy Horschel, U.S.
11:45 a.m.: Matt Kuchar, U.S., vs. Bernd Wiesberger, Austria.
11:55 a.m.: Ryan Moore, U.S., vs. Joost Luiten, Netherlands.
12:05 p.m.: Charl Schwartzel, South Africa, vs. Kevin Stadler, U.S.
12:15 p.m.: Jim Furyk, U.S., vs. Chris Kirk, U.S.
12:25 p.m.: Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland, vs. Gary Woodland, U.S.
12:35 p.m.: Hideki Matsuyama, Japan, vs. Martin Kaymer, Germany.
12:45 p.m.: Brandt Snedeker, U.S., vs. David Lynn, England.
12:55 p.m.: Webb Simpson, U.S., vs. Thongchai Jaidee, Thailand.
1:05 p.m.: Jason Dufner, U.S., vs. Scott Stallings, U.S.
1:15 p.m.: Luke Donald, England, vs. Matteo Manassero, Italy.
1:25 p.m.: Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland, vs. Boo Weekley, U.S.
1:35 p.m.: Lee Westwood, England, vs. Harris English, U.S.
1:45 p.m.: Zach Johnson, U.S., vs. Richard Sterne, South Africa.
1:55 p.m.: Hunter Mahan, U.S., vs. Gonzalo Fenz-Castano, Spain.
2:05 p.m.: Henrik Stenson, Sweden, vs. Kiradech Aphibanrat, Thailand.
2:15 p.m.: Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa, vs. Nick Watney, U.S.
2:25 p.m.: Justin Rose, England, vs. Scott Piercy, U.S.
2:35 p.m.: Ernie, Els, South Africa, vs. Stephen Gallacher, Scotland.
– Associated Press contributed