5 Things: McDowell's magic; Spieth's birdie barrage
Friday, February 21, 2014
The final eight players are set for the WGC-Accenture Match Play, with plenty of big names making it through to the quarterfinals at Dove Mountain.
From yet another comeback by Graeme McDowell to Jordan Spieth's continued good play in match play to Bubba Watson's exit, here are 5 Things to know after Friday's round in Marana, Ariz.:
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1. OK, THIS IS GETTING RIDICULOUS: His three-day total for three games – 58 holes played, three holes led.
Repeat, three holes.
“I really don’t know what to say,” said Graeme McDowell. “I can scarcely believe what’s going on.”
And the three holes that he led? The last hole of each match, McDowell rallying for victory each day.
“I’m embarrassed is the wrong word. I’m not embarrassed, but I just feel like I’m robbing these guys.”
The latest entry into McDowell’s improbable week at this championship came against Hunter Mahan. who led this third-round match by two holes twice, the latest after the 16th hole. “I genuinely thought I was done,” said McDowell.
But he won 17 when Mahan made bogey, then McDowell’s magic struck at 18. His 192-yard approach set up a 6-foot birdie to tie.
Working overtime for the second time in three days, McDowell matched Mahan’s par at No. 1, then at the second extra hole, the par-4 ninth, he drove it poorly and had to lay up. Mahan two-putted from the fringe for his safe par and McDowell was left about a 20-footer to keep alive.
He made it.
“An outer body experience,” said McDowell.
Next hole, the par-4 10th, he made another one, this from 15 feet, and this birdie ended his day, just another impossible-to-believe McDowell moment and when he took his cap off to shake hands with Mahan, the emotions were overwhelming.
McDowell had come from 3 down with three to play to beat Gary Woodland Wednesday and he had come from 2 down through 14 to beat Hideki Matsuyama Friday.
Now this, against Mahan.
“I didn’t really knw what to say to him,” said McDowell, who will take on Victor Dubuisson in Saturday’s quarter-finals. “I said it was a great battle. I said everything but sorry. You know, I didn’t say sorry, but I felt sorry for him . . . for what had happened.”
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2. BEYOND HIS YEARS: Jordan Spieth is showcasing a part of his game that many in amateur golf already knew about – the kid can simply be killer in match play.
Spieth ran out to a 3-up advantage through 10 holes against defending champion Matt Kuchar on Friday behind seven birdies. He'd let Kuchar back in the match with a pair of sloppy bogeys on Nos. 11-12, but closed out the match with an eighth birdie, slamming home a 12-footer on No. 17 for a 2-up victory.
His next opponent? Ernie Els, who has a total of eight birdies over three matches and is 24 years his elder.
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3. LESS STRESSFUL: What a difference a day makes, at least for Jason Day.
A day after sweating out a 22-hole victory over the fiery Billy Horschel, Day was in complete command in a 3-and-1 victory over George Coetzee that never saw him trail. Day had five birdies in 17 holes on Friday, while only picking up three against Horschel.
Day also had a seesaw battle with Thorbjorn Olesen in the opening round, rallying for a 2-up victory on the back nine.
Day is looking for a second consecutive trip to the semifinals, but will need to clear Louis Oosthuizen to do it.
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4. LOUIS, LOOKING FINE: Speaking of Louis Oosthuizen, the South African took over in his match starting on No. 6 and ran off four birdies over his next eight holes in a 5-and-4 romp over Webb Simpson.
"I think Webb was 3 under through five holes. I was 2 under," Oosthuizen told PGATour.com. "Then you hit a few errant tee shots on 10 and 11, but from there I made quite a few birdies coming in. He put himself in a few tough spots off the tee, you know, to make bogeys and pars. And I just for some reason made a few putts and made a lot of birdies."
Oosthuizen advances to the quarterfinals for the first time, with his previous best finish a T-17.
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5. BYE-BYE, BUBBA: Bubba Watson seemed to be on a roll coming into Match Play, having won the Northern Trust Open last week and pulling away from both of his opening opponents this week.
So how did an even-par 72 from Victor Dubuisson beat him on Friday? Simple, Watson's putter got going too late in the Round of 16.
Watson had good looks at birdie on Nos. 8, 13 and 16, but didn't convert on any, allowing Dubuisson to play solid golf in advancing to play Graeme McDowell.
Watson did bury an 11-footer for birdie on No. 17 to extend the match, applying pressure on Dubuisson, who failed to put the match away by missing a 6-footer to match the birdie. But an errant approach shot on No. 18 allowed Dubuisson to calmly two-putt from 30 feet to win the match.
"We didn't play very well today, both of us," Dubuisson said. "But I managed to save some great pars to win and to stay ahead of the match."