Match Play preview: A look at Sunday's semifinals
MARANA, Ariz. – If you’re thinking that Ernie Els probably doesn’t even know the player against whom he’ll compete in Sunday morning’s semifinal of the Accenture Match Play Championship, think again.
He knows Victor Dubuisson.
But only because they’re both managed by IMG and share the same agent, Duncan Reid.
“So I’ve seen him around and met him in South Africa, at Sun City,” said Els.
But truth be told, that’s about it. The Big Easy concedes that Dubuisson is all new to him. “I haven’t played with him, but I’m looking forward to it. Another young guy.”
Dubuisson, 23, is certainly that, but in many ways, Els’ appearance in the semifinals at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain is every bit as surprising as the Frenchman’s. In 13 previous appearances at this World Golf Championship, Els had lost in the first round (six times) than he had made it past two rounds (twice). Before this week, Els had gone 6-5 in his matches at this desert golf course.
As for the semifinal match that will get the day going at 7:05 a.m. local time, Australia’s Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are quite familiar with one another. The 26-year-old Day and 25-year-old Fowler have been crossing paths since 2008 when the Aussie was a rookie on the PGA Tour and the American was getting some starts as a heralded amateur.
They each own one PGA Tour win – Day the 2010 HP Byron Nelson, Fowler the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship – and you wouldn’t get much of an argument if you suggested each has underachieved in some respects. Their talent is that massive.
The semifinal match will give each a chance to chip away at the void of what’s been expected of them, but one would have to think that Day is the favorite. After all, Day is now 12-3 in matches at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, and he seems very much in control of his game.
Then again, it’s match play and if Dubuisson and Els are surprises, you’d have to toss Fowler in there, too. His swing still being re-worked by Butch Harmon, Fowler has opened eyes this week with his length (it might be the desert air, but he sure looks like he’s moving it out there longer than before) and a great wedge game.
“I’m building confidence and definitely happy with where my game is,” said Fowler.
It will be the third time in the 16-year history of this championship that four different countries (America, Australia, South Africa, France) will be represented in the semifinals, but not since 2007 has it happened.
As for the numbers, here’s what the players will bring to the first tee Sunday morning:
• • •
Day vs. Fowler
- Seeds: Day, 8th. Fowler 53rd.
- World ranking: Day 11th. Fowler 56th.
- Record at Dove Mountain: Day 12-3. Fowler 6-3.
- Holes played: Day 74. Fowler 71.
- Holes led: Day 37. Fowler 19.
- Holes trailed: Day 19. Fowler 23.
- Day’s victims: Thorbjorn Olesen, Billy Horschel, George Coetzee, Louis Oosthuizen.
- Fowler’s victims: Ian Poulter, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk.
Dubuisson vs. Els
- Seeds: Dubuisson 27. Els 31.
- World ranking: Dubuisson 30. Els 34.
- Record at Dove Mountain: Dubuisson 3-0. Els 9-5.
- Holes played: Dubuisson 67. Els 73.
- Holes led: Dubuisson 53. Els 28.
- Holes trailed: Dubuisson 5. Els 19.
- Dubuisson’s victims: Kevin Streelman, Peter Hanson, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell.
- Els’ victims: Stephen Gallacher, Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, Jordan Spieth.