There’s no question that the biggest “upset” of the day was Ben Crane’s stunning 8 and 7 win over Rory McIlroy. But that’s what happens when one player plays “exceptional,” as Crane put it and the other doesn’t.
“Rory didn’t have his best stuff today,” Crane, who had seven birdies (two of which were conceded) in 11 holes, told Golf Channel after his victory. “I got up and down from some crazy spots. I played exceptional today -- it was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played.”
That wasn’t the only upset, though, as Y.E. Yang easily defeated Stewart Cink, a quarterfinalist and semifinalist the last two years, 4 and 3. Yang took the lead on the opening hole when Cink bogeyed and never looked back. Cink squared the match briefly on the third hole, but Yang took the lead again on No. 4 and never gave it up.
Speaking of leads, Graeme McDowell has trailed for all of two holes this week, and both times it’s been on No. 1. Other than that, he’s been near flawless. Thursday, McDowell had seven birdies in a 4 and 2 win over Ross Fisher.
Last but not least, the latest upset appears to be on the way courtesy of Jason Day, who lead’s last year’s runner-up, Paul Casey, 4 up with four to play.
MARANA, Ariz. -- What happens this weekend at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship could have a bearing on the next event in the global series.
The top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking as of Monday, along with the top 10 in the European Tour's Race to Dubai, will get to play in the Cadillac Championship at TPC Blue Monster in two weeks.
Obviously, many of the players competing at Dove Mountain have already qualified. But two who made it through the first round of match play came in needing a big week -- 17-year-old Italian phenom Matteo Manassero, who is No. 59 in the OWGR, and Stewart Cink, who is No. 57.
Cink just lost his second-round match 4 and 2 to Y.E. Yang so he can't help himself anymore. Manassero, though, is currently 2 up on Charl Schwartzel so he’s still on track to potentially play his way in.
The story of the day so far? Ben Crane leading Rory McIlroy 5 up through eight holes. Crane has made five birdies and McIlroy just one. McIlroy might be the bigger name, but Crane has a short game that can work well in this format. Crane has also played well so far this season with three finishes in the top 21, which included a tie for 18th in Phoenix, where he had three rounds in the 60s. McIlroy, meanwhile, is making his season debut in the U.S. this week. Barring something spectacular, it could be a short one for the Ulsterman.
Meanwhile, Y.E. Yang is also 5 up through 12 holes in his match with Stewart Cink, who has been ridiculously good in this event with a 22-11 record. That record is obviously about to take a dent.
The most notable match of the day? That’s Phil Mickelson vs. Rickie Fowler. The golf hasn’t been great with both players having some up and down holes but Fowler has the lead, 1 up through six holes.
In the opening round of the 2011 World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play Championship, Stewart Cink defeats Ian Poulter with a birdie on the 19th hole at Dove Mountain.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Stewart Cink knew better than to give up.
Sure, he was 2 down to Ian Poulter, who had won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. But he still had four holes remaining, and Cink had been there enough times to know that things could turn around in a heartbeat.
And that's exactly what happened. A brilliant approach set up a 2-footer for birdie at the 15th hole to cut into the lead before Poulter’s bogey at the 17th squared the match. Cink extended the match with a clutch 6-footer for par at No. 18 and won it with a 3-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole.
"We didn't have our best, but the putter saved me," Cink said. "Certainly it does you a lot of good to make putts under pressure like that when you need them. I'll remember that match for a while."
Cink's victory over the defending champ on the 19th hole was his 22nd win in 33 matches. The American has finished second, third and tied for fifth in the last three Accenture Match Play Championships.
"I do enjoy the finality of every shot like the do-or-die feel," Cink said. "It brings out a new level of focus. Also I think in the past I have been down in matches and come back and won and I have also been way up and had my matches taken to the last hole. That just sort of gives you the belief that you're never out of it even if you are couple of down.
"Ian was playing pretty well.He wasn't really giving away anything, but also he wasn't capitalizing on a lot of birdies. I just never felt like I was completely out of it. I just kept on plugging away. I was hoping some good things would happen and they did at the end."
Neither player was hitting on all cylinders early on -- in fact, they even halved a hole with double bogeys. But Poulter, who never trailed until the 19th hole, gained the upper hand when Cink bogeyed the seventh hole and the Englishman added a birdie at the 10th hole.
Poulter just never applied the knockout punch.
"It was cold and it was difficult to hit some of those pins first thing this morning," Poulter said. "The ball was releasing quite a lot, so the greens were still pretty firm. So it was pretty cagey, you know, for a while around that front nine.
"Then all of a sudden, I get my nose in front. I really should have shut the match out, to be honest with you. Every credit to him, holed putts at the right time. That's what you have to do in this format. You have to hole the putts. If you don't hole putts at the right time, then you are going to get beat.
"I had all my chances today and I feel that I left some out there. He putted me off the golf course today. That's what you have to do in this format. You have to hole putts at the right time. I did it last year and managed to go all the way. This year I missed my chances and therefore I have been punished."
Cink felt Wednesday's round a "Jekyll-and-Hyde" kind of performance. Once his putter "woke up" on the back nine, though, the veteran started thinking that he could turn things around in the match he knew was probably the toughest draw of the first round.
"When you're playing against a guy like Ian Poulter, you just don't feel like he's going to give you a lot," Cink explained. "He's played well. Especially, he seems to be getting stronger in his play, moving up in the World Rankings, and a lot of wins, a lot of good performances at Ryder Cups and obviously the defending champion here.
"So you know it's going to be a tough match. When I knew I was going to playing him first, I knew I was in for a heavyweight type of a contest out there. ... You just have to really force yourself into a mentality that losing is not an option."
Next up for Cink is Y.E. Yang, who won the 2009 PGA championship. Yang, who is seeded 11th in the Ben Hogan bracket, needed 20 holes to knock off Alvaro Quiros, who leads the European Tour's Race to Dubai.
"Tough match v Alvaro. Ironic that I beat him on the long hole. Tomorrow upset buddies me and Cink tee up. Right now working out." Yang tweeted Wednesday afternoon. – Helen Ross
MARANA, Ariz. – Defending champion Ian Poulter and Stewart Cink just headed to extra holes in their opening match.
Poulter led 2 up through14 holes, but Cink made a 2-footer for birdie to win No. 15 and squared the match with a par at No. 17. The American had to convert a 5-footer at the 18th to extend the match.
The match figured to be a close one. Cink had finished second, third and tied for fifth in his last three Accenture Match Play Championships while Poulter owned an 18-7 record and the title entering the first round match,
Graeme McDowell is getting close to finishing off his match with Heath Slocum. The reigning U.S. Open champ lost the first hole with a bogey, but promptly got that back with an eagle at No. 2 and has steadily built a 5-up advantage through 12 holes.
Alvaro Quiros, who leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings, just 21-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to send his match with Y.E. Yang into extra holes.
MARANA, Ariz. – Luke Donald is making short work of Charley Hoffman in the opening round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The Englishman has won three holes with birdies and another three with pars as Hoffman has made two bogeys and one double bogey. The two have just made the turn.
Another potential upset is brewing with Ryan Palmer leading Jim Furyk 2 up through nine holes. J.B. Holmes, who made the field on Tuesday when Tim Clark withdrew, is 2 up on Camilo Villegas after 10 holes.
Ernie Els has made quite a rally against Jeff Overton. The American won the first three holes with birdies but Els has just won four straight holes to take a 1 up lead at the 10th.
The match between Stewart Cink and defending champion Ian Poulter is living up to advance billing. Cink, who has a 21-11 record at the Accenture Match Play Championship, has just birdied the par-5 13th to get back to 1 down.
Italian teen sensation Matteo Manassero has drawn first blood against Steve Stricker, too. He birdied the fourth hole and is 1 up through five holes.
MARANA, Ariz. -- No one will have played in all 13 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championships when the opening matches get under way on Wednesday.
Three players have only missed one, though, and are playing in their 12th this week. The answer to that trivia question? Well, you’re right if you said Retief Goosen, Stewart Cink and Padraig Harrington.
Another nine players have played in 11 Accenture Match Play Championships. But only six of those players are competing this week – Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Robert Allenby, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood.
Among the players missing are some pretty interesting names in Vijay Singh, Stuart Appleby, Justin Leonard and David Toms, who won the 2005 Accenture Match Play Championship. The first three have played 11 times previously while Toms has made 10 starts.
Ian Poulter talks to the media at Dove Mountain about match play pressure.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
MARANA, Ariz. -- Ian Poulter hadn't pondered the possibility.
The colorful Englishman is defending his title at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship this week. As luck would have it, he's seeded third and has drawn Stewart Cink, who has a 21-11 record in the event, for his first round match at Dove Mountain.
One of the reporters suggested Poulter's could be the shortest title defense in history. Particularly since his match is the first one on Wednesday, kicking off at 7:25 a.m. MT.
"Could be, could be on an airplane by mid afternoon, I guess," Poulter said, eliciting laughter in the interview room. "Thanks for that. I hadn't really thought about that until you just mentioned it, but thanks, well done. I'd rather be having a nice salmon for a starter and filet steak for dinner tomorrow night."
As the defending champion, Poulter acknowledged he was a little surprised to be first off on Wednesday. He expects to have the mittens out -- "I'm a Floridian, come on," Poulter said -- but knows he and Cink are in the same boat.
The American finished second at the Accenture Match Play Championship in 2008, third the following year and fifth in ‘10 as Poulter won his first PGA TOUR title. Not to mention, Cink and Poulter have played against each other at three Ryder Cups, so they are very well-acquainted.
But even though he's well-aware of Cink's record in match play, Poulter knows he needs to look at the veteran as just another opponent.
"I don't think it makes any difference," Poulter said. "You're going to see some upsets tomorrow. You're also going to see some guys get through shooting 1 or 2 over par. You just have to beat your opponent. Whether it's (Lee) Westwood, whether it's someone further down the rank action, you just have to play your game and hopefully that's good enough."
Poulter talked at length last year of the work he and his caddy did mapping every inch of the course and outlining the contours of the greens. He had the same "lucky" yardage book in his back pocket on Tuesday.
"I'll be using it hopefully, all this week," Poulter said. "I like this golf course. It suits my eye."
So does the match play format, which is Poulter's favorite because of the mano-y-mano nature of the competition. Poulter is 8-3-0 at the Ryder Cup, including a 3-0 mark in Singles. He's got an 18-7 record at the Accenture Match Play Championship, as well.
How does Poulter explain his success? He says it's "pretty simple, to be honest" -- adding that he would do well to bring the same approach to his stroke play events.
"I just switch the on button on," Poulter said. "I'm easily distracted, to be honest, but I'm not easily distracted in match play. It goes back to my school report. It sums me up in a nutshell: Very easy easily distracted but when he concentrates, it works fantastic.
"So I just need to do that and learn how to do that every single week I play golf. But for some reason, I seem to be able to do it in match play. So hopefully that button gets switched on the first hit."
Poulter played 104 holes over five days on the way to victory last year -- which he estimated is roughly a third more than a standard stroke play event. The grind is physical as well as mental, but the boost he gained was significant.
"I just think, after playing over 100 events on the PGA TOUR to finally win one (was great),' Poulter said. "And the one to win, the WGC, makes it even more special. It's just a bit of extra confidence to know that, you've won a PGA TOUR event, and that being a WGC event, so it's a worldwide event, and you know what, it just gives me a bit more confidence to go in and play well in big tournaments."
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- We dodged another bullet with the weather on Saturday and with dry conditions finally on the horizon, Sunday should bring an exciting conclusion to the Northern Trust Open.
Aaron Baddeley will take a one-stroke lead into the final 18 holes after shooting 67 in the third round. Riviera Country Club's favorite son, the ageless Fred Couples, is tied for second at 9 under along with Kevin Na, who matched Baddeley’s 67 on Saturday.
The three will play together in Sunday's final pairing. Couples, a two-time champion at Riviera, is 51 years old while his two young opponents' ages combine to 56.
A total of 13 players stand within five strokes of the lead, though, so there is sure to be plenty of jockeying for position. Among them at 8 under is World Golf Hall of Famer Vijay Singh, who is looking to win for the first time in more than two years, and former British Open champ Stewart Cink who is among seven players tied at 5 under. – Helen Ross