The dream may die hard for Italian teenager Matteo Manassero – he’s 4 down to Luke Donald through the first nine holes of their match. Manassero, though, isn’t the only one in trouble. Ben Crane is also 4 down in his match with Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Arguably the biggest upset brewing, however, is Bubba Watson, playing in this event for the first time in his career, leading two-time winner Geoff Ogilvy 4 up through the first 12 holes of their match.
Watson won the opening hole with a par and hasn’t looked back, leading the entire day. He added birdies on Nos. 2 and 3. Ogilvy eventually cut into the lead with a birdie of his own on No. 5, but Watson has won each of the first three holes on the back nine.
In other matches, Hunter Mahan is leading the lone No. 1 seed left, Martin Kaymer, 1 up through nine, while J.B. Holmes is all square with Jason Day through 11 holes.
Should Holmes and Watson both win, that would set up a bomber’s paradise match in the quarterfinals.
Elsewhere, Graeme McDowell has rallied to all square with Y.E. Yang, while Ryan Moore has battled back to all square with Nick Watney. Matt Kuchar leads Rickie Fowler 2 up through 14 holes.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Had the Accenture Match Play bracket held true to form, then Miguel Angel Jimenez would've faced Jim Furyk in the second round and Rory McIlroy in the third round.
But Furyk was beaten by Ryan Palmer on Wednesday and McIlroy was eliminated by Ben Crane on Thursday.
So that means Jimenez has beaten the 42nd overall seed (Japan's Yuta Ikeda) in the first round and the 55th overall seed in the second round (Palmer) and now takes on the 39th overall seed (Crane) in today's third round match.
Crane has advanced to the third round for the second consecutive year and his Match Play record in four appearances (6-3) is not shabby. But he knows he doesn't exactly strike fear in the hearts of anyone who faces him in this event.
Asked after his second-round 8 and 7 upset of McIlroy if he thinks he's underrated as a Match Play player, Crane replied:
"I think I'm just under the radar, period. Underrated as a Match Play player? I've never really advanced, I think, past the Sweet 16. So I don't think that anyone is going, 'Wow, Ben Crane is really coming through this bracket. Look out! Gosh, sorry you've got to play Ben Crane. Boy, tough draw there.'
"So, anyway, I think that answers your question."
Should Crane win today’s match, though, maybe he’ll start gaining a little more respect.
MARANA, Ariz. -- No matter if they watched on TV, followed the match live on the Internet or read about it when they picked up their newspaper on Friday morning, Ben Crane knew people were going to be surprised.
After all, he just annihilated the No. 7 player in the world, Rory McIlroy, by an 8-and-7 margin in the second round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. It's the most lopsided defeat this week at Dove Mountain and second only to Tiger Woods' 9-and-8 drubbing of Stephen Ames in 2006.
"I'm just as shocked as anybody else," Crane admitted. "I figured 2 and 1 would be unbelievable. Or 1 up."
Thursday, though, was a complete shellacking. Crane struck early, winning No. 1 with a par, and the "hole opened up from there," he said. Crane made five birdies in his first nine holes and was leading 6 up at the turn. He won the 10th with a par and the match on No. 11 when McIlroy drove into the desert, took a drop and eventually conceded the hole.
"I just played really well today, obviously," Crane said. "... (I) just got going early and felt very comfortable, and Rory didn't have his best day and just kind of things were all going in my favor."
The matches won't get any easier now that Crane has reached the third round for the second straight year. He'll play his second consecutive European Ryder Cupper in Miguel Angel Jimenez, who beat Ryan Palmer 4 and 2 in the second round.
At least Crane will have a little extra time to savor the victory, though, after making such short work of the Northern Irishman.
"My wife and I were like, wow, I'm playing one of the most underrated players in the world today," Crane said. "No one would disagree with that. Rory's one of the best players in the world and I knew it coming (into the match). But that's the way it's going to be all the way in."
At the same time, though, Crane may be growing some match play chops of his own. Ranked No. 38 in the world, the three-time PGA TOUR winner is playing in his fourth Accenture Match Play Championship and owns a 6-3 record overall.
He knows, though, that the mention of his name doesn't exactly invoke fear in his opponent -- yet.
"I think I'm just under the radar, period," Crane said. "Underrated as a match play player? I've never really advanced, I think, past the Sweet 16. So I don't think that anyone is going, wow, Ben Crane is really coming through this bracket -- look out."
Crane paused, playfully, for emphasis before continuing.
"Gosh, sorry you've got to play Ben Crane," he said, grinning. "Boy, tough draw there. So, anyway, I think that answers your question."
Truth be told, though, the steady Crane can wear an opponent down. He hits fairways and greens -- ranking 26th and seventh in those categories on TOUR, respectively -- and he stands 39th in putting. He doesn't make many mistakes, either.
"I've putted well the first two days," Crane acknowledged. "Certainly if you're putting well (it helps). When a guy's putting really well against me, it's hard to win a hole. You're going to have to make birdies to do it because for the most part, the guy who's putting really well is going to make that 6-footer for par."
Crane had an interesting route to the third round a year ago when Henrik Stenson, battling the flu, played one hole and conceded their first-round match. This year his opening opponent, Adam Scott, had a knee injury and at one point wasn't sure he'd be able to play either.
So Crane has played 27 holes in his first two matches this week -- and he has yet to fall behind. He won the first hole on Wednesday with a birdie and in the second round with a par. He's looking forward to testing himself again.
"I love match play," Crane said. "I think we all do. I think we all love this tournament. It seems like each shot is a little more important in some ways. So we've got to be ready come the first tee, first day.” – Helen Ross
So much for Paul Casey’s run in this event. Jason Day defeated Casey, 4 and 2, meaning that for the first time since 2008, Casey won’t be in the finals. Last year, he lost to Ian Poulter in the championship match and the year before it was his Scottsdale neighbor Geoff Ogilvy who beat him in the last match.
Meanwhile, Bubba Watson is adding to the parade of blowouts with a 5-up lead on Mark Wilson through 12 holes. Watson has yet to trail in either of his two matches this week, leading for all 30 holes he’s played.
Likewise, Miguel Angel Jimenez is 3 up on Ryan Palmer through 14 holes. Matt Kuchar is also closing in on a win, leading Bo Van Pelt 2 up with three holes to play.
Jason Gore birdied his final hole on Sunday to finish off a round of 73 and make the cut at the 110th U.S. Open.
The only thing cooler would have been if that birdie had come on the 18th hole rather than the ninth. The affable man from Southern California and his wife Megan were married several years ago in a ceremony on Pebble Beach’s signature hole.
Gore was one of the lucky 83 who survived the cut which came at 7 over. A total of 25 players were tied on the magic number which is 10 strokes off the pace being set by Graeme McDowell.
Y.E. Yang was among those who weren’t so lucky. He was 1 over for the tournament through 27 holes but made five bogeys, two triple bogeys and a double bogey on the way to a closing 49.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, who tied for second, 15 strokes behind Tiger Woods when he won the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, was also among those making an early exit. Former Masters champ Trevor Immelman also fell one shot shy, as did the 2006 U.S. Open champ Geoff Ogilvy and Adam Scott, who still improved by eight and four shots, respectively, in the second round.
Rory McIlroy, who won his first PGA TOUR event last month at the Quail Hollow Championship, didn’t give himself a shot – shooting 10 over. Ben Crane, who won in San Diego earlier this year and had finished 12th or better in his last four starts, also missed the cut.
Champions Tour vets Tom Lehman and David Frost were among the other early departures. Lehman had beaten Frost and Fred Couples in the Senior PGA Championship two weeks ago. – Helen Ross