Tiger upstages McGowan triumph
Ross McGowan knocked out top seed Steve Stricker at the Accenture on Wednesday – but was upstaged by Tiger Woods.
Bottom-seed Ross McGowan shocked the golfing world on Wednesday when he knocked out top seed Steve Stricker at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but he was nevertheless upstaged by stay-away Tiger Woods, the man he replaced.
McGowan might have expected big headlines for putting out Stricker with a birdie putt of nearly 30 feet on the first extra hole at Dove Mountain.
It was one of the best performances of the 27-year-old’s career, but it came on the day that Woods announced he will finally break his silence on Friday.
Nothing that happened in Tucson was going to top that as a story in the eyes of most newspapers and it will be the same, of course, when Woods reads a statement which will include a public apology and probably a date for his return to the game.
McGowan, though, merely has thoughts for this event and in Thursday’s second round he will take on Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa.
“I would say I fancy my chances – and I could go all the way,” he said.
“I had a shaky start, but then played really nicely and it was quite exciting when that one dropped on 19.”
Runner-up to Lee Westwood at the Dubai World Championship in November, the former English amateur champion is only the second bottom seed to beat the top seed at the Match Play. Eight years ago Woods lost to Australian Peter O’Malley.
Stricker won on the US Tour only two weeks ago and with it went to world number two ahead of Phil Mickelson, whose absence also allowed McGowan into the field.
Stricker commented: “History is showing in this event. It can happen to anybody and that’s just the nature of it.
“It’s kind of scary because you don’t know what you’re going to run into. He started putted it really good coming in and scared the hole a bunch of times.”
With Stricker out, Westwood has a chance to take the world number two spot for the first time in his life this weekend.
Last season’s European number one would have to lift the title for that, but he made a good start with a 3&1 win over fellow Englishman Chris Wood.
Next up was American Nick Watney and Westwood needed no reminding that he has never reached the third round before.
“I’m feeling good. I’ve lost a bit a weight and getting a lot stronger – and this is the ideal week to test it all out,” he said.
“I have a little bit of a problem in the match play events because 18 holes is just a short period of time and you really have to be fast off the mark.
“You’ve got to understand in your own mind that you’re going to have close matches.”
After three all-European clashes on the first day – Oliver Wilson, Luke Donald and Westwood beat Miguel Angel Jimenez, Graeme McDowell and Wood respectively – there are two more on Thursday.
Wilson will take on 20-year-old Rory McIlroy, who came from four down to defeat American Kevin Na on the last, while in the same quarter of the draw Sergio Garcia will face Dane Anders Hansen.
McIlroy stated: “I definitely didn’t make it easy for myself. I got off to a very slow start.
“I think I hung in well, but was pretty fortunate to get through and I’ll need to play better if I want to progress into the latter stages.”
Ian Poulter recovered a two-hole deficit to beat ex-Open champion Justin Leonard at the 19th and set up a duel with Australian Adam Scott.
Donald, runner-up to Stricker a fortnight ago, meets Australian Robert Allenby and Paul Casey, last year’s losing finalist, is hoping Mike Weir won’t reproduce the form he showed against Alvaro Quiros.
Weir had nine birdies in the first 10 holes and won 8&6, while Casey overcame the other Canadian in the field, Stephen Ames, 5&4.
Padraig Harrington, Ross Fisher and Simon Dyson all lost, but the other Europeans still alive are Robert Karlsson and Martin Kaymer.
Former winner Henrik Stenson was forced out after one hole due to a bout of flu-like symptoms.
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