Top seeds fail in Arizona
Heavyweights Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose bowed out of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on Thursday.
Add these upsets to those from day one and you will find that there are no more top seeds among the final 16 players.
Harris English weathered a strong fight-back from McIlroy which saw them all square after 18 holes.
The Northern Irishman was two shots down after two penalty strokes on the eleventh, but fought back with three birdies to take the lead.
English sank a 19-footer on the 17th to tie it up, but the former world number one fell at the next hurdle, carding a double bogey after a wayward second shot on the extra hole.
Despite losing, McIlroy was happy with his performance.
“I’m very comfortable with my game,” said the 24-year-old.
“I don’t feel in any way disappointed leaving early, because I feel like my game is there. I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks.”
Former Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen had the better of Henrik Stenson right from the beginning as he holed an 18-foot eagle putt on the second. He never looked back from there, finally sinking a 20-foot birdie on the 15th for victory.
“I played pretty solid,” said the humble South African.
“I just kept it together. Just played solid and made nice putts on the back nine.”
Top English seed Justin Rose dropped out after a 20 hole battle with four time Major winner Ernie Els.
The big South African was behind on the 17th tee but some with solid golf he made it all square with one to play. The pair halved the 18th and Els made a nine-foot birdie putt to match Rose on the first extra hole.
Both players found bunkers but it was veteran Els thast landed his pitch to within three feet while Rose fumbled his shot.
“It was one of those once in a lifetime shots really,” said Els, who will turn 45 in October.
“I was in the downhill on the back of the bunker. I caught it a smidge thin and it came out perfectly. It was an impossible shot but obviously it was the right one at the time.”
Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell executed another escape in the desert. The Northern Irishmen was three down with three holes to play in round one, but rallied to defeat Gary Woodland.
McDowell found himself in a similar situation against Hideki Matsuyama, being two down with four to play. He then drew level with the Japanese star after a five-foot birdie on the 17th and then won by saving par from seven feet on the final hole.
“I’m really quite lucky to be standing here right now,” said the 2010 US Open champion.
“Why do it the easy way when the hard way will do? I got off to a slow start again. I tried to execute my game, not make any mistakes and he kind of played the same.”
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