WGC Match Play: The snow melts, but the big stars disappear
By Alex Myers
Here's a look at what transpired on Thursday at Dove Mountain and what we can look forward to on Friday:
Biggest loser of the day -- NBC:
With match play, there's always a danger the marquee names won't advance to the weekend, but to lose the two best players in the world in a span of five minutes was virtually unthinkable. But that's what happened as Rory McIlroy fell to Shane Lowry and Tiger Woods lost to Charles Howell III shortly after. At least Phil Mickelson is still around to boost TV ratings. Oh, never mind. . .
"I'm. So. Happy. For. You." (Photo by Getty Images)
__"__That's soooo match play" moment of the day -- Fredrik Jacobson and Ernie Els:
All squared on the 17th hole, each player faced a par putt of about three feet. After a few moments of sizing them up, both players agreed to a "good-good," conceding each other the putts and moving onto the final hole of regulation. It was a curious decision by Jacobson considering he ranks first on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting and Els had just missed a similar-length putt. No matter. Els three-jacked No. 18 to allow the Swede to move on.
Easiest day -- Bo Van Pelt: Off the green on the par-5 13th hole in three, BVP began his day by cozying his chip to gimme range. That would be all the golf he would play. When John Senden missed his par putt moments later, Van Pelt won 6 and 5. Now that's making quick work of someone.
Shot of the day -- Keegan Bradley:
Bradley knocked in his approach shot with a wedge for an eagle on the par-4 10th, landing the ball in the rough and spinning it down a slope and into the hole. OK, so we're not sure we heard him call "bank," but we'll give him credit anyway. Not that he cares. Bradley lost his match to Marcus Fraser.
Friday's best chance for an international incident -- Sergio Garcia vs. Matt Kuchar:
There isn't a lot of history between these two, but as we've seen at the Ryder Cup, a riled up Garcia has the capability to get under anyone's skin. Given their love of tennis, there's also a bit more potential for trash-talking over who has the faster serve.
Friday's best sneaky-good match -- Hunter Mahan vs. Richard Sterne: People in the U.S. might not know too much about Sterne, but the South African already has a win and a runner-up on the European Tour this season. Meanwhile, Mahan is the defending champ in this formula and a convincing win over Matteo Manassero in his opening match, along with four-straight top-16 finishes on the PGA Tour, have him poised to make another deep run in the desert.