Top seeds, defending champion lose in Match Play
MARANA, Ariz. – The remaining top four seeds went down, and so did the defending champion.
The often-unpredictable Match Play Championship more than lived up to its reputation in a topsy-turvy second round at Dove Mountain on Thursday. An event already minus Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sent several of the world’s best to an early exit.
Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy – seeded second through fifth entering the tournament – were among the day’s losers. Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy was beaten by Colombian Camilo Villegas 2 and 1. Top-seeded Steve Stricker lost in Wednesday’s first round.
The highest remaining seed is England’s Paul Casey at No. 6. Casey, the runner-up a year ago who won the World Match Play Championship in England in 2006, swiftly dispatched Canadian Mike Weir, 5 and 4.
The field was narrowed to 16 for Thursday’s third round on the sun-drenched desert course near Tucson. Woods, obviously, skipped the event because of his personal woes, and Mickelson begged off to go on vacation with his family.
If that didn’t take enough luster off the event, news that Woods would make his first public statement on his sex scandal Friday certainly did.
But despite the lower profile, the Match Play is proving to be a wide-open competition.
“It’s definitely different than the NCAA (basketball) tournament, where there’s a pretty big discrepancy between one and 16,” said American Nick Watney, who beat Westwood 2 and 1. “But like you saw, Steve Stricker won two weeks ago and lost yesterday. So it’s a crazy format.”
Westwood, another Englishman, came back from two down to pull even after 13 holes. Watney, in his first Match Play appearance, regrouped to win the par-4 14th and 15th with birdies to win 2 and 1.
Furyk and Kaymer both lost to South Africans.
A 13-time winner on the PGA Tour, Furyk was beaten by Charl Schwartzel 3 and 2. The German Kaymer also went down 3 and 2, to Tim Clark. McIlroy’s match perhaps was the best of the day, with England’s Oliver Wilson winning on the 20th hole.
After becoming the second No. 64 seed in the event’s 12-year history to beat a No. 1 seed with his win over Stricker, England’s Ross McGowan lost to Ryo Ishikawa of Japan 1-up.
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