February 22, 2012
Spaniard misses chance to knock off Tiger
By TIM McKAY, QMI Agency
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano said this week that Tiger Woods was beatable.
And he was.
Woods looked average on the opening day of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship but, despite almost going down three after three holes and struggling to keep pace with the Spaniard at times, managed to get into the second round with a 1-up victory. He will face Nick Watney on Thursday.
Fernandez-Castano had every opportunity to dispatch Woods, but some sloppy play of his own left the door open.
"Tiger's still got it," NBC's Nick Faldo said. "He's still got the factor ... the fear factor."
Woods' putter, again, failed him for most of the day, but it was on the 18th hole, with Fernandez-Castano missing a birdie putt, that he got up and down for par with a great chip from a greenside bunker to end the match without extra holes.
In his post-match interview, NBC's Roger Maltbie asked Woods how many times out of 10 he thought he would make that up-and-down. Woods, whose killer instinct on the golf course may have been called into question with Wednesday's performance, still has the swagger when speaking with the media, apparently.
"All I needed was one time," he said.
THE DARK SIDE FOR LUKE
It has been some week for World No. 1 Luke Donald.
It started on a high Tuesday as the Englishman picked up his hardware for his dream 2011 season -- the Jack Nicklaus Trophy for PGA Tour player of the year, Arnold Palmer Award as PGA Tour money winner, Byron Nelson Award for low scoring average and the Mark McCormack Award for longest streak at No. 1 in the world.
It got a little worse when he became the first No. 1 seed booted from this Match Play Championship, beaten after a rather cruel drawing of 16th-seeded Ernie Els. Donald became just the third No. 1 to lose in the opening round as The Big Easy never trailed in a 5-and-4 victory.
And it could be much worse by the time the weekend is over, with both world No. 2 Rory McIlroy and No. 3 Lee Westwood having a chance at taking over the No. 1 spot.
A TEST FOR WEIR
With the spotlight clearly focused on the Match Play in Arizona, Mike Weir will undergo a good test this weekend in Mexico.
While the world's top players are going head to head, Weir will have a chance to see where he stacks up against a mostly second-tier field at the Mayakoba Golf Classic that boasts seven major champions (none recent), and just five players in the top 75 in the official world golf ranking.
It seems exactly what Weir needs as he continues his comeback from two years of elbow issues -- an event far away from the spotlight and a field that isn't quite as intimidating. The Mayakoba has a bit of a Champions Tour feel as well, with an average age of almost 37 and 50-somethings such as Greg Norman, Tom Lehman, Nick Price and 2007 champ Fred Funk in the field.
It's an event Weir likely would not play if he had his druthers, but in a year where he won't be able to choose his schedule as much -- see Northern Trust Open snub controversy -- he seems to be taking the right attitude.
"I'm excited about the chance to play the Mayakoba Golf Classic and in front of the fans in Mexico," Weir said on the tournament website. "I have some fond memories of playing in Mexico representing Canada in the World Cup. I'm looking forward to a great week in the Riviera Maya."
A missed cut would not be a good sign.
MATCH PLAY NOTES
Jason Day pulled victory from the jaws of defeat Wednesday, winning four consecutive holes, including an extra one, to beat Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello, who won on the European Tour two weeks ago in Dubai. "It was kind of a whirlwind on the last few holes, it was kind of nice," Day said. Day will face fellow Aussie John Senden Thursday ... Bubba Watson ousted fellow Golf Boys bandmate Ben Crane 3-and-2. The quartet's two other members also played, with Rickie Fowler losing to David Toms and Hunter Mahan beating Zach Johnson ... Jim Furyk chipped in for birdie at the 13th hole in his match against Dustin Johnson but, not to be outdone, Johnson chipped in for eagle to win the hole.