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Stricker’s top seed doesn’t get a chance to bloom in Match Play Championship

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Associated Press
February 18, 2010
— Steve Stricker took over for Tiger Woods as the No. 1 seed at the Match Play Championship, and then did something only Woods had achieved in the 12-year history of the event.

He lost in the opening round.


“History is showing in this event,” Stricker said. “It can happen to anybody.”


Ross McGowan of England, who only got into the 64-man field because Woods isn’t playing, rolled in a 30-foot par putt on the 19th hole to become only the second No. 64 seed to win a match. The other was in 2002, when Peter O’Malley beat Woods in the first round.


Stricker was coming off a victory two weeks ago at Riviera, although recent form has no bearing over 18 holes of match play. Three days after he won at Pebble Beach, Dustin Johnson lost the first four holes and his match to Camilo Villegas.


Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy didn’t work up much of a sweat. He built an early lead and then poured it on against Alexander Noren of Sweden, winning 7 and 5. The most peculiar aspect was that none of the holes were halved.


“You can’t win the tournament if you don’t win the first round,” Ogilvy said.


Stricker found that out the hard way.


Stricker was given a second chance when McGowan failed to make a 15-foot birdie putt. And he appeared to be in good shape on the first extra hole when the burly Englishman missed the green well to the right. Stricker posed over his approach, only for it to plug in the face of the bunker.


He did well to blast out to 15 feet, but then McGowan rolled in his long putt for an unlikely par.


“I could go all the way,” McGowan said.


Not so for Stricker and 31 others. They can only go home.


The other top four seeds made it into the second round. Lee Westwood controlled his match against fellow Englishman Chris Wood, Jim Furyk went 17 holes before beating Ryder Cup teammate Scott Verplank, and Martin Kaymer of Germany beat Chad Campbell, the first time Campbell has failed to make it out of the first round.


Ryo Ishikawa made a sensational debut at this World Golf Championship.


The 18-year-old from Japan won the last three holes for a 2-up victory over Michael Sim of Australia in a match of rising stars. The signature moment came at the 17th, when Ishikawa hit from a fairway bunker to inside 2 feet for birdie.


Ishikawa advanced to the second round to face McGowan, who only learned he was coming to Arizona five days ago.


“I knew I had a good chance at the beginning of the day,” McGowan said. “It is nice to win and get through for tomorrow. It was quite exciting when that one dropped on 19.”


It was devastating for so many others.


Padraig Harrington, the No. 8 seed, couldn’t make a putt and lost to Jeev Milkha Singh of India, who won his first match in three trips to Arizona. Henrik Stenson, who won this event in 2007 and was the No. 7 seed, didn’t even get past the first hole. He conceded his match to Ben Crane because of flu-like symptoms.


The longest matched belonged to Zach Johnson, who made a 3-foot par putt on the 21st hole to beat Francesco Molinari of Italy. His brother didn’t make it, either. Even though Edoardo Molinari built a 4-up lead early on Stewart Cink, the British Open champion played what he called the best nine holes of his career for a 2-up victory.


The shortest day of work belonged fittingly to Mike Weir of Canada, who faced Alvaro Quiros of Spain, one of the biggest hitters in golf. Quiros didn’t stand a chance – not many would have – against Weir’s short stick. The Canadian opened with five straight birdies and made nine birdies in 12 holes for an 8-and-6 victory.


Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy also didn’t work up much of a sweat. He built an early lead and then poured it on against Alexander Noren of Sweden, winning 7 and 5. The most peculiar aspect was that none of the holes were halved. They traded the first six holes before Ogilvy took the lead for good at No. 7, then won the next six holes.


“An odd match,” Ogilvy said.


It wasn’t anything like last year, when Ogilvy had to go overtime in his first two matches to avoid elimination. Ogilvy prefers a tough match early to prepare him for the week, although ultimately, only one thing matters.


“You can’t win the tournament if you don’t win the first round,” he said.


Stricker found that out the hard way.



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