Skip to main content

February Madness


The World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play — the PGA Tour’s answer to NCAA March Madness — teed off Wednesday morning and die-hard golf fans from around the country have already seen their brackets busted thanks to a few unexpected upsets at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club’s Dove Mountain Course in Marana, Arizona.

In the Sam Snead Bracket, No. 16 seed Thomas Bjorn pulled a Peter O’Malley and sent No. 1 seed and three-time Match Play champ Tiger Woods packing after a 19-hole showdown.

Bjorn and O’Malley (2002) are the only two golfers to knock out Tiger in the first round of the WGC event he won in 2003, 2004 and 2008.

“I had the momentum going into the 19th hole and I blew it,” said Woods, who shanked his drive into the desert and needed four shots to get on the green before missing his first putt and conceding the match to Bjorn.

Woods’ meltdown was easily the biggest upset of the day, but Tiger wasn’t the only big name to fall to a Cinderella story in the first round of the tournament.

In the Bobby Jones Bracket, No. 2 seed Steve Stricker lost 2-and-1 to 17-year-old No. 15 seed Matteo Manassero; in the Ben Hogan Bracket, No. 3 seed Ian Poulter fell to No. 14 seed Stewart Cink in 19 holes; and in the Gary Player Bracket, No. 3 seed Jim Furyk fell to No. 14 seed Ryan Palmer, who won 2-up.

There was some chalk in play, however, as Ben Hogan Bracket No. 1 seed Phil Mickelson (6-and-5 over Brendan Jones), Gary Player No. 2 seed Rory McIlroy (4-and-2 over Jonathan Byrd) and Bobby Jones No. 3 seed Luke Donald (6-and-5 over Charley Hoffman) all cruised to easy first-round victories.

“I love playing here in Tucson, it’s a special place for my heart,” said Mickelson, an Arizona State grad who spent part of his childhood in Scottsdale and played his first PGA Tour event in Tucson.

“The key for me winning this match was driving it. I drove the ball well and kept it in play and didn’t give any holes away. My opponent is a heck of a player, but he hit two or three into the desert and ended up giving me a few holes, which ultimately was the difference. …

“I’m very pleased with how I’m striking the ball and chipping and putting and so forth.”

The WGC-Accenture Match Play will be televised on Golf Channel on Thursday and Friday, before NBC takes over the weekend coverage.