Feb 21, 2014

    Upsets galore at WGC Match Play


    UNPREDICTABILITY was again a recurring theme at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship as former champions Ian Poulter and Luke Donald of England and American Zach Johnson were eliminated in the first round.

    While American Jimmy Walker maintained his red-hot form this season with a commanding 5&4 win over South Africa's Branden Grace, matchplay expert and 2010 winner Poulter was upset 2&1 by American Rickie Fowler in the 64-player event at Dove Mountain on Wednesday.

    Donald, who clinched the 2011 title, was hammered 5&4 by Italy's Matteo Manassero. World No. 6 Johnson, the tournament's third seed who is known for his gritty play, was stunned 5&4 by South Africa's Richard Sterne.

    Long-hitting Dustin Johnson, who has triumphed once and been a runner-up twice in just four starts on the 2013-14 PGA Tour, also made an unexpected early exit, going down 4&3 to Swede Peter Hanson.

    In total, there were nine upsets based on seedings from the 32 matches as the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) event once again lived up to its reputation for wild uncertainty and sharp swings in fortune.

    Fowler took advantage of a sub-par performance by Poulter, who is renowned for his steely matchplay prowess, especially in the Ryder Cup.

    "I knew it was going to be a tough match today, no matter if Poulter was not on his game," Fowler said. "He wasn't playing great, but I knew he was going to find a way to hang around.

    "Obviously, it feels good to get a win against him, against anyone."

    Poulter, who succumbed to his third first-round exit in four years at Dove Mountain, wrote on Twitter: "Disappointed with my performance today, do not deserve to move on. Congrats to @RickieFowlerPGA."

    The top two seeds advanced, Swedish world No. 3 Henrik Stenson coming from one down after 13 holes to edge Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat 2&1 and fifth-ranked Englishman Justin Rose battling past American Scott Piercy one up.

    "It was a tough match... I'm just happy to death I won," said Stenson, the 2007 Match Play champion who is top seed this week, with world No. 1 Tiger Woods and second-ranked Australian Adam Scott opting not to play in the elite WGC event.