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Accenture Match Play Championship

Thank you Tiger: Top seed Stricker ousted by Match Play newcomer

Ross McGowan of Ireland is only in tournament because Tiger Woods bowed out

Thank you Tiger Woods.

That's what Accenture Match Play Championship first-timer Ross McGowan had to be thinking Wednesday afternoon when he sank a par put on the 19th hole to oust top seed Steve Stricker from the tournament. McGowan is only in the tournament because Tiger Woods bowed out. He was ranked No. 66 going into the Match Play.

"Feels pretty good. I would say I fancied my chances," the Irishman said after his win. "I knew I had a good chance at the beginning of the day."

Stricker, the No. 2 golfer in the world, eerily presaged his loss in a news conference Tuesday, when he acknowledged the unpredictability of match play events.

"You never know when you are going to run into a hot player or a hot round," Stricker said. "I believe any player in this field can beat any other player."

Stricker was not the only surprise loser Wednesday.

A flu-plagued Henrik Stenson of Sweden, the 2007 winner who was ranked No. 9 coming to Tucson, conceded his match against Ben Crane (No. 60) after the first hole. And American Kenny Perry, who entered the tournament ranked No. 13, was sent packing 2&1 by Brian Gay, who was No. 56.

Gay seemed relieved after his win.

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"Match against Kenny, obviously everybody knows how good Kenny is. I haven't played match play since my amateur days … I tried as much as I could, just tried to play golf and not worry about what he's doing or how he's doing."

Japanese wunderkind Ryo Ishakawa, the youngest player in the field at 18, won his first Match Play round with a 2-up win over Michael Sim, an Australian who was also in his first Match Play. Ishakawa plays fellow first-time winner McGowan on Thursday.

Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy took his first opponent to task - issuing a scathing 7&5 trouncing to Alexander Noren of Sweden. Ogilvy - who extends his Match Play record to 18-2 with the win - admitted to a shaky start.

After trading holes through No. 6, Ogilvy got into a groove.

"It was an odd match to start," said Ogilvy, who also won the tournament in 2006 and plays Colombia's Camillo Villegas on Thursday.

"The last seven or eight holes I played, I didn't miss a beat."

The match was unusual from the start - the two golfers did not tie a single hole. The Aussie didn't lose a hole after No. 6.After the match, he commented on the recontoured Ritz-Carlton greens - all but one of which were changed this year to allow for more hole positions.

"Some of (the changes) are unnoticeable," Ogilvy said. "I think the spirit of the original greens is still there."
Robert Allenby, who beat Swede Peter Hanson 4&3 Wednesday, also barely noticed the changes.

"At least where they put the flags today, all the lumps seem to be in place," he said during a post-round news conference. "Now I didn't notice that there were any changes. It looked the same to me."

Allenby, whose Match Play record is now 9-9, plays Englishman Luke Donald on Thursday. Donald ousted Irishman Graeme McDowell 2&1.

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"I came here two years in a row now, and I have just completely run into a buzz saw," McDowell said after the match.
Other winners include Adam Scott 3&2 over Angel Cabrera; Oliver Wilson 3&2 over Miguel Jiminez; Paul Casey 5&4 over Stephen Ames; Mike Weir 8&6 over Alvaro Quiros.

Sixteen matches are set for Thursday and eight Friday. The final - which is 36 holes - is set for Sunday.

Match play differs significantly from traditional stroke play. Instead of playing for an overall score over four days, players compete head to head in 18-hole matches, with each hole counting one point.

For example, if a player leads by 7 with 6 holes left, the match is considered won with a score of 7 and 6.

The Accenture tournament replaced the PGA's Tucson Open in 2007.

It is one of four World Championships and the only match play event on the Tour. The purse for this year's tournament is $8.5 million, with $1.4 million going to the winner.

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B. Poole/TucsonSentinel.com

Peter Hanson of Sweden surveys a par putt on No. 16. He missed the putt, leaving Australian Robert Allenby a chance to secure the win with a par of his own.

If you go

  • Tickets are still available and cost $25 Tuesday, $55 Wednesday and $45 through the weekend
  • Children 15 and under get in free with a paying adult (one child per adult)

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