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Latecomer Ernie Els sends Luke Donald packing
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Accenture Match Play Championship

Latecomer Ernie Els sends Luke Donald packing

Top-ranked golfer dispatched by a barrage of birdies

  • Italian Francesco Molinari advanced to the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship on Wednesday. He plays Dustin Johnson on Thursday.
    B. Poole/TucsonSentinel.comItalian Francesco Molinari advanced to the second round of the Accenture Match Play Championship on Wednesday. He plays Dustin Johnson on Thursday.
  • Tiger Woods struggled but pulled out a win Wednesday against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Woods plays California native Nick Watney on Thursday.
    B. Poole/TucsonSentinel.comTiger Woods struggled but pulled out a win Wednesday against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Woods plays California native Nick Watney on Thursday.

MARANA – Coming off a lackluster year when he had just one top 10 finish and missed a quarter of the cuts he faced, Ernie Els was grateful to get into the Accenture Match Play Championship when Phil Mickelson took a vacation.

On Wednesday, Els proved his worth at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain by sending defending champion and world No. 1 Luke Donald packing.

“Obviously I can play a little bit of golf, so I'm sure he didn't really want to face me,” said Els, a former world No. 1 who came into the Match Play ranked 65th. “I was just glad to be in the event, so if I was going to play Luke or Rory or Westwood, I knew I had to be on my game.”

He was. The South African carded a bogey-free round with six birdies, including five of the last seven holes. Donald managed just one birdie in a round littered with four bogeys and one conceded hole.

“I'm not sure where to start,” Donald said after the train wreck. “I just didn't play very well. It's disappointing. I've been working really hard. To lose control of the golf ball like I did today is really frustrating.”

Poulter ousted yet again

Ian Poulter – who won the tournament in 2010 but has yet to make it to the second round since – also was disappointed. It’s the second year in a row that the British superstar has struggled.

He lost in the first round in 2011 to Stewart Cink, who didn’t even qualify this year, and Wednesday Korean Sang-Moon Bae sent him packing 4 & 3. Poulter managed just one birdie in the round to Bae’s five.

Out of the Woods

Tiger Woods used all 18 holes to beat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain and squeak into the second round.

Woods hit his approach shots into the desert on the 10th and 11th holes, quickly slipping from 1-up to 1-down against Fernandez-Castano, then had to get up and down from a greenside bunker for par to win the match.

“It was just a match that was just back and forth. And we both made our share of mistakes; there's no doubt about that. But somehow I was able to move on,” said an ailing Woods after the match.

He was sniffing and coughing throughout his 10-minute news conference, hinting that health might be a factor Thursday.

Light as air

The course and weather came into play for Hunter Mahan, who despite both dispatched Zach Johnson.

“The course is playing tough,” said Mahan, who plays Korean Y.E. Yang on Thursday. “It’s not easy to make a lot of birdies out there. It’s tough to make the right club selection, with the elevation, and when it warms up out there, the ball jumps.”

Donald agreed the temperatures and elevation conspire to force changes.

“Suddenly, you’re hitting a four iron 250 yards. It takes some getting used to,” Donald said.

Woods said the high altitude and temps make for some bombs and complex recalculations.

“The numbers that we can hit the golf ball out here is just amazing, with the altitude and with the wind and being warm. There's a lot of numbers going on, taking off percentages and then, you know, for how long is this ball going to stay in the air versus a short iron and blah, blah, blah. So it's tough,” Woods said.

Youthful exuberance

Els remarked during a news conference that the younger players’ success – including wins by Matteo Mannasero, the youngest player in the field at 18, and 20-year-old Ryo Ishikawa.

“They've got a lot to gain; not much to lose,” Els said. “When you're in that situation, you can play aggressively. So not a big surprise.”

Mannasero started his match thinking he had nothing to lose and bolted to a 3-up lead after four holes. His thinking changed at that point, when Webb Simpson started a surge.

“You start thinking, ‘Well, now you’re the guy that has the most to lose,’” Mannasero said. “So I kind of had to keep the two attitudes, you know, the one that has to win and the one that doesn’t have anything to lose.”

He won the match 3 & 2.

Third-round matches start at 9:25 a.m. Thursday.

Third-round matches

  • 9:25 a.m Steve Stricker vs. Louis Oosthuizen
  • 9:37 a.m. Y.E. Yang vs. Hunter Mahan
  • 9:49 a.m. Matteo Manassero vs. Martin Laird
  • 10:01 a.m. Ryo Ishikawa vs. Paul Lawrie
  • 10:13 a.m. Robert Rock vs. Mark Wilson
  • 10:25 a.m. Dustin Johnson vs. Francesco Molinari
  • 10:37 a.m. Jason Day vs. John Senden
  • 10:49 a.m. Charl Schwartzel vs. Sang-moon Bae
  • 11:01 a.m. Martin Kaymer vs. David Toms
  • 11:13 a.m. Matt Kuchar vs. Bubba Watson
  • 11:25 a.m. Lee Westwood vs. Robert Karlsson
  • 11:37 a.m. Nick Watney vs. Tiger Woods
  • 11:49 a.m. Ernie Els vs. Peter Hanson
  • 12:01 p.m. Kyle Stanley vs. Brandt Snedeker
  • 12:13 p.m. Rory McIlroy vs. Anders Hansen
  • 1 12:25 p.m. Miguel Angel Jimenez vs. Keegan Bradley

Round 3 - Approximate Starting Times: 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., one tee start

Tips

Go early whether you are picking a day or a time. The field is halved each day, so by Sunday there will be just four golfers to watch. Traffic is lighter and parking closer if you go early in the morning. Tee times vary each day, so check a schedule daily.

Bring sunscreen, wear a hat and alternate beers with water. Er, it's a desert.

Keep phones on silent. Until this year, cellphones were banned at PGA tournaments. Now you can bring them, but keep them silent. PGA golfers can get pretty testy when phones ring during their backswings.

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