Accenture Match Play Championship
Youth conquers age as McIlroy beats Jiminez
The youngest player dispatches the oldest
Youth prevailed Friday in a duel that went longer than any other at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
British sensation Rory McIlroy, who at 22 is the youngest player left in the field, beat Miguel Jiminez of Spain, the oldest player at age 48. The match went longer than any other Friday, except for Korean Sang-Moon Bae’s victory over Aussie John Senden.
“He just doesn’t go away,” McIlroy said of Jiminez after the match.
The match was draining, as are all match-play events, McIlroy said after three days of play, each more stressful than the last.
“It’s probably a good thing we don’t play match play too often — I’d only be able to play about 10 events a year,” he said.
German Martin Kaymer managed just two birdies to opponent Matt Kuchar’s five in their Round 3 match. Kaymer led briefly after a birdie on the par-5 second hole, but Kuchar steadily crept up to a 4 hole lead by No. 11 and kept it for the 4&3 victory.
This is only Kuchar’s third appearance in the Match Play, where last year he beat Bubba Watson for third place after a quarterfinal loss to eventual winner Luke Donald. Kaymer also beat Watson and lost to Donald in 2011. He beat Watson to get into the final and lost there to Donald.
Kaymer, who entered the tournament ranked No. 4, felt comfortable from the tee boxes and fairways, but not on the greens.
“I hit a lot of good quality golf shots today, especially the first nine. I didn’t miss any golf shots, really, but I just couldn’t make the putts,” he said after the match.
Kuchar now faces Hunter Mahan, whose barrage of seven birdies was insurmountable for fellow American Steve Stricker. Mahan’s lead got as high as five holes, before settling back at 4-up after the 13th hole. The California native has birdied 18 of 30 holes played the past two days.
He attributes distance control worked out with caddie John Wood.
“Distance control is everything, making sure you’re landing in the right spot and getting the right bounce,” Mahan said. “We’ve done a very good job of that and been very clear. That’s enabled me to make these solid, aggressive swings.”
Stricker conceded Mahan played well, but added that his own problems contributed.
“I made a lot of mental mistakes, to tell you the truth,” said Stricker, who entered the tournament ranked No. 5 to Mahan’s No. 21.
Lee Westwood, a Brit who had never advanced past Thursday in 11 Match Play appearances, beat nemesis Nick Watney.
“He’s knocked me out (of the tournament) the last two years, so it was nice not to make that hat trick,” a satisfied Westwood said after the match.
Westwood credited his short game, which he spent some time working on this past week, for the win.
“I played some really nice chip shots out there – looking to go in – and that’s a surprise for me. … If I had a weakness, it would be my chipping,” he said.
Mark Wilson, who beat Dustin Johnson to get the Round 4, took advantage of Johnson’s roughly 50-yeard advantage off the tees.
“There’s definitely an advantage to hitting first into the green, but you have to hit a good shot,” he said.
He did. Wilson was 4-up by the sixth hole and never looked back. Johnson briefly cut the lead to three holes twice but couldn’t recover.
“Today Dustin didn’t have his best stuff,” Wilson said.
Swede Peter Hanson hasn’t trailed for a single hole during the tournament. He birdied Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 6 to blaze to a four-hole lead Friday, only to watch as Brandt Snedecker birdied 8, 9 and 10 to cut the lead to one hole.
“You know, you try not to panic,” Hanson said of the slipping lead.
But he didn’t panic, and he eventually won when Snedecker conceded a birdie putt on No. 15. Putts lost the match for Snedecker, he said afterward.
“I had a bunch of good looks, just didn’t make the putts. You have to make putts to win in match play,” he said.
Matches continue tomorrow at 10:05 a.m. at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, Gates open at 8:30 a.m. Parking costs $10 per vehicle, and shuttles from the parking lot begin at 8 a.m.