Monday, February 21, 2011

Westwood, Woods among Match-Play top seeds

England's Lee Westwood will make his first US start as world number one against Sweden's Henrik Stenson when the $1.4 million World Golf Championships Match-Play Championship begins Wednesday.

And third-ranked Tiger Woods, a three-time Match-Play champion who is also a top seed in his quarter of the 64-man bracket, will open against Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, a two-time British Open runner-up who won at Qatar two weeks ago.

German world number two Martin Kaymer and reigning Masters champion Phil Mickelson are also top seeds in pairings that follow world rankings except for 2007 Match-Play winner Stenson, in from 65th after Japan's 64th-ranked Toru Taniguchi withdrew due to a neck injury.

Mickelson opens against Australian Brendan Jones while 2010 PGA Championship winner Kaymer's first match will be against South Korean Noh Seung-yul.

"I just try and worry about my own game and if I play well, I know I can beat who I'm playing," Australian veteran Robert Allenby said. "It's when you start worrying about your opponent or everyone else you come undone."

Woods, still seeking his first victory since the sex scandal that erupted 16 months ago, faces a tough draw in order to end his drought this week.

Woods, a 14-time major champion, won the event in 2003, 2004 and 2008, but none of those was contested on the current Dove Mountain course.

Irishman Padraig Harrington, a three-time major champion, and Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who won the event in 2006 and 2009, meet in a first-round feature matchup with Woods, if he advances, facing the winner in the second round.

England's Paul Casey, the WGC Match-Play runner-up the past two years and a second seed this year, plus South African stars Ernie Els and Tim Clark and Colombia's Camilo Villegas, third last year, are among possible quarter-final foes for Woods.

In 10 starts at the event, Westwood has never reached the third round, but he will be expected to break that barrier, in part because Stenson's only top-10 effort since 2009 in a PGA-sanctioned event was his share of third at last year's British Open.

Westwood's potential second-round foes are Americans Anthony Kim and Nick Watney with South African Retief Goosen, Italy's Francesco Molinari and South Korean K.J. Choi among his possible third-round rivals.

US second seed Steve Stricker, who opens against Italian teen Matteo Manassero, or English third seed Luke Donald could await Westwood in the quarter-finals.

Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and Italy's Edoardo Molinari are also in that portion of the bracket.

Mickelson could face rising US star Rickie Fowler in round two and either reigning British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa or US veteran Matt Kuchar in round three of a difficult draw to the last four.

His quarter-bracket also features second-seeded reigning US Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and English third seed Ian Poulter, the defending champion. Poulter and McDowell could meet in round three.

The quarter also features South Korean Yang Yong-Eun, the first Asian man to win a major title, plus England's Ross Fisher and his first-round foe Allenby.

"Match play is one of those games," Allenby said. "You could shoot 7-under and lose. You could shoot 1-over and win. It just depends on your partner. But it is just one hole at a time.

"If you're on your game, you should win, but Match Play is very funny. It's a very fickle game so anything can happen. It plays with your mind, Match Play does, and probably at the end of the week it's the one with the toughest mind will win."

That could well be Kaymer, although he faces a tough draw as well with England's Justin Rose or American Zach Johnson in round two and Swede Robert Karlsson or American Hunter Mahan potentially lurking in round three.

Second seed Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, US third seed Jim Furyk and Australian Adam Scott are also in Kaymer's quarter of the draw.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Westwood, Kaymer, Woods and Mickelson top seeds for Match Play

Count in Phil Mickelson for the Match Play Championship.

Mickelson, who skipped the World Golf Championship event in Arizona a year ago, said last November he might sit out again depending on a family vacation. But after he finished his final round at Pebble Beach on Sunday, Mickelson told The Associated Press, "I'll be there."

Lee Westwood, who took over at No. 1 in the world three months ago, will be the top seed when the Match Play Championship begins Feb. 23 on Dove Mountain just north of Tucson.

PGA champion Martin Kaymer will be the No. 2 seed, followed by Tiger Woods and Mickelson.

The 64-man field was determined Sunday night by the latest world ranking, and the only player to crack the top 64 was Anders Hansen. His tie for second in the Dubai Desert Classic moved him from No. 70 to No. 52.

Henrik Stenson, who won the Match Play in 2007 the first year it moved to Arizona, fell from No. 62 to No. 65 after missing the cut in Dubai. He would be first alternate, depending on a fellow European.

Francesco Molinari had planned to skip the Match Play because his wife was expecting. She gave birth to their first child, a son, last week. Asked if he had decided to play, Molinari replied to the AP on Twitter, "not yet no, 60 (per cent) yes 40 (per cent) no right now."

Players have until Friday to decide to play, and the pairings will be released a week from Sunday. After that, alternates could replace someone in the field until all matches tee off.

If Molinari decides to play, Westwood would play Toru Taniguchi of Japan in the first round. Taniguchi reached the semifinals of the Match Play when it was held in Australia in 2001, losing to eventual winner Steve Stricker in the semifinals.

Kaymer would face Seung-yul Noh, while Woods would play longtime friend Thomas Bjorn and Mickelson would get Brendan Jones.

Other matches that could be intriguing if Molinari plays would be Sean O'Hair against Hunter Mahan, two pupils of swing coach Sean Foley; defending champion Ian Poulter against Stewart Cink; and Geoff Ogilvy against Padraig Harrington.

The format for the Accenture Match Play Championship has changed this year from a 36-hole championship match on Sunday to 18-hole semifinals Sunday morning and an 18-hole championship that afternoon.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wilson wins Phoenix Open in playoff

On Sunday, Mark Wilson's beloved Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl.

On Monday, Wilson got his second win already in 2011.

Wilson birdied the second playoff hole on Monday to defeat Jason Dufner and win the Phoenix Open. He captured the Sony Open in Hawaii last month and now Wilson is on top of the golf world.

"I am ecstatic," Wilson said in a television interview. "I guess my schedule got even better. I guess I'm in all the majors now and the match play thing.

"It's crazy. I'm just riding the train as long as I can. This is the best golf I've ever played in my life."

Wilson finished off a two-under 69 on Monday to join Dufner at 18-under 266. Dufner, who had a final-round 66, and Wilson were part of a large handful of golfers who came back on Monday after frost delays set the tournament back.

After pars at the first playoff hole, Wilson hit a great seven-iron seven feet short of the flag at the par-four 10th at the TPC Scottsdale. Dufner found the rough and could do no better than 60 feet.

Dufner's birdie try came up six feet short opening the door for Wilson. He poured his putt right into the heart of the cup and is now atop the money list and FedExCup standings.

"I have a good attitude right now," Wilson said on television. "I hit bad drives on 18 and in the playoff. I don't get down on myself. I'm looking forward to next week."

For Dufner, this was his best chance at that elusive first PGA Tour win.

"It's a little disappointing, but I didn't really give myself good chances," Dufner said in a televised interview. "All in all, a good week and a good start to 2011. I've been close a couple of times. I'm kind of tired of being close, so hopefully we can get one done this year some time."

Vijay Singh finished off his five-under 66 in the darkness Sunday to get in at 16-under 268. According to reports, Singh left the course thinking he'd never get into a playoff with Wilson at 18-under par and still with six holes to complete.

Singh tied for third place with Martin Laird, who fired a six-under 65.

Nick Watney (68), J.B. Holmes (67) and Gary Woodland (66) shared fifth at minus-15.

It was a painful Monday for Tommy Gainey, who was near the top of the leaderboard throughout much of the tournament. He drove into the water at the 17th, hit it back into the water and he left with a triple-bogey seven.

Gainey finished with a three-over 74 and tied for eighth place with Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Chris Couch and former PGA Champion Y.E. Yang at 14- under 270.

Wilson and Dufner were tied for the lead at 18-under par with Gainey one behind when Gainey imploded on 17.

Wilson hit into a fairway bunker at 18, but his drive flirted with water. He hit a spectacular seven-iron to 14 feet to give himself a chance at the win in regulation.

His putt stayed above ground and it was off to 18 for the playoff.

Wilson hit into a right bunker this time off the tee, but Dufner wasn't in the fairway either. Wilson's approach landed almost 60 feet from the stick, while Dufner had 20 feet for birdie from the fringe.

Wilson lagged to five feet and Dufner's putt narrowly missed. He tapped in for par, then Wilson ran home his par putt to head to the 10th, where he finally won the tournament.

"I was trying to beat Tommy the last few holes," admitted Wilson. "I hit a bad drive on 18, but got away with it. I've had that putt before. I got it to drop."

Phil Mickelson never got anything going late and tied for 29th at minus-10.

NOTES: Dufner birdied 16 and 17 to put the heat on Wilson...It took until the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year for Ernie Els to become the first multiple winner on tour...Wilson pocketed $1,098,000 for the victory...Next week is the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which Dustin Johnson has won the last two years.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Golf World announces annual list of its "100 Best Golf Shops"

For the 26th consecutive year Golf World has published its selection of the "100 Best Golf Shops"—a collection of those private, resort, public and off-course shops that have excelled in retail operations. The list will appear in select issues of the newly redesigned January 31 issue of Golf World, and it can be viewed online at

Of the 29 states represented on the list, California has the most shops (19). Arizona is second with 12, followed by Florida with 11.

The PGA Tour Shop has 11 shops on the list, the most of any off-course facility. Other facilities with multiple shops include the TPC properties (nine), Bandon Dunes (two), Carl's Golfland (two), Edwin Watts Golf (two), Kiawah Island Golf Resort (two), Lumpy's Golf (two), Pebble Beach (two) and Trump National (two).

Two shops have appeared on the list all 26 years: Haggin Oaks Golf Super Shop in Sacramento, Calif. and Carl's Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. This year's 100 Best includes 12 shops making the list for the first time.

In 2010 the combined revenue of the 100 Best Shops was $200,155,542. In 1986, the first year of the list, total revenue was $61.8 million.

To be considered for the annual list, golf shops submitted entries to the magazine. The winning shops were then chosen based on three criteria, each weighted equally:

• Revenue per square foot and per round of golf played compared with shops in the same category.

• Appearance of layout and product displays (determined through photos submitted to the magazine).

• Evaluation of a shop's successful promotions and recent initiatives within the last year (described through a written response).

The "100 Best Golf Shops" list was previously featured in Golf World Business and Golf Shop Operations, both published by Golf Digest Publications. This is the fifth year that Golf World has published the list.

Golf World, the nation's oldest and most widely read newsweekly golf magazine, is published by Golf Digest Publications and is part of Condé Nast. Condé Nast, a division of Advance Publications, operates in 25 countries. In the United States, Condé Nast publishes 18 consumer magazines, two trade publications and 27 websites that garner international acclaim and unparalleled consumer engagement.