Thursday, February 24

Rickie Roughs Up Phil

PHIL MICKELSON WAS SMILING. But inside he had to be hurting from the 6 and 5 smackdown he received from that young dandy clad in pink and white, none other than Rickie Fowler. The early Thursday match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship got off to an ordinary start. Phil won the 3rd hole to go 1 up. Then Rickie climbed all over Lefty, reeling off birdie, eagle, par, par, birdie, a something (Phil conceded), birdie, birdie, par and, at last, another Phil concession. Match over.

I thought Fowler might beat the goofy grin off Mickelson’s face. I should have known better. Not going to happen. Besides, they’re friends, the Golf Channel talking heads emphasized.

Match play is a different animal. You can play pretty well and still get thrashed. Pars don’t get it done, as Phil and others (ahem, Rory McIlroy) learned. You and I might have some bad days at work. But I’ve never come home and said, “Honey, I had a tough day at the office, took an 8 and 7 beating.”

That, by the way, was the score of the Ben Crane-Rory McIlroy match. Rory, the No. 2 seed in his bracket, got “hammered,” as the headline writers put it, by gentle Ben. Let’s just say Crane birdied Thursday. The No. 10 seed will meet Miguel “The Mechanic” Jimenez on Friday.

Another wax job: Bubba Watson polished off Mark Wilson, 6 and 5.

With Tiger and Phil already gone, Lee Westwood became the third No. 1 seed to be eliminated, losing to Nick Watney. Kaymer, No. 1 in the Gary Player bracket, is still alive. The Germanator faces Hunter Mahan in the quarterfinals.

It could be a bloodbath. Because anything can happen in match play.

−The Armchair Golfer

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