Published February 24, 2012
MARANA, Ariz. – Lee Westwood got his revenge on Nick Watney and moved a step closer to a shot at regaining the No. 1 ranking.
Westwood was eliminated in the Match Play Championship each of the last two years by Watney. He birdied the opening two holes and pulled away when Watney missed two many short putts. He advanced to the quarterfinals with a 3-and-2 win.
Rory McIlroy also can go to No. 1 by winning the Match Play. He was 2 up with five holes to play against Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Hunter Mahan won big over Steve Stricker, and Matt Kuchar defeated Martin Kaymer. Mahan and Kuchar next play in the quarterfinals, assuring an American will get to the semifinals for the first time since 2009.
In the battle of Scotland, Martin Laird outlasted Paul Lawrie.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Nick Watney is one of the few players who at least admits that he looks at the brackets.
Watney knew that if he could win in the first round of the Match Play Championship, there was a good chance he would face Tiger Woods. And after that, he might get another match with Lee Westwood.
That's just how it unfolded over two days at Dove Mountain. The surprise was in the details.
For 17 holes on Thursday, he had seen Woods miss seven putts inside 15 feet that allowed Watney to take a 1-up lead to the final hole. Typical of Woods, he drilled his approach to 5 feet, setting off a roar that rattled through the high desert.
Watney already was thinking about how to play the next hole in a match that was sure to go overtime.
"I had my yardage book, I had my pin sheet turned to the first hole, and I was wondering if 3-wood was too much," he said. "No question I thought he was going to make it. And I think everybody thought he was going to make it, to be honest. I know he thought he would. The old adage is to expect your opponent to make it.
"And when it's Tiger Woods," he said, "you really expect him to make it."
Maybe the Tiger Woods of old.
But not this one.
Not only did Woods miss the putt, it never even touched the hole.
"I was fighting the blocks all day with my putter," said Woods, who missed three putts inside 10 feet on the last six holes. "Left-to-right putt, I took it slightly shut right there, and I knew it — and blocked it open."
It was the third straight trip to Dove Mountain that Woods left without getting past the second round. And it raised more questions about the state of his game — more specifically, his ability to make big putts that once looked so automatic.
Woods was tied for the lead going into the final round of Abu Dhabi and tied for third. Two weeks later, he was four shots out of the lead going into the final round at Pebble Beach, missed three putts inside 6 feet on the front nine and closed with a 75 while watching Phil Mickelson win with a 64.
And now this.
Woods played a practice round with Steve Stricker on Tuesday, and Stricker noticed the putter was slightly shut. A day later, after Woods won his opening match against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, he was asked how much the advice helped.
"Zero," Woods said, not making it clear if it was pointless advice or he couldn't apply it.
As for the rest of Watney's bracket.
Westwood had to get through Nicolas Colsaerts and Robert Karlsson, which on paper would not seem to be a shocker. But on paper, Westwood had never made it beyond the second round in his previous 11 trips to the Match Play Championship.
This year is different.
"Need more clothes. Didn't pack for long enough!" Westwood jokingly tweeted.
He won the first two holes when Karlsson kept hitting it into the desert, then hung on for a 3-and-2 victory.
"I guess over the first two days, I've started strongly, which is something that I've not done consistently over the last 12 or 11 years or whatever it's been," Westwood said. "And once you get on top, you get a bit of momentum and you can carry that through. And I've not really given my opponent too much of a chance to get it back in it."
Westwood and Watney have a history.
Watney knocked him out on the 17th hole two years ago. Then last year, when Westwood was the No. 1 player in the world, Watney beat him on the 18th hole.
"There may be a bit of revenge factor, I'm not sure," Watney said. "I know it's going to be a difficult match."
The concern for Watney is not suffering an emotion letdown after such a big win. He conceded that was the case in 2010, when he beat Westwood in the second round and then lost to Retief Goosen the next day.
"I'm going to need just as much intensity to have a chance," Watney said.
All 16 players feel the same way going into Friday, with a berth in the quarterfinals at stake.
The other matches:
— Scotland didn't even have a player in the 64-man field two years ago. Now they have two in the third round.
Paul Lawrie, who won the Qatar Masters to move into the top 50 in the world and qualify for this World Golf Championship, pulled ahead of Ryo Ishikawa and held on to win on the 18th hole. He plays Martin Laird, who was a junior when Lawrie won the British Open in 1999. Laird got past Matteo Manassero.
U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy keeps getting questions about going to No. 1 in the world, which would happen if he wins the Match Play Championship. He beat Anders Hansen by chipping in for par on the 14th as the Dane kept making blunders, winning 3 and 2. Next up for McIlroy is Miguel Angel Jimenez, at 48 the oldest man in the field, and at No. 50 the highest seed remaining.
Jimenez built a big lead on PGA champion Keegan Bradley and held on to win on the 17th hole. Asked to assess his match against McIlroy, the "Mechanic" offered an example of why he looks at life in simple terms.
"Well, tomorrow we'll see what happens. That's the only way," he said.
Bae Sang-moon beat match-play specialist Ian Poulter in the opening round, then held on to beat Masters champion Charl Schwartzel on the 18th hole. He plays John Senden, who whipped Jason Day in the all-Australian — the only Australians left — match.
One day after Ernie Els became only the third No. 64 seed to win a match, he again had a short day of work. His match ended on the 14th hole again, only this time he lost to Peter Hanson. The Swede will play Brandt Snedeker, who beat Kyle Stanley, his victim at Torrey Pines in a sudden-death playoff.
Dustin Johnson was lucky to go 20 holes in beating Jim Furyk. Not so lucky was his 7-and-5 pounding of Francesco Molinari. That's two wins over players not regarded for their length off the tee. Johnson now plays Mark Wilson, another pea shooter, who beat Robert Rock.
Martin Kaymer won against a pesky David Toms and next faces Matt Kuchar, who beat Bubba Watson. The other match pits Hunter Mahan against Stricker. Now there's a guy who can putt.
As Woods struggled on the greens, Stricker made a 20-foot, bending birdie on the 18th hole to beat Louis Oosthuizen.
The remaining 16 players include seven Americans, seven Europeans, one Asian and an Australian.
And no Tiger Woods.