One of the most thrilling starts in PGA Tour history takes a bit of a break this week when the top-ranked players in the world assemble at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
The brackets for Round 1 were announced on Monday and Luke Donald, the No. 1 ranked player in the world, heads the Bobby Jones Bracket; Martin Kaymer is top dog in the Ben Hogan Bracket; Rory McIlroy heads the Gary Player Bracket; and Lee Westwood sits atop the Sam Snead Bracket.
Fresh off a pulsating, three-way playoff win at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, Bill Haas takes on Ryo Ishikawa in Wednesday’s first round in the Sam Snead Bracket. Keegan Bradley, who missed by about an inch of extending Sunday’s playoff to a third hole, has a first-round clash against former Accenture winner, Geoff Ogilvy on Wednesday in the Gary Player Bracket.
The Accenture field does not include Phil Mickelson, the third player in Sunday’s playoff in L.A., but does include Tiger Woods. Tiger’s first outing since shooting a 75 in the final round of the AT&T Tournament in Pebble Beach, occurs on Wednesday morning against Gonzalo Fdez-Castano of Spain.
The first Match Play event of the year has some tough acts to follow, In the past month, none of the leaders heading into the final round have won a tournament.
And the final day at the Northern Trust Open was beyond exciting.
Converted birdie putts by Mickelson and Bradley on the 18th hole created a three-way tie at the top. All three players had a par on the first playoff hole.
It was decided on the 312-yard 10th hole, regarded as the best short par 4 in America, certainly among the most interesting holes in all of golf. It can be reached with a drive, but it’s all about position — and none were in a particularly good spot.
Haas went long into thick rough, with enough of the back bunker in his way that he smartly played out to the right and left himself a long birdie putt that at least would assure him par.
Mickelson and Bradley each came up short, a horrible angle. Mickelson’s flop shot landed near the hole and rolled into the back bunker. Bradley was in the bunker, and did well to blast out to 15 feet, just through the green.
Haas ended the suspense with a 45-foot putt that capped a wise decision that he made on his second shot.
In thick rough behind the 10th green, Haas smartly played away from the flag with hopes of making par and going on to the next hole.
He wound up holing the putt.
“A part of me was saying, ‘I’ve done this once, let’s do it again,'” Haas said. “Another part of me was saying, ‘Don’t screw this up.'”