One day after Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods went home, more top seeds followed Friday in the Match Play Championship until Masters champion Bubba Watson was the only seed from the top 10 remaining at Dove Mountain.
And even that wasn’t easy.
Watson, the No. 8 seed, missed two straight putts from 5 feet that would have won the match before he finally put away Jim Furyk in 22 holes. It was the first time since this World Golf Championship began in 1999 that only one top-10 seed was left after two rounds.
What does that mean?
“Nothing,” Watson said. “This game … it’s a toss-up. You can’t really judge who’s going to win, or bet who’s going to win.”
Luke Donald, the No. 3 seed who birdied his last two holes on Thursday to win his opening match, didn’t know what hit him Friday.
Scott Piercy won the first three holes, and then holed out from 221 yards with a 4-iron on the fifth hole and was on his way. He won, 7 and 6, to give Donald his worst loss in this event.
Fourth-seeded Louis Oosthuizen never led against Robert Garrigus, who closed him out on the 16th hole and sounded as though he had penciled himself into the final.
“I looked at all the guys in my bracket and I was like, `I can beat him. I can beat him. And I can beat him.’ If I’m playing well and putting well, I’m going to be hard to beat. And a lot of guys will tell you that, too, because I hit the ball in the fairway. Because these fairways are huge, and if I can keep it out of the bushes, I’ll be all right out here.”
He’ll find out Saturday morning against Jason Day, who overcame a clutch putt on the 18th hole to beat PGA Tour rookie Russell Henley on the 19th.
Justin Rose, the No. 5 seed, couldn’t keep up with Nicolas Colsaerts and lost, 4 and 2.
“I think we’re beyond surprises, in this event especially,” said Graeme McDowell after needing 20 holes to beat Alex Noren. “Anybody can have a great day and anybody can have a tough day. It’s what makes the game exciting, and it’s what makes this game extremely fickle and extremely frustrating.”
“Yeah, it’s fun when you’re sitting in a car coming back from a second playoff hole having won,” McDowell said. “I drove past Alex Noren in the car park and he’s dragging his flight bag to the locker room. And he’s not having fun.”
Shane Lowry earned a footnote in history at this 15-year-old tournament. After knocking out McIlroy on the 18th hole of the first round, the burly Irishman became the first No. 64 seed to advance to the third round. This wasn’t that difficult, as he seized control early and beat Carl Pettersson, 6 and 5.
“I would have been all right to beat Rory, but to lose in the second round is not what I want coming here this week,” Lowry said. “I wanted to go on. I feel like I could potentially do very well in this tournament.”
Two more wins on Saturday and Lowry will qualify for the next WGC event at Doral in two weeks. But there will be only one Irishman left standing on Saturday. Next up for Lowry is McDowell, who plans on having dinner Friday night.
“I always think that Shane has got three or four of the qualities that are required to be a great player,” McDowell said. “He drives the ball well, he’s got a phenomenal short game, and he’s got guts. I really feel like he’s got those three qualities and he always has had them. It never surprises me when he does things like this on the biggest stage. I think he’s a very quality player and he’s certainly one to look out for in the future. I just hope he doesn’t go crazy on me in the morning.”
The other giant killer, Charles Howell III, wasn’t so fortunate. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who had to finish his 1-up win over Francesco Molinari in the morning, never lost a hole in a 6-and-5 win. Howell, one day after beating Woods, didn’t make a single birdie.
In other matches:
— Defending champion Hunter Mahan had an easy time with Richard Sterne to win his eighth straight match, and next faces the last player to beat him in this event — Martin Kaymer, who defeated Rafael Cabrera Bello of Spain.
— U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to beat Peter Hanson.
— Steve Stricker came out of retirement and knocked out Nick Watney on the 21st hole. It was the first time Watney has failed to reach the third round in this tournament, though it wasn’t from a lack of effort. He birdied four of the last six holes to force overtime, scrambled for par from a desert bush on the second extra hole and ended his long day with a bogey to lose. Stricker next plays Piercy, and the ease with which Piercy won caught his attention.
“Anybody can beat anybody, so that doesn’t surprise me that he beat Luke,” Stricker said. “But 7 and 6 surprises me. Was he 7-under through 12, did I hear? Maybe he used them all up today.”
— Ian Poulter built a big lead over Bo Van Pelt and hung on to win on the 17th hole. Poulter is the No. 11 seed and faces Tim Clark of South Africa.
Under beautiful sunshine and mild temperatures, the snow-delayed tournament is almost back on schedule. The third round will start Saturday morning, followed by the quarterfinals Saturday afternoon. Of the 16 players remaining, Europe and the United States each have seven players. Four matches Saturday morning will be U.S. against Europe.