Three days after his flight to Spain needed an emergency landing because a passenger suffered a heart attack, American Brandt Snedeker used borrowed irons and a putter from the pro shop to win his opener Thursday at the World Match Play Championship.
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Because his luggage got lost, Snedeker also used a driver lent to him by Australian rival John Senden. Starting out with just 10 clubs in a replacement bag, Snedeker managed to beat Danish Ryder Cup veteran Thomas Bjorn 5 and 4.
”So, a kind of weird day to say the least,” said Snedeker, shaking his head.
Ian Poulter of England started his title defense by beating Senden 3 and 2, enhancing his status as one of the favorites this week. Justin Rose battered Robert Rock 7 and 6 in an all-English contest. Martin Kaymer, at No 9 the highest-ranked player in the field, lost 3 and 2 to Rafael Cabrero-Bello.
After Snedeker’s transatlantic flight from Miami to Madrid landed in the Azores on Monday night, his clubs and suitcase never made it on the connecting flight.
He played the pro-am Wednesday deprived of sleep and with some loaner clubs, and only discovered on Thursday morning that his own set wouldn’t arrive until after he had teed off against Bjorn.
By the time his clubs arrived at the Finca Cortesin course from Malaga Airport — allowing him to fill his bag to the maximum 14 — Snedeker was 3-up after three holes.
Playing well with his pro shop putter and Senden’s back-up driver, he stayed with them despite having his clubs.
”It actually worked out well — I think it’s my driver now and no longer his,” said Snedeker of Nashville, Tenn.
Snedeker had to be granted permission from tour officials to add four of his own clubs — a 3-wood, hybrid, lob wedge and putter — on the fourth tee.
He persevered with the putter he had bought an hour earlier.
”They haven’t charged me for it yet,” he said. ”I’m sure it will be a hundred bucks, but it will be well worth it.”
”My putter has been in the bag for six years, and it would be pretty hard to take it out after one decent day,” Snedeker added. ”But right now, it would be pretty hard to take out the putter I had today.”
Snedeker, who missed the cut at The Players Championship last week, made six birdies in total and can guarantee a place in the last 16 with a win over South African Branden Grace on Friday.
He believes winning the World Match Play would help his attempts to earn a spot in United States’ Ryder Cup team for the September series against Europe in Medinah, an event played over the same format.
”It would be pretty tough for (captain) Davis (Love III) to find an excuse to leave me off the team,” he said.
”I think it would be a pretty good bonus to come over and win a match-play tournament against a bunch of European guys and the world’s best. It can’t do anything but help.”
Poulter made birdies on Nos. 3 and 9, adding another with a 30-foot putt on No. 15 for good measure.
If Senden loses to Tom Lewis in Friday’s early matches, Poulter will qualify for the last 16 before playing his second and last match in the round-robin stage.
Robert Karlsson missed a 6-foot putt on the last to lose 1-up to Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion and Europe’s Ryder Cup star from the same year. The other match to make it to No. 18 was Nicolas Colsaerts against Charl Schwartzel, who birdied it for a half.