Match Play unkind to the top seeds

BY foxsports • February 22, 2013

Pressure? Try playing for a $2 million prize when you have a $25,000 balance on your credit card. Such circumstances make a second-round match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play seem easy, regardless of the opponent.

Scott Piercy’s last match-play experience came at the 2007 Ultimate Game, where he won that seven-figure prize while still grinding on golf’s mini-tours. He’s among the world’s elite now, a fact confirmed by his first appearance at Dove Mountain. He advanced to the third round with a 7-and-6 victory over Luke Donald on Friday.

All four No. 1 seeds have now left the building, or in this case the Ritz-Carlton.

Donald, the 2011 Match Play champion, followed Thursday’s first-round losses by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Louis Oosthuizen was the last No. 1 to fall, losing 3 and 2 to Robert Garrigus on Friday afternoon.

Only two of the top 15 players in the Official World Golf Ranking remain at Dove Mountain: No. 10 Bubba Watson and 13th-ranked Ian Poulter.

“When somebody is on, they’re on,” said Piercy, No. 37 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

That explains how Piercy and Garrigus, who have a combined three PGA Tour victories, dispatched of Donald, a former World No. 1, and Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, respectively.

The two No. 1 seeds fell to confident bombers who paid their dues in the minor leagues before winning on the PGA Tour. Consider these sound bytes from Friday’s victors:

Piercy, a two-time PGA Tour winner said: “My personality, I want to beat you. I think I’m better than you.”

Garrigus later said, “I felt like I was playing better than anybody coming in here. . . . I looked at all the guys in my bracket, and I was like, ‘I can beat him, I can beat him, I can beat him.’ ”

Both Garrigus and Piercy are making their debuts in this event, but Dove Mountain’s wide fairways and match play’s forgiving nature are well-suited for these long hitters. Garrigus said he has been looking forward to this event for several years for the very reason that a foul ball can only mean a lost hole, not a week-wrecking triple-bogey.

“It’s an absolute blast to be able to step on the tee and say, ‘I’m going to swing as hard as I can, and if I make a 9, who cares?’” Garrigus said. “It’s a fun, fun format. I think it’s a blast.”

Garrigus’ last match play experience before this week came at the 1995 Oregon Junior, when he beat Michael Wiemer 7 and 6 in the championship match. Garrigus said he was 9 under for those 12 holes.

He had eight birdies in 16 holes Friday. Piercy had five birdies, as well as an eagle at the par-4 fifth, holing out a 4-iron from 221 yards.

He birdied five of the final six holes to win the Ultimate Game’s ultimate prize five years ago.

“At the time, when I was dead broke, there was probably a lot more stress than there is now,” he said.

That’s why beating a No. 1 seed looked so simple Friday.

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