Greg Hansen: Remaining 16-player field is full of heavy hitters

2014-02-21T00:00:00Z 2014-02-21T15:42:31Z Greg Hansen: Remaining 16-player field is full of heavy hittersGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

If heckling were a proper part of golf, 500 people would’ve shouted, “MISS IT!” as Harris English drained a putt that would ultimately send Rory McIlroy home Thursday.

A basketball fan would’ve blurted, “You’re a dead man, Hair-Ball!” or something worse.

But in golf, you whisper. I’ve got no stake in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but as I looked at the scoreboard and realized that the No. 1 name in the field was in danger of a golfer’s sudden death, I quietly thought, “Miss it, Hair-Ball.”

English comes off as a gentleman and a scholar from the University of Georgia. He’s a two-time winner on the PGA Tour who is right out of the Golf Academy. He is Davis Love III without the Roman numerals.

I hope English goes on to win the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge and the Reno-Tahoe Open, but this week at Dove Mountain is no place for a Cinderella story or for a singles-hitter to grasp the $1.53-million winner’s check and break into tears.

Do you remember the encumbered years of the Tucson Open, when Gabriel Hjertstedt and Frank Lickliter III became champions?

We’ve put in enough time on the Cinderella circuit.

Have you seen the brackets? They’re smokin’.

There are so many compelling, glue-yourself-to-the-TV-this-weekend golfers that you suspect the golf gods are smiling upon The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, a payback for last year’s whiteout.

Get the beer truck up to the Hagen Club for immediate restocking.

Pro golf is no longer DeWitt Weaver, Gardner Dickinson and a guy called Mr. X. As much as any sport, golf thrives on the cult of its personalities, and the Sweet 16 field at Dove Mountain is so good it’s almost like someone made it up.

Rickie Fowler looks like someone who would have a role in “Modern Family.” Sergio Garcia could do spots for “The Most Interesting Golfer in the World.”

Bubba Watson? No one that high-strung, self-taught, and both fragile and dynamic could go by his given name — Gerry Lester Watson, Jr. He’s got to be Bubba.

And you’ve got to watch him.

Into this 16-man mix of major champions, from Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els to Graeme McDowell and Webb Simpson, are The Next Big Thing, Jordan Spieth, and Local Star Makes Good, Jim Furyk.

It’s such a stacked field that rather than shout, “Miss it!,” you’ll think, “Make it!”

Spieth’s irresistible story has no match since 20-year-old amateur Phil Mickelson won the 1991 Tucson Open.

The Next Big Thing has traveled the Dove Mountain corridor before. Many times, in fact — from McIlroy and Ryo Ishikawa to Matteo Manassero and Anthony Kim.

There is never a shortage of replacements in golf. Even as Spieth bids to become part of the next Big Four, or whatever, he is being pushed from behind by 14-year-old Masters veteran Guan Tianlang and Texas Longhorns freshman Beau Hossler.

Spieth eliminated Thomas Bjorn, 43, on Thursday, and was anything but awed by the moment or possibility of winning.

“There’s just so many great players here that, you know, it depends on the draw,” he said. “I think age doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in match play.”

Today Spieth will play defending champ Matt Kuchar, with his genuinely awe-inspiring numbers. Kuchar has played 297 PGA Tour events. Spieth, 38.

Kuchar vs. Spieth would be a ratings-boosting, coveted final-day pairing in most PGA Tour events, but today at Dove Mountain it’s no better than Fowler vs. Garcia, McDowell vs. Mahan, or Els vs. Dufner.

Or Simpson vs. Oosthuizen, for that matter.

During Golf Channel’s enduring coverage of this event, the Oro Valley Country Club, the Golf Club of Vistoso and the Gallery Golf Club have all paid for airtime.

In the advertising industry, that’s known as a “good buy.” If Fowler is wearing an oversized, orange Puma cap in bright sunshine, and if Bubba is hitting 377-yard drives over a forest of saguaros, the ratings are going to climb, and someone in Wisconsin is going to show up with his sticks in Oro Valley next February.

But if Harris English is the last man standing, you will be fast asleep on the couch.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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