Match Play: In peak form, Fowler ousts ex-Cat Furyk

2014-02-23T00:00:00Z Match Play: In peak form, Fowler ousts ex-Cat FurykBy Daniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Rickie Fowler has developed a post-round routine during his stay at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, and it’s turned into somewhat of a good luck charm.

After wins over Ian Poulter, Jimmy Walker and Sergio Garcia, Fowler took his mom and sister on a 25-minute hike behind the Ritz-Carlton up Dove Mountain. When they reached the top, the three took photos, called friends and unwound before heading back down.

“It’s been working,” Fowler said. “It’s just a fun way to relax and enjoy the afternoon.”

The mornings have been pretty fun, too.

Fowler moved into today’s semifinals with a dramatic victory over Arizona Wildcats product Jim Furyk on Saturday, winning the final two holes to post a 1-up victory in front of the largest gallery of the tournament.

After missing three straight cuts, Fowler, the No. 14 seed in the Ben Hogan bracket, has found his game at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Maybe it’s the hiking, maybe it’s his new swing, or perhaps it’s the afternoon relaxation, but Fowler may never want to leave Southern Arizona.

“In match play, you’ve got to get lucky at some point and get some good bounces,” Fowler said. “It’s been a fun run. It’s helped me build confidence moving forward. It’s been a big week for me.

“I just have to go out and have a fun Sunday and see what happens.”

On Saturday, Fowler jumped out to an early lead on Furyk. He led by three after four holes. After going back and forth with the former Wildcat, he kept his three-hole lead through 11.

Fowler then watched as Furyk got hot on the back nine as he had all week. After the two halved No. 12, Furyk birded three straight holes to pull the match even through 15. Fowler bogeyed No. 16 and Furyk posted a par to win his fourth straight hole and take a 1-up lead.

At that point, Furyk had registered 12 birdies and no bogeys on the back nine for the week and seemed to be in great position to close out Fowler and move into today’s semifinals.

Instead, Furyk bogeyed the 17th to let Fowler pull the match even. On the 18th, Furyk’s tee shot went 293 yards but found the right half of the fairway, leaving an awkward second shot. Using an 8-iron, Furyk left it just short of the green and 53 feet from the hole.

Fowler landed his second shot on the green, but still had a 28-foot birdie putt. If Furyk could get up and down, he could force extra holes. But Furyk muffed his chip and it went just 2 feet. His second chip made the green, but Fowler rolled his putt to within 2 feet of the hole and the former Wildcat conceded the hole and the match.

As Fowler lined up his birdie putt, Furyk stood with his back to the action, mimicking the swing of his previous chip. The ball was caught on the fringe’s collar, which prevented Furyk from getting clean contact on the ball.

“I was in the short cut, with a little bit of grain against me, and expected it to be sticky,” Furyk said. “I’ve been working all week of making sure I really accelerated the club through the ball, and I didn’t there. It was just a poor shot.

“It wasn’t an easy shot, but I should have been able to get it up there within 6 or 7 feet inside, at least to give myself a par chance.”

After Fowler closed it out, Furyk walked slowly off the 18th green with his head down, left to wonder what would have happened if he would have hit his chip cleanly and played the final two holes as well as he had played the back nine all week.

“I don’t feel I handed the match away, but I definitely made it too easy on the last two holes,” Furyk said. “I fought all the way back from 3 down. I had all the momentum and I didn’t put the ball on the fairway on 17.”

Furyk’s run to the quarterfinals still marks his best showing ever at Match Play.

But that wasn’t nearly enough for the former Wildcat on Saturday.

“I feel like I played well, but if you told me I could have fifth every week, there would be no reason to show up,” Furyk said. “It ruins the whole fun.”

Fowler will face Jason Day this morning in one semifinal at 7:05.

The other semifinal matchup will feature South Africa’s Ernie Els, 44, and France’s Victor Dubuisson, 23. Els beat 20-year-old American Jordan Spieth 4 and 2. Dubuisson outlasted Graeme McDowell 1 up.

Els and Dubuisson will tee off at 7:20 a.m. The championship match is expected to start around noon.

Today's tee times

RoundTee timePlayer (seed)Player (Seed)
Semifinal7:05 a.m.Jason Day (8)Rickie Fowler (53)
7:20 a.m.Ernie Els (31)Victor Dubuisson (27)
Consolation11:40 a.m.Day-Fowler loserEls-Dubuisson loser
FinalNoonDay-Fowler winnerEls-Dubuisson winner

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

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

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