Match Play notes: Kuchar continues mastery of Match Play

2014-02-21T00:00:00Z 2014-02-21T00:28:59Z Match Play notes: Kuchar continues mastery of Match PlayBy Daniel Berk and Ryan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

It’s no secret that the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship will be looking for a new sponsor — and, maybe, a new location — after this year.

Maybe Matt Kuchar should step up and save the tournament. There’s no way he wants to see it move away from The Golf Club at Dove Mountain.

Kuchar outlasted fellow American Ryan Moore 1 up on Thursday to advance to today’s third round. The defending Match Play champion improved his lifetime record at Dove Mountain to 17-3; he has made it to the third round or further in each of the last four years.

“This course has been good to me,” Kuchar said. “I’m hoping to keep the good luck going. I think there’s a lot of course knowledge here that helps me.

“Certainly I go in with a lot of confidence in my match play ability, but that only takes you so far. You have to outplay your opponent.”

The Georgia Tech product barely did that on Wednesday.

The two were all square through eight holes before Moore nailed a 28-foot putt for birdie to take a one-stroke lead on the defending champion. Kuchar tied things up with a birdie on the par-five 13th.

Two holes later, Kuchar hit his second shot 4 feet from the hole and birdied again to take a one-shot lead. He then held off Moore for the final three holes with two pars and a birdie to win the match.

“Ryan made a great putt on nine to take a 1-up lead and then I kinda made an amazing up-and-down on 10,” Kuchar said.

“And then we both got after it. I made some good birdies coming in. Really, the last seven or eight holes, I played some great golf.”

He’ll have to do more of the same today.

Kuchar will face 20-year-old American Jordan Spieth, who steamrolled 43-year-old Thomas Bjorn 5 and 4.

Spieth and Kuchar were teammates at last year’s Presidents Cup and will now go head-to-head with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.

“Man, I have my work cut out for me,” Kuchar said. “He’s been playing some awesome golf. He hits it a long way and putts it great. He seems to play great golf every week. It should be tough around this place.”

Spieth, who had 12 top-10 finishes on Tour last year and won the John Deere Classic as a 19-year-old, sits at No. 13 in the world rankings. The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is making his first trip to Dove Mountain look easy.

“I wish we played more match play on the pro level,” Spieth said.

“It’s fun. You can be a little more aggressive in nature, which is hard for me because I’m already too aggressive.

“I actually need to calm down a little.”

Day’s day

Jason Day also has thrived at Dove Mountain.

The 26-year-old Australian outlasted American Billy Horschel in 22 holes on Thursday and improved his record in Southern Arizona to 10-3.

Day had a brutal start to his round and trailed Horschel by three after four holes. He was still 3 down through 10, but eventually got the match to all square with a par on No. 16.

Day and Horschel then slugged it out and played four extra holes. Finally, Day birdied No. 4, knocking his second shot 4 feet from the hole.

He’ll play George Coetzee today in the third round. Coetzee needed extra time himself, beating Patrick Reed in 21 holes Thursday.

“It was really a tough one; tougher than yesterday,” Day said. “Being 3 down, you can definitely lose some energy. I just clawed my way back in and found a way to win. That’s all I was thinking about. It doesn’t matter how you get it done. You just have to find a way to win.”

Furyk looks to stay hot

Jim Furyk survived fast greens and whipping winds for another day at Match Play. Now, he’ll try to make personal history.

The former Arizona Wildcats star defeated Charl Schwartzel 3 and 2 on Thursday, advancing to the third round for the fourth time in his 15 career Match Play appearances. Furyk has lost in his previous three appearances in the round of 16: Ross Fisher beat him 4 and 3 in 2009, Darren Clarke beat him 2 up in 2003 and Kevin Sutherland beat him 4 and 3 in 2002.

His road may be a bit easier today, thanks to Harris English. The American defeated Rory McIlroy after an extra hole Thursday.

Youth movement

Matteo Manassero and Hideki Matsuyama couldn’t close out their opponents Thursday.

But both will almost certainly be back.

Manassero and Matsuyama are both 20, years away from turning their raw abilities into a complete golf game. Both advanced to the second round with strong performances Wednesday, but struggled to close out their opponents Thursday. Manassero lost his final two holes to Jason Dufner and fell, 2 and 1. Matsuyama was 2 up heading to No. 17 but bogeyed the final two holes and fell to Graeme McDowell.

McDowell said Matsuyama has a bright future.

“Just complete, cool, under control,” McDowell said. “We always joke, ‘Better get our money made quick before all these guys come through.’ ”

Match Play tee times for Friday's round of 16

Tee timePlayer (seed)Player (seed)
10:55 a.m.Harris English (36)Jim Furyk (20)
11:07 a.m.Sergio Garcia (6)Rickie Fowler (53)
11:19 a.m.Hunter Mahan (30)Graeme McDowell (14)
11:31 a.m.Victor Dubuisson (27)Bubba Watson (11)
11:43 a.m.Louis Oosthuizen (32)Webb Simpson (17)
11:55 a.m.Jason Day (8)George Coetzee (56)
12:07 p.m.Ernie Els (31)Jason Dufner (15)
12:19 p.m.Matt Kuchar (7)Jordan Spieth (10)

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

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