WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Round 2: Westwood shows; Tiger out of running

Horse-owning Brit bolts into 3rd round for 1st time as putts nag Woods at wire
2012-02-24T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T10:26:06Z WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Round 2: Westwood shows; Tiger out of runningRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 24, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Lee Westwood stood on the practice range before Thursday's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, cellphone in hand and horse racing on the brain.

Using the magic of technology, the world's third-ranked golfer watched live as his 4-year-old colt, Rerouted, finished as the runner-up at a race in Dubai.

"It's a good horse - it just doesn't win," Westwood said. "At least it came in second, which I can sympathize with."

On a day when fan favorites Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson, giant-killer Ernie Els and young stars Matteo Manassero and Ryo Ishikawa were eliminated, Westwood remained - inexplicably, given his history - one of the 16 men left standing.

Consider: In 11 previous appearances at Match Play, Westwood had never advanced to the round of 16. Four times, he's been eliminated in the first round.

Times have changed.

"The further you get and the more you play, the more confident you become - and the more you get used to playing the golf course, the shots around the greens and the speed of the greens," said Westwood, who defeated Robert Karlsson 3 and 2.

"It's uncharted territory for me, but it's something I'm looking forward to. … I feel the way I'm playing, I'll be tough to beat."

The same can't be said for Woods, who - while he struck the ball better Thursday - struggled on the greens for the second straight day. He missed putts on holes No. 13 and 14 that would have cut into Nick Watney's 2-up lead. Woods picked up a hole on 16, when Watney hit a ball onto the catwalk behind a luxury box and, after taking favorable relief, overshot the green. The two halved the 17th hole, meaning Woods had to win the 18th to extend the match.

Woods drove his tee shot 297 yards, then put his second attempt to within 5 feet 5 inches of the pin. Watney narrowly missed a chip from the rough, setting up Woods' short putt.

He missed it, disappointing the gallery of thousands that had been following him throughout the match.

"I 'striped' it down the end. I didn't miss a single shot coming in, which is good - and it was fun to hit the ball that well," Woods said. "Unfortunately, I just didn't make a putt when I needed it."

Watney conceded that playing Woods in Southern Arizona was "sort of an away match." Fortunately, he was able to take the lead before the pressure mounted.

Watney took a 1-up lead when Woods conceded the 10th hole, and made it 2-up with a birdie putt on the 12th hole.

Watney said the 17-foot shot was "the cushion of the match."

Woods' loss overshadowed an otherwise drama-free day for the tournament's top players. All three remaining No. 1 seeds - Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer - advanced, as did No. 2 seed Steve Stricker, third-seeded Dustin Johnson and a pair of No. 4 seeds, Matt Kuchar and Watney.

Westwood will face Watney at 11:14 a.m. today with a chance to advance even further and, possibly, make a run at the biggest victory of his pro career.

The Worksop, England, native has made more than $32 million over 13 years on the tour, enough money to enjoy the hobbies of a rich man.

Westwood, 38, owns a golf academy and horses, and has a dozen major sponsors, including automaker Jaguar. He keeps in touch with home via the Slingbox, a transmitter the size of a shoebox lid that allows owners to watch home television from their laptops and cellphones.

For all his monetary success and off-the-course contributions, however, Westwood has won just two tournaments in the United States: the 1998 Freeport McDermott Classic and the 2010 St. Jude Classic.

He's been a good golfer; he just hasn't won. That could change.

"I guess over the first two days I've started strongly, which is something that I've not done consistently over the last 12 or 11 years or whatever it's been," he said. "Once you get on top, you get a bit of momentum and you carry that through. I've not really given my opponent too much of a chance to get back in it."

On StarNet: See more photos from Thursday at azstarnet.com/gallery

TOday

• What: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, third round

• Where: The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain

• Start time: 10:50 a.m.

• TV: Golf Channel at noon

• Ticket info: Call 1-800-918-4653 or visit worldgolfchampionships.com

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