Feb 24, 2011 2:50 AM by Blog by John Batbie Jr.
MARANA - Pleasant weather again today with mild temperatures and a bit of a breeze made for another great day of golf here in the Southwest Desert. Sixty-four of the best golfers in the world went head-to-head in the Match Play format. Just like the NCAA's March Madness, the Match Play format will cut the field in half each round until one golfer can hold the Blue Walter Hagen Cup high in victory.
After today's competition, we know it will not be last year's champion, Ian Poulter, holding the cup as he lost his round in one extra hole to Stewart Cink in a very tough match right out of the chute. It was not unusual for the rounds to go extra holes as 25% did just that, including the biggest shocker of the day, Denmark's Thomas Bjorn taking out Tiger Woods in one extra hole. Woods put himself at a major disadvantage by hitting his tee shot wide right into the desert vegetation on the extra hole. A huge crowd of fans had just watched Woods sink a tough put on the 18th hole to go all square and were poised to celebrate victory on the extra hole - a celebration that never materialized, unfortunately. Woods was the only one of the other top seeds not to make it through. Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, and Phil Mickelson all moved on to the next round. Local favorite, Jim Furyk lost his match to American Ryan Palmer.
The sixty-four players that played today were, on average, the youngest group to ever play in the history of this event. In keeping with the youth theme, a 17-year-old Italian player, Matteo Manassero, defeated his much more seasoned opponent, Steve Stricker and moved on to tomorrow's round along with young guns, Rory McIlroy, Ricky Fowler, and Jason Day, who are all in their early 20's. The two 19-year-olds, Japan's Ryo Ishikawa and South Korea's Seung-yul Noh, however, were both eliminated from the competition.
Tomorrow should another great day for golf as the field gets cut to sixteen. Today's pictures from the course follow - hope you enjoy them.