The Main Stream

Feb 24, 2011 5:32 PM

Fowler bounces Mickelson out of match play

MARANA, Ariz. (AP) - Ben Crane has never finished a round of golf this quickly.

On a day of surprising blowouts Thursday at the Match Play Championship, Crane relied on his solid putting to record the biggest rout of this tournament with an 8-and-7 victory over seventh-seeded Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.

Another shocker soon followed.

Rickie Fowler, the 22-year-old making his debut in this fickle event, hit exquisite shots on the par 5s and was 8-under par through 13 holes to win 6 and 5 and hand Phil Mickelson his worst loss in the Accenture Match Play Championship.

Fowler, dressed in a hot pink shirt with shoes to match, ripped a 4-iron iron inside 2 feet on the par-5 13th for a conceded eagle.

"He doesn't really have a weakness," Mickelson said. "He really is a complete player, and he put it together today."

In a battle of 2009 major champions, Y.E. Yang seized control around the turn and hammered Stewart Cink, 4 and 3. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell had no trouble in a 4-and-2 victory over Ross Fisher. The win assures that McDowell will move past Tiger Woods in the next world ranking.

"I'm perhaps a better golfer than him in the last 12 months, but he's definitely the greatest player that's ever lived, I think," McDowell said. The world ranking, it's very nice. It makes nice reading right now. Of course, if someone told me at some point in my career I would be No. 3 in the world, I'd be proud of that fact."

Lee Westwood, the No. 1 player, was struggling against Nick Watney in a rematch of the second round last year. Watney was 2 up through 10 holes. PGA champion Martin Kaymer was 1 up on Justin Rose through eight holes.

Crane has a reputation for slow play. Overlooked is his smooth putting, which is key in this format. This is the second straight year he has advanced to the third round at Dove Mountain.

Even so, he doesn't consider himself the biggest threat in the event.

"I don't think anyone is going, 'Wow, Ben Crane is really coming through this bracket, look out! Gosh, sorry you've got to play Ben Crane. Boy, tough draw there,"' Crane said. "Rory didn't have his best day and things were going in my favor."

Ditto for Fowler.

He fell down early with a bogey on the par-3 third, and that was the last hole that Mickelson won. Fowler seized control with a birdie on the par-5 eighth, then it turned quickly. Mickelson hit into the desert to give away the ninth hole, and Fowler chipped in for birdie on the next hole to go 4 up. At that point, he was just getting warmed up.

Mickelson wasn't going to play this event until two weeks ago, and the early exit was nothing new. Mickelson has reached the quarterfinals only once in his 11 appearances.

J.B. Holmes didn't get into the tournament until Tuesday, when Tim Clark withdrew. He advanced to the third round over Ernie Els, who made a late bogey and lost in 18 holes.

Pictured: Rickie Fowler tees off the fourth hole while playing Phil Mickelson during the second round of the Match Play Championship golf tournament Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, in Marana, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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