McDowell, Dufner rally to beat rivals
Marana, arizona — Graeme McDowell pulled off the biggest surprise Wednesday in an opening round of comebacks in the Match Play Championship.
McDowell was 4 down through seven holes and still three holes behind with three to play when he staged an improbable rally against Florida neighbor Gary Woodland. McDowell seized on Woodland’s mistakes to win the next three holes, and then put him away with a 6-foot birdie putt on the 19th hole.
“I’m sure he’s extremely disappointed right now – and I’m extremely elated,” McDowell said. “I’m surprised to be sitting here, having won. Yeah, I hit a couple of quality shots down the last couple of holes, but he had mistakes, as well. It’s a brutal format.”
It’s certainly brutal for 32 players that were headed home, a list that included Zach Johnson (3), Dustin Johnson (6) and Steve Stricker (9) among the top 10 seeds.
Eleven of the 32 matches went at least 18 holes, with five of them decided in overtime.
PGA champion Jason Dufner also rallied with some help. He was three down with five holes to play when Scott Stallings chopped up two holes, Dufner made a key birdie, and Dufner won on the first extra hole with a par.
Eight players trailed with six holes remaining and went on to win. That included Henrik Stenson, who avoided becoming the third straight No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round of golf’s most unpredictable tournament.
Stenson, awarded the top seed because Tiger Woods and Masters champion Adam Scott chose not to play, trailed Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand with five holes to play. The big Thai struggled with his putter, however, missing a 4-footer for par on the 14th to lose the hole, and an 8-footer for birdie on the 15th that would have given him the lead. Stenson made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th, and won the match when Aphibarnrat failed to match his birdie on the 17th by missing from 5 feet.