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World Match Championship wildness continues

MARANA, Ariz. — Getting to the round of 16 in the Match Play Championship was all that mattered Thursday.

Jordan Spieth made it look like easy. Graeme McDowell aged another 10 years with another escape. And it proved too difficult for Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, who lost in extra holes on another wild day at Dove Mountain.

"I thought I was dead and buried both days," McDowell said.

One day after he rallied from three down with three to play to win, McDowell was two down on the 15th tee when he made an 8-foot birdie, halved the next hole with a 10-foot par, won the 17th with birdie, then holed a 6-foot par putt on the 18th for a 1-up win over Hideki Matsuyama.

In two matches, McDowell has stood on the tee with his match all square only four times — and two of those were at the start of the match.

Jason Day already has played 40 holes in two rounds. He won a tough match against Thorbjorn Olesen in the opener, then rallied from three down in his match against Billy Horschel and beat him 22 holes.

"Doesn't matter how you get it done," Day said. "Find a way to win."

The top seeds lost their way.

Stenson, the No. 1 seed, fell behind early against Louis Oosthuizen and never caught up in a 4-and-3 loss. It was the sixth straight year, dating to Tiger Woods winning the Accenture Match Play Championship in 2008, that the top seed failed to make it out of the second round.

Rose (No. 2) and McIlroy (No. 3) followed him out of the World Golf Champion­ships event.

Ernie Els poured in one clutch putt after another to stay in the match and eventually defeat Rose. Els got up-and-down on the 18th hole with a 6-foot par putt. Els and Rose both made 10-foot birdies on the 19th, then Els got a break to go his way in a format that has haunted him over the years. His approach settled on the slope of the bunker's collar, and while the shot didn't go as planned, it was close to perfect.

"It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime shots, really," he said. "I caught it a smidgen thin, and it just came out perfectly. It hit the bank and just trickled over to about 4 feet. It was an impossible shot, but it was obviously the right one at the time."

Rose left his shot in the bunker.

McIlroy had his hands full against English, who has two PGA Tour wins in the past nine months. McIlroy rallied, winning three straight holes for a 1-up lead with two to play. English responded with a 20-foot birdie putt to square the match, and off they went to overtime.

McIlroy went from the left rough to the desert on the 19th hole, and his only hope was to play an explosion shot that came off perfectly. It didn't, sailing over the green by the television tower. He made double bogey and was headed home to Florida.

Sergio Garcia at No. 5 is now the top seed remaining.

LPGA: Anna Nordqvist shot 6-under 66 for a one-shot lead after the first round of the LPGA Thailand in Pattaya. Michelle Wie had six birdies and a bogey for 67. Angela Stanford, Lexi Thompson and Jennifer Johnson were two off the lead. Stanford had a hole-in-one, using an 8-iron on the 135-yard eighth hole. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome was at 2-over 74.

World Match Championship wildness continues 02/20/14 [Last modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 8:38pm]
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