Singh, Woods, Mickelson out of Match Play

World number one Vijay Singh and defending champion Tiger Woods crashed out of the Match Play Championship second round, and third-seeded Phil Mickelson followed them out in the third round of the World Golf Championships event in California on Friday.

Only two of the top 10 seeds—number four Retief Goosen of South Africa and number eight Stewart Cink of the United States—remained after the two rounds played on Friday saw the field reduced from 32 to eight players.

Singh was defeated by American veteran Jay Haas three and two, while Woods fell to Australia’s Nick O’Hern, who finished in style with a birdie to close out a three and one win.

Mickelson, who beat Argentina’s Angel Cabrera four and three in the second round, fell four and two to American David Toms.

Even five birdies in the third round were not enough to hold off Toms, last year’s runner-up who made seven birdies and no bogeys.

“I knew I was going to have to play well against a player like Phil, who has been playing great all year,” Toms said. “I have been driving the ball great all week and I wanted to get the ball in the fairway, first of all.

“I knew that was the way I was going to beat him, and then my putter got hot and I started making putts, and that was the difference in the end.”

Even though Toms is American, he felt in hostile territory playing against local hero Mickelson.

“When 98,8% of the people are pulling for the other guy, of course I felt like an underdog,” Toms said. “But sometimes I thrive on that.

“I don’t think there’s any better feeling than having a crowd that’s not necessarily pulling for you and make a 25-foot putt when the other guy is in there eight feet away.
They’re all excited because their man is about to win a hole, and there you go, pouring it in. I like that.”

In another all-American third-round battle, Chris DiMarco made five birdies in six holes before the turn and held on to win two and one over Haas.

“It took me a while to learn, but if you put the ball in play and put the ball on the green in match play, you put a lot of pressure on your opponent,” said DiMarco, who was glad the start of the tournament was delayed by rain for 24 hours.

“It was Wednesday that I found a little swing thought,” he said. “My hands were getting a little ahead of the ball at address, and I moved them to a more neutral spot, and it’s straightened my ball flight out, got me my fade back.”

Two third-round matches went to extra holes, with Cink beating Davis Love at the 20th hole and Goosen outlasting Chad Campbell at the 19th.

Cink holed a 15-footer at the 18th to stay alive.

In another exciting match, England’s Ian Poulter came from behind, winning three of the final five holes to edge South African Rory Sabbatini 1-up.

“Two down with five to play is never easy,” Poulter said. “I gave a couple of holes to Rory, which was very frustrating, and he made two eagles on me.

“You’re looking at losing four holes there, so it was really nice to come back and play well down the stretch and take it away.”

In a battle of two of the best young players in the game, Australian Adam Scott used a hot putter to beat Spain’s Sergio Garcia 4 and 3.

“When you’re making a couple of putts in match play, it really damages the psyche of the other guy,” Scott said.

Robert Allenby disposed of Kirk Triplett two and one, while O’Hern, after beating Woods in the second round, disposed of England’s Luke Donald five and four.

“I finished six-under this afternoon and played really well,” O’Hern said. “It was a real drain this morning because I had to be all guns blazing, but my caddie reminded me [between matches] that we still had a job to do.”

O’Hern certainly did a job on Woods, ending the two-time defending champion’s 13-match winning streak in California.

“Nick made all the putts he had to make and I didn’t. That’s the difference between winning and losing,” Woods said. “You’ve got to plod along and that’s what Nick did. He’s very consistent, very solid, and doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes. He made enough birdies to win.”

Saturday’s quarterfinals will be DiMarco vs Cink, Goosen vs Allenby, O’Hern vs Poulter and Toms vs Scott.—Sapa-AFP