It was another gorgeous southern Arizona day at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain with temperatures nearing the 80-degree mark without going over. The atmosphere in the hospitality tents was raucous but nowhere near that of the “other” PGA golf tournament held in Scottsdale annually on Super Bowl weekend.
The beautiful weather must have convinced the top-seeded players that they would rather be enjoying the lavish confines of the neighboring Ritz-Carlton resort as opposed to playing on its course. The three remaining No. 1 seeds were shown the door Thursday, leaving three No. 2 seeds and two No. 3 seeds as the highest-seeded players heading into Friday’s final eight matches.
No. 8 Seed Louis Oosthuizen Defeats No.1 Seed Henrik Stenson
South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 35th ranked golfer in the world according to Official World Golf Ranking, has been having a great time in the southern Arizona desert.
He defeated No. 9 seed Nick Watney 1-up on Wednesday and was rewarded with the task of facing No. 1 seed Henrik Stenson, Sweden’s top golfer and the No. 3 golfer in the world—ahead of Phil Mickelson.
Oosthuizen showed no signs of awe or astonishment and took a quick 3-up advantage after the first four holes. Stenson would birdie six and pull back to within one stroke but the two went on a five-hole par streak leaving Oosthuizen up two after the 11th hole.
Stenson went on to bogey 12 and both golfers birdied 13 then bogeyed 14 to keep Oosthuizen 3-up. Oosthuizen’s birdie on 15 coupled with Stenson’s par ended the day for Stenson.
Oosthuizen will face No. 5 seed Webb Simpson on Friday at 1:43 p.m. ET.
No. 8 Seed Ernie Els Defeats No. 1 Seed Justin Rose
Ernie Els, another South African golfer, who actually financially supported fellow countryman Louis Oosthuizen through his foundation, advanced a step farther on Thursday.
“The Big Easy” has won four major championships; twice at the U.S. Open and twice at the Open Championship, as recently as 2012. Els has had an extremely successful 20-year career dating back to his 1994 PGA Rookie of the Year nod.
Els is one spot above Oosthuizen in the World Golf Rankings at No. 34 and is making his presence known in Marana after convincing victories over Stephen Gallacher and a 20-hole triumph over No. 1 seed Justin Rose.
Els looked like he was going to pull away early after going 2-up through four holes but bogeys on five and seven brought them back to all square, where they stayed over the next four holes. Rose took a 1-up lead when Els bogeyed 12 but a birdie on 15 evened the score again.
The back-and-forth continued over the next two holes and the golfers were all square after the regulation 18 holes.
A birdie on the second playoff hole secured the upset for Els and he will face No. 4 seed Jason Dufner on Friday at 2:07 p.m. ET.
No. 9 Seed Harris English Defeats No. 1 Seed Rory McIlroy
The 24-year-old Valdosta, Ga., native won two PGA Tour events in 2013, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in November and the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June, besting Phil Mickelson.
English is ranked No. 39 in the Official World Golf Rankings and defeated PGA veteran Lee Westwood on Wednesday 5 and 3 before knocking off tournament favorite McIlroy 1-up on Thursday.
English had a two-stroke lead twice on Thursday after holes 11 and 13, but McIlroy proved why he was the favorite winning holes 14 through 16. English’s par on 17 brought the golfers back to even and McIlroy apparently folded under the pressure with a double-bogey on the first playoff hole.
English will face local favorite, University of Arizona alum, Jim Furyk in the first group on Friday, teeing off at 12:55 p.m. ET.
No. 14 Seed Rickie Fowler Defeats No. 6 Seed Jimmy Walker
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Rickie Fowler wasn’t expected to play well this weekend, he was supposed to take an early exit against Match play expert Ian Poulter. Yet, here he is, with two straight victories heading into the Sweet 16.
Fowler needed all 18 holes to dispatch of Walker but dispatch of him, he did.
The golfers see-sawed through the first six holes and no clear leader was apparent until Walker took the 1-up lead on the ninth hole. The score stayed the same for the next four holes until Fowler birdied on 14 to square it up.
Cue the see-saw again.
Walker went 1-up after 15 and Fowler took the next two skins to take a 1-up lead into the final hole where both golfers parred and Fowler emerged victorious.
Friday brings another match that Fowler is “supposed to” lose—facing the No. 2 seed, eighth-ranked player in the world, Sergio Garcia. The pair will tee off at 1:07 p.m. ET.
There were other matches on Thursday where the lower seed won but not by any large margin to be considered an upset. The highest seed still remaining in the Sweet 16 is No. 14 seed George Coetzee who defeated No. 11 seed Patrick Reed 1-up after 21 holes.
Coetzee upset Steve Stricker on Wednesday, and he will once again have his work cut out for him on Friday when he faces No. 2 seed Jason Day at 1:55 p.m. ET.
A battle of USWG top 15 golfers face off in the final pairing of the day when No. 2 seed, Matt Kuchar (No. 10 USWG) takes on No. 3 seed Jordan Speith (No. 13 USWG) at 2:19 p.m. ET.
Another balanced pairing to watch at 1:19 p.m. ET is No. 4 seed Graeme McDowell taking on No. 8 seed Hunter Mahan. Both are respected veterans on the PGA Tour that have been the model of consistency in Marana over the past two days.
Directly following Mahan and McDowell at 1:31 p.m. ET is everyone’s favorite Bubba—Watson will be looking to limit upstart Victor Dubuisson.