The World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play began in Marana, Ariz., Wednesday morning to gray, overcast skies.
The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, 30 miles northwest of downtown Tucson, is a fickle course, not because of tricky pin placements or desert landscape—but because of the weather. The field was welcomed to overcast skies that burned off as the morning wore on en route to a beautiful 80-degree day.
A stark contrast to the 30-degree temperatures and snow—yes, snow—in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains in 2013.
Even with the near-perfect conditions and temperatures, the event saw some of the tournament’s top names go down on the first day and many more double-digit seeds advance.
No. 16 Seed Richard Sterne Defeats No. 1 Seed Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson, the 37-year-old Iowa native, entered the World Golf Championship as a top seed, but in the end, he just had a bad day. Johnson took an early 1-up lead after a birdie on the second hole, but he would never increase it.
Three birdies in four holes by Richard Sterne built a sizable lead from which Johnson could not recover. Johnson gained a point back on 10, but Sterne came roaring back to once again birdie on three of the next four holes.
Sterne won 5 and 4 after 14 holes and will face Hunter Mahan on Thursday.
No. 15 Seed Peter Hanson Defeats No. 2 Seed Dustin Johnson
It’s a good thing that they don’t call it “Keeping up with the Johnsons,” as two top-seeded golfers with the surname Johnson lost on Wednesday.
Coastal Carolina alumnus and the No. 8 golfer in the world, according to Official World Golf Ranking, Dustin Johnson, lost 4 and 3 to Peter Hanson.
Hanson birdied and took the advantage on the first hole, gaining a 2-up lead when Johnson double-bogeyed on seven. Johnson would win the 11th hole when Hanson bogeyed but then hit the skids himself with back-to-back bogeys on 13 and 14.
The match was called after 15 holes when both golfers parred the hole.
No. 14 Seed George Coetzee Defeats No. 3 Seed Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker has dealt with a lot in the past week.
The 50-year-old brother of the world’s No. 12 player successfully underwent liver transplant surgery last weekend, and Stricker decided to play in the tournament. He was a No. 3 seed and would most likely win the first two rounds.
So much for that line of thinking.
Stricker fell into an early hole, bogeying the first two holes and four on the front nine. When the pressure was on, Stricker responded, winning back-to-back holes on 13 and 14 before ultimately losing 3 and 1 after 17 holes.
George Coetzee will face another upset winner in 11th seed Patrick Reed on Thursday.
No. 14 Seed Rickie Fowler Defeats No. 3 Seed Ian Poulter
Rickie Fowler, the 25-year-old from Murrieta, Calif., has been struggling as of late. He recently dropped three spots in the Official World Golf Ranking from 53 to 56 and was paired against OWGR’s 15th-ranked Ian Poulter, a daunting task for any golfer, much less a recently struggling one.
The pair was all-square through the first three holes prior to Fowler nabbing birdies on holes four, six and seven, taking a three-point advantage. Poulter struck back on the back nine, earning the skin on 11 and 14. The pair ended the match as they began it, with three straight matching pars. After 17 holes, Fowler was named the victor, 2 and 1.
Fowler faces No. 6 seed Jimmie Walker on Thursday.
No. 12 Seed Matteo Manassero Defeats No. 5 Seed Luke Donald
The youngest player to win a European Tour event struck early and often on Wednesday, defeating No. 5 seed Luke Donald 5 and 4.
The 20-year old phenom from Negrar, Italy broke Bobby Cole’s 1967 record as being the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters Tournament in 2010 at 16 years, 11 months and 2 days. He would turn pro a month later, competing in the BMW Italian Open and won his first title five months later in October, 2010.
It wasn’t so much that Donald had a rough day in Marana, but Manassero had a great one. Manassero birdied four of the first 10 holes while Donald bogeyed on nine and double-bogeyed on the third hole.
After four consecutive all-square holes from 11 to 14, Manassero was declared the winner and will face 4 seed Jason Dufner on Thursday.
No. 11 Seed Jonas Blixt Defeats No. 6 Seed Keegan Bradley
Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Rookie of the Year, started his career like a man on fire. He won in his major debut—the PGA Championship, no less. Since then, the 27-year-old New England golfer has only one PGA Tour win, the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Conversely, Swedish golfer Jonas Blixt’s best finish in a major is fourth in the 2013 PGA Championship to go along with two tour wins, the 2012 Frys.com Open and the 2013 Greenbrier Classic.
In one of the closer matches of the day, with four lead changes, Blixt bettered Bradley down the stretch, taking a 3-up advantage after 15 holes. Blixt pulled to all square after nailing a birdie on 11, and Bradley bogeyed the next two holes, giving a three-point swing in as many holes.
Bradley birdied on 16 to pull back within two, but when both golfers parred on hole 17, Blixt was declared the winner, 2 and 1.
Blixt will face everybody’s favorite Bubba—Bubba Watson—on Thursday.