Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy may have been eliminated, but that doesn't mean the excitement is over at the 2013 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Much like when both men disappeared at last year's Masters Tournament, the PGA can thank Bubba Watson for providing the much-needed intrigue. In one of the better match-play battles in recent memory, Watson emerged victorious over fellow American Jim Furyk, 1 up, in a 22-hole thrill ride.
Watson certainly didn't make it easy on himself, either. In a close match throughout, the lefty had more than one close putt to win but failed to finish the job initially.
The normally docile crowd even got into the action. As Arizona Daily Star reporter Daniel Berk noted, the crowd started chanting "U of A"—Furyk's alma mater—when Watson missed a putt on 18 to send the match to extra holes:
When Bubba Watson missed a putt to win the match against Jim Furyk on 18, a relatively loud U of A chant broke out. Headed to extras.— Daniel Berk (@DSBerk) February 22, 2013
For such a hard-fought battle and close match, Watson had to come through with an epic putt to win, right? Well, not really. Here is Watson's "winning" putt, which is merely a miss that Furyk conceded in his favor.
Watson and Furyk weren't the only players running a marathon on Friday.
Graeme McDowell needed a beautiful birdie on the 18th hole to come roaring back from a hole down and eventually defeated Alexander Noren after two playoff holes to win. And Steve Stricker also needed 21 holes to defeat Nick Watney.
That being said, Friday's results put Watson in a very good position to win. Following a second straight day of upsets, Watson is the only top-10-overall seed left in the field at Dove Mountain.
Nowhere is the topsy-turvy nature of this year's Match Play Championship more exemplified than in the Cinderella run of Shane Lowry through the Bobby Jones bracket. A day after defeating McIlroy, he beat Carl Pettersson, 6 and 5, cold-bloodedly knocking down a 16-footer on the 13th hole to clinch his victory.
With that win, Lowry became the first No. 64 seed in tournament history to ever make it out of the second round, per the PGA Tour Media Twitter feed:
Shane Lowry is the first No. 64 seed to advance past 2d round in AMPC history.Only three of the previous 14 made it out of round one.— PGA TOUR Media (@PGATOURmedia) February 22, 2013
Thursday's other shocking victor, Charles Howell III, did not fare nearly as well. He was bludgeoned by Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, 6 and 5, in one of the rare instances in which the favorite actually won on Friday.
Overall, Dove Mountain continued to oust golf's biggest names from its weekend festivities. Luke Donald was disposed of by Scott Piercy, who hit arguably the shot of the day on hole No. 5, in a 7-and-6 romp.
Donald was joined in upset city by the other remaining top bracket seed, Louis Oosthuizen. The South African did not fare quite as embarrassingly as his counterpart, losing 3 and 2 to Robert Garrigus, but left a field pretty much open for the taking.
Friday saw six of the 16 matches go the way of the lower-seeded player, with the Gary Player bracket being the only one that could have even possibly been predicted prior to the tournament.
After the past couple of days, one has to wonder what type of craziness we'll see this weekend. One thing is for certain: No player is safe at the 2013 Accenture Match Play Championship.
Day 3 Results
Bobby Jones Bracket
Shane Lowry (16) def. Carl Pettersson (9), 6 and 5
Graeme McDowell (5) def. Alexander Noren (13), 1 up
Bubba Watson (2) def. Jim Furyk (7), 1 up
Jason Day (11) def. Russell Henley (14), 1 up
Gary Player Bracket
Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (8) def. Charles Howell III (16), 6 and 5
Webb Simpson (4) def. Peter Hanson (5), 1 up
Martin Kaymer (7) def. Rafael Cabrera Bello (15), 2 and 1
Hunter Mahan(6) def. Richard Sterne (14), 4 and 3
Sam Snead Bracket
Scott Piercy (9) def. Luke Donald (1), 7 and 6
Steve Stricker (4) def. Nick Watney (5), 1 up
Tim Clark (15) def. Thorbjorn Olesen (10), 3 and 2
Ian Poulter (3) def. Bo Van Pelt (6), 3 and 1
Ben Hogan Bracket
Robert Garrigus (9) def. Louis Oosthuizen (1), 3 and 2
Fredrik Jacobson (12) def. Marcus Fraser (13), 4 and 3
Nicolas Colsaerts (10) def. Justin Rose (2), 4 and 2
Matt Kuchar (6) def. Sergio Garcia (3), 2 and 1