Posted on: February 24, 2012 7:46 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 7:47 pm

Rory glory blocked by unsung Bae?

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Rory McIlroy's path to the final four, not to mention the world No. 1 position, is blocked by a familiar face ... sort of.

Now the tournament favorite, McIlroy will face largely unheralded rookie Sang-moon Bae on Saturday in the fourth round of the Accenture Match Play Championship, and while Bae is a new face on the PGA Tour, he's been around for a while.

In fact, McIlroy played alongside the powerful South Korean at the 2009 Korean Open in the final round, in the final group, and watched as Bae blew past him with a 4-under 67 to win. McIlroy shot 72 and finished T3 after starting the final day tied for the lead.

Bae, now 25, was one back of the leaders after three rounds, and took control of the tournament when he made three birdies in a row starting on the 11th. Bae earned his PGA Tour card last fall by finishing T8 at Qualifying School after three solid years on the Japan Tour, including topping the money list last year.

McIlroy, 22, is seeing to become the youngest winner at both the Accenture tournament and a World Golf Championships event. He dispatched Miguel Angel Jimenez on Friday, 3 and 1. Bae outlasted John Senden, 1 up, despite the fact that he had never before played in a match-play event.

"It's match play, so I only try to focus on my game, that's it," Bae said.

With a win, McIlroy can supplant Luke Donald as No. 1 in the world. He had little trouble with Jimenez, his former Ryder Cup teammate. McIlroy knocked five approach shots within seven feet of the flag on the front nine and jumped to an early 3-up lead.

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 23, 2012 8:26 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 8:40 pm

Rory's road to top of mountain looks good

By Steve Elling

MARANA, Ariz. -- Don’t look now, but the week is shaping up rather nicely for world No. 2 Rory McIlroy.

After surviving his second-round match at the Accenture Match Play Championship on Thursday with a 3 and 2 win over Denmark's Anders Hansen, McIlroy will face 48-year-old Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez on Friday.

No knock on Jimenez, the oldest man in the field at age 48, but his magic seems destined to evaporate at some point and there's plenty on the line for McIlroy, who can ascend to world No. 1 with a victory.

More importantly, McIlroy might the lone guy on the property who isn’t grumbling about the greens at the Dove Mountain course, which are a shade on the severe side, in the minds of most.

"The greens are okay," he said. "To be honest, I feel pretty comfortable reading them. I don't feel like  I mean, it's very obvious, the greens. It's not like some of the greens you get where it's very subtle.  It's very obvious."

He might want to tell a few of the 16 players who were dispatched Thursday, including Tiger Woods, who raked balls around on the greens all week.

His bracket is probably the weakest of the four, with Jimenez, John Senden and Sang-moon Bae as the remaining four.

As for achieving the No. 1 ranking at age 22, he's been hearing it non-stop for a couple of days now.

"Everyone keeps telling me, so it's hard to put it out of my mind," he said. "It's a little bit of extra motivation this week knowing that if I can get through four more matches, I could go to the top of the world rankings, which is obviously a huge moment for my career."

Category: Golf
Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:56 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 4:48 pm

Casey shoulder injury forces match-play exit

By Steve Elling 

Even with easy money and scads of world ranking points on offer just for showing up, injured Paul Casey on Thursday elected to withdraw from the season’s first World Golf Championships event next week outside Tucson, Ariz.

Casey, who dislocated a shoulder in a holiday snowboarding accident, visited his doctor in Phoenix on Wednesday and the exam results were mixed, so Casey elected to withdraw Thursday from the Accenture Match Play to give replacement George Coetzee extra chance to get to the event site in timely fashion.

Casey, 34, has twice finished second in the Accenture event and is a past winner at the European Tour’s match-play tournament. Coetzee, ranked No. 66 in the world, is South African and will be making his first Accenture appearance. The field is limited to 64 players.

“He wanted to give Coetzee time to get there,” swing coach Peter Kostis said.

Until the moment he received the updated physician’s report on Thursday, Kostis was optimistic that his top pupil would be green-lighted by doctors this week, but it now appears that Casey will remain in rehab mode until the next WGC event, at Doral, in three weeks.

Casey, a former world No. 3 who has battled a series of injuries over the past three seasons, fell while snowboarding over Christmas break in Vail, Colo.

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