Top seed Stricker ousted at Accenture golf event
TUCSON: Steve Stricker crashed out of the Accenture Match Play, becoming just the second top seed to lose in the first round of the World Golf Championships event.
Englishman Ross McGowan came out ahead in a tight match, sinking an unlikely 25-foot par putt to clinch the victory at the 19th hole.
"I knew I had a good chance at the beginning of the day," said McGowan. "On the whole I tend to stay level headed (but) it was quite exciting when that one dropped on 19."
The only other time a top seed has lost the event was when Tiger Woods lost in 2002.
The absence of Woods and compatriot Phil Mickelson in the 64-man field paved the way for McGowan's entry, as he inherited a spot despite not being ranked in the top 64 in the world.
It was a good, day, too for Japanese teenager Ryo Ishikawa, who produced a brilliant finish to win his first round clash.
The 18-year-old was among 32 players to advance to the second round at Dove Mountain.
"I was very nervous but first hole birdie start gave me a good experience and confidence," Ishikawa said after winning the final three holes to beat Australian Michael Sim 2-up.
Ishikawa is already a superstar at home, where he won the money title last year, and he showed why with a clutch performance down the stretch.
After winning the 16th with a par, he hit a brilliant bunker shot from 170 yards for a tap-in birdie at the par-four 17th, and then secured victory with another birdie at the last.
"Ryo?s a fantastic player. I think he can go all the way," said the vanquished Sim.
Stricker was philosophical in defeat
"That?s just the nature of the event," he said. "We both played really well and didn?t give each other many holes out there. But he started putting it really good coming in and obviously made a great putt to end the match."
In another upset, 57th seed Jeev Milkha Singh eliminated eighth-seeded Irishman Padraig Harrington 3 and 1.
"In match play, it all comes down to who holes more putts and I was lucky enough to do that," said Singh, of India.
Added Harrington: "He out-putted me. I putted badly (and) he putted well.
"I?m more than happy with how I played. In 72-hole stroke play, I?d still be in the tournament."
Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy did it easily, beating Swede Noren Alexander 7 and 5.
The event continues Thursday with 16 matches.
Last year Woods chose this event to make his return in the wake of knee surgery.
Although the embattled world number one isn't here, he made presence felt Wednesday as his agent announced he would meet a select group of media on Friday in Florida - his first public appearance since a November 27 car crash that led to revelations of marital infidelity.
"I don?t know what he?s going to talk about," British Open champion Stewart Cink said after winning his match. "I think this is maybe the beginning of the comeback process for him.
"It will be good to see Tiger?s face again and see that he?s actually out there somewhere."