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Down to Final Eight at Match Play Championship
Defending champion Matt Kuchar finally saw his string of successes in the $9 million WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship come to an end. The 35-year-old from Georgia lost to 20-year-old Jordan Spieth 2 and 1 Friday at the Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.
After forging a 3-up lead through 10 holes, Spieth, the PGA Tour's reigning Rookie of the Year, hung on from there thanks to nine birdies on the day. The young Texan advanced to face four-time major champion Ernie Els, who forged a 1-up win over Jason Dufner in a tight match.
Also moving on is Els' fellow South African, Louis Oosthuizen, who easily defeated 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson 5 and 4. Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, will next go against Australia's Jason Day, who edged South African George Coetzee 3 and 1.
Another grizzled veteran like Els, Jim Furyk played well in beating fellow American Harris English 1-up. The 43-year-old, 16-time Tour winner will face Rickie Fowler, who beat Sergio Garcia. Furyk's match changed when he chipped in for a birdie to win the 16th hole for the ultimate 1-up margin.
"I was really just trying to run it down close," the Pennsylvanian told reporters later of his chip-in. "It wasn't one of those you could be aggressive and try to knock it in . . . I was expecting that second shot to kind of come out and check, and then trickle over that ridge. It did not. It did not come out with the spin I expected. It was a little firm, that ball probably would have rolled a good 10 feet by . . . I was fortunate that it hit the pin and went in."
In the Fowler-Garcia match, the Spaniard made a questionable but classy decision on the seventh hole when he conceded an 18-foot par putt to Fowler, which maintained Garcia's 2-up lead at the time but became important later in the match as Fowler went 5-under par over the last 10 holes en route to the victory.
"I don't regret it at all," Garcia said of his suggestion that he and Fowler pick up their balls on the seventh green when Fowler had the longer putt and Garcia was only seven feet from the cup. "He played much better than me on the last 10 holes and he deserves a win," said Garcia of his gesture.
"This is a gentlemen's game, and lately it hasn't felt like it's been like that. This is the way I was brought up by my dad playing golf."
The move came a hole after Garcia had encountered bees that were threatening to sting him, taking two separate drops to get away from the angry insects. "I had some bad experiences with bees as a youngster . . . I felt quite uncomfortable hitting the shot," he said.
"I was talking to the referee and he told me to move to where I feel comfortable. I took a drop. Then the bees started flying around me. I felt quite uncomfortable again. So I asked him again and I took another drop again and hit the shot."
Garcia added that he felt bad for Fowler, who patiently waited out the ordeal. "I felt guilty. I felt guilty that my drop on six took so long. I felt like if I would have been in his position I would have been uncomfortable waiting so long to hit my birdie putt. So I just thought I have to do something. I have to do something to make sure that I feel good with myself."
Fowler wasn't sure what to make of Garcia's concession at the time, but gladly accepted it. "I had to kind of find out what he was asking or offering there," the Southern Californian said. "Took me a few (moments) to kind of realize (it). And obviously I'd be stupid to not take a half. I was outside of him. He had a good look for par. He had the advantage there."
In his third straight nail-biter in this year's event, Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell made it to the quarterfinals by edging Hunter Mahan in 21 holes. The 2010 U.S. Open champion was two down with two holes to play but carded a par - to Mahan's bogey - and a birdie on No. 18 to tie the match, then won with another birdie on the par-4 third hole.
"I was sure I was beaten against Gary Woodland (in the first round) and walking off the 16th (Friday) I thought I was beaten again," said the relieved Ulsterman. "I've just robbed three players at this tournament and I can't believe I'm still in it."
McDowell will now face the surprising Frenchman, Victor Dubuisson, who took out the red-hot Bubba Watson 1-up. Before Watson - who won last week's Northern Trust Open at Riviera - the 23-year-old Dubuisson defeated Kevin Streelman and European Ryder Cup player Peter Hanson in his first match-play tournament as a professional.
For all the scores, visit http://www.worldgolfchampionships.com/accenture-match-play-championship/leaderboard.html.