by Jeff Skinner
Every time a match play event rolls around we hear how the pros, the media and the fans love the excitement of head to head competition and that there should be more of it on the tours. At the same time we hear that television will never approve of an increase in match play events because they are afraid all of their big draws will be out of the tournament too early. The Sybase Match Play Championship is an example of a network’s worst fears realized.
Last year the final match at Sybase pitted two of the most gritty match play competitors anywhere in golf. Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr battled to the eighteenth hole in the championship match and the fans got all they could ask for. This year both Pettersen and Kerr have been sent packing due to major upsets in the first two rounds.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been exciting golf and gripping matches. On the contrary, there has been plenty of great golf but most of it has resulted in the bigger names and the higher draws heading home early. Pettersen, Paula Creamer, Brittany Lincicome, Ai Miyazto and Michelle Wie were all sent home on day one.
Day two saw much of the same as Cristie Kerr, Natalie Gulbis and Karrie Webb were all defeated. Gulbis had been a big story on day one as she battled back from a 4-0 deficit.
The 62nd seed, young Jodi Ewart continued her amazing run one day after she dispatched Pettersen. Ewart took down another match play stalwart in 30th seeded Sophie Gustafson. Sixth seeded Stacy Lewis kept up her solid play as she defeated Sandra Gal 4 & 3. World number one Yani Tseng found her putting stroke and moved on with a defeat of Katie Futcher. In another big upset 37th seeded Vicky Hurst ousted Kerr in nineteen holes. And 26th seeded Anna Nordqvist topped seventh seed Jiyai Shin.
For the casual fan there might not be many “familiar” players left but to any golf fan that is interested in good golf the stage is set for an exciting weekend. There is a good mix of seasoned veterans and young players looking to make a big name for themselves on Saturday.
Na Yeon Choi (2) vs Morgan Pressel (15). Pressel is as gritty as they come but Choi has three top tens this year already.
Amy Yang (10) vs Anna Nordqvist (26). This match looks even but Nordqvist is on a roll after knocking off seventh seeded Shin.
So Yeon Ryu (13) vs Katherine Hull (36). Even though Ryu is the current U. S. Open Champion these are the kind of matches that strike fear into the hearts of the networks.
Angela Stanford vs Vicky Hurst (37). Unfortunately there will be one less American after this match. Hurst has to be flying high after taking out Kerr bur she has yet to win on tour. Stanford has five wins on tour and her experience may be her biggest advantage.
Yani Tseng (1) vs Candie Kung (49). Yani Tseng is a machine; it’s hard not to expect her to win every time she tees it up.
Karine Icher (40) vs Julieta Granada (41). Both players have completed an upset victory to earn their way here.
Azahara Munoz (19) vs Jodi Ewart (62). Munoz took out Karrie Webb today but the story of this tournament in Ewart. Taking out Pettersen and Gustafson has to give the youngster plenty of confidence. But a 62nd seed? Cinderella is at the ball.
Stacy Lewis (6) vs Sun Young Yoo (11). Lewis is the best American golfer right now, despite Kerr sitting ahead of her in the Rolex Rankings. She has a win already this season and would love to face Tseng in the final.