MARANA, Ariz. » J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson are in the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship, and it’s not hard to figure out how they got there.
In fact, you could say it’s elementary.
Holmes has five of the longest drives this week at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, including a 400-yard shot in the opening round. He wasn’t always straight, but he was long enough to keep himself in the game and win the last two holes against Jason Day yesterday.
Watson didn’t win his match against Geoff Ogilvy on the par-5 11th hole, but it sure felt that way. Already 2 up in his match, Watson was 290 from the hole when he ripped a 3-iron with a tight draw that bounded onto the green and settled about 15 feet away.
"I knew if I hit a bullet 3-iron, it could roll up close," Watson said. "We were just thinking about getting it on the green. We were thinking about missing it left, so we’d have an easy chip up on the slope. I knew it was good. I saw where it was running and it worked out in my favor again. I swung as hard as I could at a low, bullet 3-iron."
Three holes later, the match was over, 6 and 4.
"It’s never fun to lose," said Ogilvy, a two-time champion of this fickle event. "But it’s the first time I’ve played OK and lost. He played well. He hit great shots. I didn’t play that bad. I didn’t play ‘6-and-4’ bad."
That set up more fireworks today — Holmes vs. Watson, two of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour, head-to-head on a course nearly 7,800 yards long in the high desert with wind expected to top 20 mph.
"It should be fun," Holmes said. "Me and Bubba move it out there pretty good."
Their explosive play shifted the focus from youth to power in the third round, as the kids got sent home — 17-year-old Matteo Manassero, 22-year-old Rickie Fowler and the 23-year-old Day all lost their matches.
The youngest player still around also is the best — Martin Kaymer, the highest seed left at No. 2. The "Germanator" can move up to No. 1 in the world if he wins two matches today to reach the championship match.
"If I can get up one more spot in the world rankings, of course I wouldn’t mind it," Kaymer said. "But I think I’ll have a chance the next few weeks, months, as well."
Getting to today wasn’t easy, of course. Kaymer trailed by two holes until winning the 13th and 14th, then surged ahead on the par-3 16th when he hit a 3-iron into a stiff breeze to 12 feet for birdie.
Even so, it was the end that was painful to watch as it stirred Ryder Cup memories of Hunter Mahan.
Kaymer was 1 up and went long and left with his approach. Mahan did the same, and needed to at least escape with par to have any chance. Instead, he muffed yet another chip that barely got up the hill, well short of the green. He chipped long and made double bogey.
Mahan also flubbed a chip at the Ryder Cup on the 17th hole, although he was a long shot to win his match against Graeme McDowell. Still, it was an image that sticks among the key moments from Wales, and his finish against Kaymer won’t help erase that memory.
Kaymer advances to play Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, at 47 the oldest player in the field, who gave Ben Crane another short day at the office. Crane, whose 8-and-7 win on Thursday was the second-largest margin in tournament history, didn’t make a birdie until the 11th hole against Jimenez and lost, 7 and 6.
With cold weather due on the final day, the schedule was changed to avoid frost delays. The quarterfinals will be this morning, followed by the semifinals. The 18-hole final match will be tomorrow afternoon.
Stroud leads in Mexico
Chris Stroud made eight straight birdies — one off the PGA Tour record — and shot a 63 yesterday to take a three-stroke lead at 11-under 131 after the second round of the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Winless in five seasons on the PGA Tour, the 29-year-old Stroud birdied Nos. 9-16. Mark Calcavecchia set the record of nine straight birdies in the second round of the 2009 Canadian Open at Glen Abbey.
Kevin Stadler (66), Cameron Percy (66) and Sunghoon Kang (67) were tied for second.
Wie balloons to 77
Honolulu’s Michelle Wie had her worst 18 holes today since the second round of last year’s Evian Masters and is out of contention at the HSBC Women’s Champions tournament in Singapore.
Wie’s 77 dropped her to a tie for 35th from a tie for 12th at the second LPGA Tour event of the season. She’s at 5-over 221, 16 strokes off the pace of third-round leader Chie Arimura (71–205) of Japan.
The Punahou School graduate managed only one birdie, at the par-5 ninth, against six bogeys to equal the 77 she shot at Evian last July.
As for Arimura, she has led wire-to-wire and enters tomorrow’s final round with a one-shot advantage over former world No. 1 Karrie Webb (70–206) of Australia.
The Star-Advertiser staff contributed to this report.