Ernie eases world no.1 out of Match Play

Ernie Els sent world number one Luke Donald packing 5-and-4 in the opening round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship on a day of upsets at Dove Mountain in Arizona.

And, besides Els’ dismantling of Donald, the next biggest upset came from Robert Rock, who clung on tenaciously throughout his match to oust Adam Scott 1-up.

The Big Easy’s win was one of three for South African players, as Charl Schwartzel cruised past Gary Woodland 4-and-2 and Louis Oosthuizen defeated Aaron Baddeley 2-and-1.

And George Coetzee gave Rory McIlroy a run for his money as the world number two nearly gave up a three-stroke lead with three to play. When Coetzee three-putted the 18tyh, McIlroy had held on to win 1-up.

In the longest match of the day, Brandt Snedeker needed 21 holes to quell a spirited Retief Goosen.

For Els, who has been sent packing on the first day himself, it was the first step on what is a tough road to get himself back into the world’s top 50 and perhaps into the Masters.

But he had time to empathise with Donald afterwards: “I know exactly what it feels like,” he said. “You’ve seen me walk 18, 19, 20 holes and get blasted on this thing in the first round. It’s not a great feeling. But it is what it is.”

Donald never held the lead against Els. He conceded the third hole after his tee shot found the water and he struggled to stay in the match. He did square the match with a birdie at the seventh, but Els answered with a birdie at the par-five eight.

Donald then lost three of the next four holes with bogeys, and Els never gave him an opening. Els said the difference was the par-fives – he won two and halved the other two. “I put pressure on him on the long holes,” Els said, “and it worked out.”

Schwartzel had no trouble with Woodland. The Masters champion eagled the par-five second and Woodland conceded the next hole after finding the water with his tee shot. Besides a bogey on the fourth, Schwartzel stayed out of trouble the rest of the way while Woodland produced a messy scorecard that included five bogeys. Schwartzel closed out the match with a birdie from four feet at the 16th.

Oosthuizen lost the first hole, won the next two with birdies and never trailed after that in a tight match against Baddeley. He ended the match with a birdie at the 17th. “Luckily today I putted really well,” Oosthuizen said.

For Coetzee, there was disappointment, but pleasure in the experience: “I kept playing positive and it just didn’t click,” he said. “I don’t think either of us played particularly well. Most of the day I think both of us could have done much better. Good job to Rory for finishing it off at the end.”

Els will meet Sweden’s Peter Hanson in the second round, while Schwartzel encounters Korean Sang-moon Bae and Oosthuizen faces up to Steve Stricker.

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