Ben Hogan would be proud. The Hawk’s bracket in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is providing some of the best and brightest pre-weekend golf of the year, with one unlikely Upset King, one Swashbuckling Resurgent, and one of the best matchups you’re likely to see this side of the Ryder Cup.
First the upsets: After raising a few eyebrows with a first-round thumping of Ian Poulter, Rickie Fowler, who missed three straight cuts before arriving in Tucson, did it again on Thursday, scraping out a 1-up win against the hottest player in the game, Jimmy Walker. Fowler did it in spite of taking more desert marches than Rommel, banging approaches off rocks, cacti and desert shrubs. But that’s the beauty of match play: A crucial birdie at 16, and an ill-timed bogey by Walker at 17 all but sealed the upset.
Fowler’s next opponent is another of the game’s great stories. When he hasn’t had his heart on his sleeve or his foot in his mouth Sergio García has managed the kind of resurgence that puts him in contention for “Comeback Player of the Year.” A win in Qatar in January, a return to the top 10 in the World Golf Rankings, and a summary dismissal of Bill Haas at Dove Mountain to advance to Friday, makes Sergio exciting again. If he can keep his emotions in check, there is a good chance the Swashbuckling Spaniard will make it deep into the weekend.
But the best matchup of the second day was the back-and-forth battle between Rory McIlroy and Harris English, another great pairing from the Hogan bracket. Not only could you see the winner of that one going all the way on Sunday, both of those guys could and probably should win a major or two before the sun sets on the 2014 season.
They could also meet again in Scotland at the Ryder Cup. And no one would be sorry if they did.