The beauty of the Match Play Championship lies in the sheer volume of material it throws the way of fans of a media types alike. 32 first-round matches can be relied upon to yield the same number of compelling narratives, variously framed as do-or-die clashes between contrasting generations, styles, continents, facial hair, even paces of play (Crane v. Watson; Manassero v. Simpson).
It’s a feast for the game’s more romantic aficionados – a deluge of news – even if the competitors are, in reality, only scrapping over the difference between two very large cheques.
Here’s the pick of the storylines heading into today’s second round:
- After suffering elimination at the hands of a steady if unspectacular Ernie Els, Luke Donald’s position at the head of the world rankings looks under threat. A win for either Lee Westwood or Rory McIlroy this week would see the Englishman supplanted as World Number One. [Lawrence Donegan has quotes from a shell-shocked Donald here]
- Young Matteo Manassero recorded the most predictable of upsets in the first round, putting devout slowpoke Webb Simpson to the sword 3&2. The Italian, who faces Martin Laird today, could meet fellow tyro Ryo Ishikawa in the third round; provided, of course, the Japanese pop star can edge past an in-form Paul Lawrie. [A little bit of Manny-love here]
- Want to know a little more about George Coetzee, Rory McIlroy’s vanquished first-round opponent? Irish Golf Desk has an brief profile of the 25-year-old, whose career was nearly derailed by a taste for the nightlife of Tijuana (nothing a dose of penicillin couldn’t cure, I bet). [Irish Golf Desk]
- Rafael Cabrero-Bello let nerves get the better of him during his opening match with Jason Day. After missing short putts on the 16th and 17th holes, either one of which would have seen him progress to the second round, the Spaniard hacked his way up the 18th, paving the way for a slightly humiliating defeat at the first extra hole. Day, the world No.7, was relieved to “kind of scrape through”. [Courier Mail]
- Serial cactus botherer Tiger Woods remains on course for a quarter-final defeat to Matteo Manassero. Granted a reprieve by the predictably anxious putting of Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, the former World Number One faces Nick “Crazy Eyes” Watney in today’s second round. [Relevant stuff here]
- Kyle Stanley will revisit the emotional trauma of his loss at the Farmers Insurance Open when he faces off with Brandt Snedeker this afternoon. (Polite) Mindgames will no doubt ensue.
- Martin Kaymer remains very good at golf. The German – my favourite to take the title – was impressive against Greg Chalmers yesterday, but not nearly as impressive as the man he’s scheduled to face in the second round, David Toms. Fireworks look to be in the offing.