Golf

Day, Leish in match play battle

Jason Day
Jason Day during the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.

Australia’s eggs are all in one World Match Play Championship basket.

In world No.7 Adam Scott’s absence from the tournament at Austin Country Club, only two Aussies will fly the flag as 64 of the top 70 players on the rankings face off.

And in the draw done today, defending Match Play champion Jason Day and newly minted Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Marc Leishman have been lumped in the same four-man pool for the preliminary round.

Day (seeded and ranked No.3) and Leishman (seeded 28 and ranked No.32) were placed as the top two seeds in group three alongside a pair of veterans in England’s Lee Westwood (seeded 43) and American Pat Perez (seeded 56).

In other key groups, world No.1 Dustin Johnson has drawn a tall order in group one alongside three major championship winners in Jimmy Walker, Martin Kaymer and Webb Simpson.

World No.2 Rory McIlroy didn’t fare too well, either, with the impressive Emiliano Grillo, power-hitting Gary Woodland and wily Dane Soren Kjeldsen all in group two.

Another entertaining draw came in group seven with Sergio Garcia and fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm against Kevin Chappell and Shane Lowry, while the “group of death” might well be group 13 with Bubba Watson up against in-form Belgian Thomas Pieters, Scott Piercy and the mercurial Jhonattan Vegas.

Each player is guaranteed of three matches with the winner of all 16 groups advancing to knockout matches across the weekend.

The tournament, although only at its new Texas home for the second time, is a happy hunting ground for Day, who also won in Arizona in 2014, and Australians generally.

Although it has been played in different formats since its inception as a WGC event in 1999, Australians have triumphed four times with Geoff Ogilvy also winning twice.

In fact, Australians have a long and proud history of success in match play events on the US PGA Tour.

Ogilvy has a record of 20 wins and five losses in 25 US PGA Tour matches, sparked by six consecutive victories on his way to the 2006 Match Play title.

The following year, in defence of his crown, Ogilvy lost in the finals to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, 2&1.

Following a first-round loss to Justin Leonard in 2008 — only his second match loss — Ogilvy came back strong in 2009, taking down, in succession, Rory McIlroy (quarter-final), Stewart Cink (semi-final) and Paul Casey (final) to win for a second time.

Among players who have played at least 20 matches, Ogilvy’s 80 per cent winning percentage ties him for third on the all-time PGA Tour match play list behind Walter Burkemo’s 81.2 per cent success rate (26-6).

And while not quite in Ogilvy’s ballpark numerically, Sydney’s legendary Jim Ferrier is another match play success story.

Ferrier brought his game to the PGA Tour in 1940 when he made his pro debut at the St. Augustine Pro-Am in Florida and the Masters Tournament three weeks later.

But where he really stamped his name in PGA Tour history was at the US PGA Championship, beginning in 1946.

In those days, what has become considered one of golf’s four major championships, was decided by  match play, in which Ferrier compiled an 18-7 record in his eight appearances from 1946-53.

In Ferrier’s tournament debut, at Portland Golf Club in Oregon, he rolled past Sam Schneider and Lawson Little before dropping a 3&2 decision to legendary Jimmy Demaret in the quarter-finals.

Ferrier’s crowning moment came a year later at Plum Hollow Country Club in Michigan when he won six consecutive matches and defeated Chick Harbert for the championship, 2&1, remarkably putting just 52 times in the 35-hole final.

Day has twice won the US PGA Tour’s only current match play tournament.

The Queenslander cruised to a 5-and-4 victory over South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen in last year’s final and took down France’s Victor Dubuisson in sudden death in 2014, winning on the 23rd hole. The only real hiccup in Day’s match play history came in 2015 when he lost all three of his matches. His career match record is 21-6 (78 per cent).

Australians’ record in match play events on the US PGA Tour

Player                                Record                %

Robert Allenby                9-11                     45.0

Stuart Appleby                6-11                     35.2

Aaron Baddeley              4-4                       50.0

Greg Chalmers                0-2                       0.0

Bruce Crampton             4-1                       80.0

Jason Day                      21-6                     77.8

Bruce Devlin                    0-1                       0.0

Steve Elkington                0-3                       0.0

Jim Ferrier                        18-7                   72.0

Marcus Fraser                 1-3-1                   30.0

Mathew Goggin              1-1                       50.0

Wayne Grady                  1-1                       50.0

Mark Hensby                   1-2                       33.3

Brendan Jones                0-3                       0.0

Matt Jones                       1-4-1                   25.0

Joe Kirkwood, Jr.             3-2                       60.0

Joe Kirkwood, Sr.            9-9                       50.0

Stephen Leaney              6-5                       54.5

Marc Leishman               3-2                       60.0

Geoff Ogilvy                     20-5                     80.0

Nick O’Hern                     11-5                     68.7

Peter O’Malley                1-1                       50.0

Rod Pampling                  3-5                       37.5

Craig Parry                       3-5                      37.5

Adam Scott                      15-16-1                46.9

John Senden                    2-3                      40.0

Michael Sim                     0-1                       0.0

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