US Open champion Justin Rose edged upset-minded American Scott Piercy one-up on Wednesday to prevent a total England ouster in round one of the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship.
Rose, the top seed in his quarter of the bracket in the 64-man event, did not break par until a long eagle putt at the 11th hole to square the match, then nursed a lead off a birdie at the 12th into the clubhouse.
The opening day of the US$9 million event at Dove Mountain produced only a record-low nine upsets according to seedings, but three of them were suffered by Englishmen — Lee Westwood and past champions Ian Poulter and Luke Donald.
Third seed Poulter, who won the Match Play crown in 2010 and reached last year’s final four, fell two and one to the US’ Rickie Fowler.
Italy’s Matteo Manassero routed fifth seed and 2011 winner Donald five and four, for only Donald’s second first-round loss in 10 starts at the event, while Westwood, an eighth seed, was a five-and-three loser to the US’ Harris English.
Add David Lynn’s ouster despite pushing US fourth seed Brandt Snedeker to 20 holes, the American taking his lone lead of the match with a nine-foot birdie at the last, and it was four of five gone quickly for England.
The day’s biggest upset victim was US top seed Zach Johnson, who was routed five and four by Richard Sterne. The 62nd-ranked South African next faces 2012 winner and last year’s runner-up Hunter Mahan, an American who has eliminated Sterne twice.
Also ousted was US second seed Dustin Johnson, who lost four and three to 59th-ranked Swede Peter Hanson.
South African Ernie Els, who faces Rose next, beat Scotsman Stephen Gallacher in 19 holes, the same number that last year’s PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner needed to dispatch fellow American Scott Stallings.
Top seed Rory McIlroy beat Boo Weekley three and two to book a date with English.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, the overall top seed, birdied 16 and 17 for his first lead of the back nine to edge Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat two and one.
There were also plenty of thrillers among the openers, including Hideki Matsuyama edging Germany’s Martin Kaymer two and one. The Japanese star won 14 and 15 with birdies to go one-up, and took the match when Kaymer missed the 17th green and missed a 20-foot par putt.
His next foe is Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who edged Gary Woodland in 19 holes. Woodland birdied the 15th to go two-up, but he went over the green to halve the par-three 16th.
McDowell birdied to win 17, took 18 at par when Woodland took four shots to the fringe and won the last with a wedge to six feet.
The longest match was Spanish second seed Sergio Garcia’s 22-hole triumph over Australian Marc Leishman. Garcia squared the match with an eight-foot birdie putt at 17, then missed a six-footer for par at 18 to force extra holes.