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Rickie Fowler's simple approach is working at the Match Play

Rickie Fowler, 2014 Match Play
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Rickie Fowler beat Jimmy Walker 1 up on Thursday.

MARANA, Ariz. (AP) -- Rickie Fowler has a simple approach at the Match Play Championship.

"You have got to beat whoever you play in match play or else you're going home," Fowler said Thursday after sending another top player packing.

A day after beating European Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter 2 and 1, Fowler edged Jimmy Walker 1 up to set up a third-round match against Sergio Garcia.

"Got Sergio tomorrow," Fowler said. "That's all I know."

After Fowler drove left into the desert and lost the short, par-4 15th, he squared the match with a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th. He won the par-4 17th with a par and finished off Walker with an 8-foot par putt on the par-4 18th.

Fowler missed the cuts in his last three tournaments, while Walker leads the tour with three victories this season and opened with a 5-and-4 victory over Branden Grace.

"It's just a couple of bounces here and there - either way, both guys," Walker said.

The biggest bounce came on the 235-yard 16th. After Walker hit to about 25 feet, Fowler's ball went right and kicked left of a mound and settled 20 feet from the pin.

"That's just kind of the stuff that happens," Walker said. "He got to watch mine go down there and he ended up making it."

Fowler knew he had some margin for error.

"I've seen that kick before and I knew I had room over there," Fowler said. "I was playing a club that was landing maybe front edge and I did miss it a little right of my line, but I knew I had somewhat of a bank there."

He took advantage of the break by making the putt.

"I told my caddie, `I'm going to make this one.' I knew I needed to," Fowler said.

He took the lead on No. 17, getting up-and-down for par from the back fringe. Walker drove into the right rough and his approach went left down a steep slope.

"I wanted it to cut a little more," Walker said. "I think it landed right distance-wise, but it was left and took a hard kick to the left."

After Walker's pitch went 9 feet past and he missed the putt to the right, Fowler holed a 7-footer to take the lead.

"I knew I was going to have to make some putts," Fowler said.

Fowler holed out from 69 yards for eagle to win the par-5 second after losing the first.

"Good turn of events there," Fowler said. "He's up there just short of the green. He's making 4, so I knew I had to get a wedge in there close."

Fowler nearly holed another wedge shot on the par-4 14th, hitting to a foot from 134 yards for a birdie win that tied the match.

Garcia beat Bill Haas 3 and 1.

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MR. MATCH PLAY: Defending champion Matt Kuchar birdied the 18th hole to beat Ryan Moore 1 up and improve to 17-3 in the event.

"Match play is fun," Kuchar said. "It's unique, it's different. We play 72-hole stroke play every week. It's nice to change things up. Certainly makes for a lot of excitement. It's an 18-hole battle."

Third in the 2011 tournament, he opened with a 3-and-2 victory over Bernd Wiesberger. Kuchar has won eight straight matches at Dove Mountain and 12 of his last 13.

"This course has been good to me," Kuchar said. "I'm hoping to keep the good luck going."

He set up a match against 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, a 5-and-4 winner over Thomas Bjorn

"Man, I got my work cut out for me," Kuchar said. "He's been playing some awesome golf, hits it a long way and putts it great."

Hunter Mahan, the last player to beat Kuchar, is 17-5 in the event after edging Richard Sterne 2 up. Mahan beat Kuchar 6 and 5 in the 2012 quarterfinals en route to the title, and lost 2 and 1 to Kuchar in the championship match last year.

"I love playing in this event," Mahan said.

Mahan will play Graeme McDowell on Friday.

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STILL STANDING: Nine of the 27 U.S. players in the 64-man field advanced to the third round, the most Americans to survive the first two rounds since nine also made it in 2004.

There have been five all-American matches so far. On Thursday, Rickie Fowler beat Jimmy Walker, Matt Kuchar topped Ryan Moore, and Webb Simpson edged Brandt Snedeker. In two more all-U.S. matches Friday, Kuchar will play Jordan Spieth, and Harris English will face Jim Furyk.

Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Victor Dubuisson were the players in Europe's 25-man contingent to survive. Justin Rose, the only one of the five English players to win Wednesday, dropped out Thursday, and all three Swedes were eliminated. Three of the six South Africans advanced.

U.S. players are 14-7 against European opponents, going 4-1 on Thursday.

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DIVOTS: Harris English, Jordan Spieth and Victor Dubuisson are the only tournament newcomers to reach the third round. Nineteen players were making their first appearance in the event. ... The second-round losers received $99,000. The winner will get $1.53 million from the $9 million purse. Second place is worth $906,000, third $630,000, and fourth $510,000. The quarterfinal losers will get $280,000, and the third-round losers $148,000.
 

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