MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Only 17 Americans played in the Accenture Match Play Championship, the fewest in the event that began in 1999.
They posted a 13-4 record in the opening round Wednesday — and one of the losses came when Steve Stricker beat fellow American Dustin Johnson.
By contrast, the 20 Europeans in the field went 10-10, with Peter Hanson beating fellow Swede Robert Karlsson in the only match between Europeans.
Only 19 of the 47 international players won their first-round matches. The largest remaining international contingent is from England, with six players surviving.
“Not a lot of Americans in the field, to tell you the truth,” Stricker said.
Stricker will face Ernie Els, a South African, in the second round.
The most notable victory by an American may have been Pat Perez’s 1-up victory over Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, the world’s No. 3 golfer.
“Obviously, winning is a huge confidence,” said Perez, who lives in Scottsdale. “But once you start beating guys like him, the confidence just keeps going up.”
LEFTY PULLS IT OUT: Three days after winning the Northern Trust Open, Phil Mickelson was 4-up over Angel Cabrera with five holes to play.
Then Mickelson’s lead evaporated into the desert air.
Cabrera rallied to force sudden death before Mickelson recovered to win in 19 holes, birdieing the par-4 first hole.
“I was fortunate to win in sudden death, but I’ll gladly take it,” Mickelson said.
Cabrera trimmed Mickelson’s lead with a par on the 14th hole and birdies on the next three holes, squaring the match on the 17th. Both players parred the 18th, with Cabrera rolling in a 10-footer to force sudden death.
“I give him a lot of credit for gutting it out,” Mickelson said. “I was fortunate to come out on top with somebody that was really getting hot there at the end.”
Mickelson, ranked fifth in the world, advanced to face Zach Johnson, who beat Graeme McDowell 3 and 1. Mickelson improved to 14-9 in match play.
BIG EASY, FINALLY: Ernie Els headed to his hotel after his opening match Wednesday, which was a refreshing change.
The Big Easy usually goes to the airport.
Els ran off three straight birdies late in his match against Soren Hansen for a 4-and-2 victory, advancing to the second round for the first time in seven years. He skipped two years when it was held at La Costa Resort, a course he never liked.
“Glad to get through,” Els said.
The last time he won in this event, Els defeated Jeff Sluman, 4 and 3, at La Costa in 2002.
Els is a six-time champion of the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, but the only time he has advanced beyond the third round of the Accenture Match Play Championship was in 2001, when he finished fourth in Australia.
Then again, the World Match Play is 36 holes per match, leaving a greater margin for error. Plus, Els has a home at Wentworth in England, and even helped redesign the course.
“It’s more of a sprint here,” he said. “If you get off to a bad start, it’s hard to get back into it.”
OVERTIME: In a match between two players who had won at least 80 percent of their matches, former 2006 Match Play winner Geoff Ogilvy survived a scare from 2002 winner Kevin Sutherland before winning in 19 holes.
“I was hoping on the 17th tee to not go down 19, obviously,” Ogilvy said.
He should have expected it.
The year Sutherland won, he was 2 down with two holes to play until winning the next two holes against David Duval, then beating him in 20 holes. Sutherland almost did it again. He won the 17th hole with a par, then holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
Ogilvy, however, got up-and-down from the bunker on the 19th hole (No. 1), to advance to the second round.
NO WORRIES, MATE: Australia turned out to be a good place to tune up for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Anthony Kim, Lee Westwood and Camilo Villegas all fought off jet lag to win their opening-round matches after competing in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth, Australia, last week.
“I know I have not slept for more than three hours in a row for two weeks,” said Westwood, who beat Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand 2 and 1. “It is part of professional golf. We play all over the world now and you have to be able to adapt to time change.”
Westwood finished his match before noon Wednesday — or 4 a.m. Thursday in Perth.
Villegas romped past Australian Rod Pampling in 12 holes (7 and 6).
Kim defeated Lin Wen-Tang of Taiwan in 13 holes (7 and 5). Kim estimated that he logged 47 hours in planes in the last two weeks as he traveled between tournaments in Malaysia and Australia, then flew back to the United States.
Kim said working out helped him recover from jet lag quicker.
“I’m definitely getting better, but at the same time I’m in better shape, so it’s easier for me to find my rhythm as far as getting to the gym and then going and playing,” he said.
Kim advanced to a second-round match against England’s Oliver Wilson, a 3-and-1 winner over South Korea’s K.J. Choi.
“(Kim) has been on a long trip back from Australia, so maybe a bit of jet leg will kick in,” Wilson said.
OUCH!: As if losing to Davis Love III in 21 holes wasn’t painful enough, Henrik Stenson had a brush with a cactus on the second extra hole.
Stenson hit his tee shot into a tangle of prickly chollas on the par-5 2nd hole. He managed to extricate his ball but not before backing into a cactus.
As Stenson trudged back to the fairway, he had to pick a cluster of needles off his purple shirt. “I’ve got tweezers,” one fan called out.
“I was all over the place, right and left and unfortunately not often in between,” Stenson said. “Lot of desert visits and picking up cactus. Bit painful at times up the back, especially on the second extra hole.”
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.