MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Woody Austin was at his self-deprecating best Thursday in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Having already three-putted twice to give away holes, Austin had a 45-foot birdie attempt that was struck so poorly it turned off the slope and stayed 15 feet left of the cup.
“Greatest putter in the history of golf,” he said to himself as the gallery stifled a laugh.
Trying to stay in the match, he thought a 20-foot birdie putt was right in the heart on the 16th, but when it burned the edge, Austin looked toward the heavens, raised his hands and began clapping, as if to say, “Good work, God, you really know how to stick it to me.”
Austin was up to his old antics at Dove Mountain, but there is no mistaking his grit.
He made an impressive debut at the Presidents Cup, despite falling face-first into the water, and he is 2-0 in his debut at this fickle tournament. Austin advanced out of the second round against Adam Scott in a match that never looked like he would win.
“I will never give up. I think I proved that,” he said after winning in 19 holes.
Scott was 2 up with four holes to play until an unseemly collapse, and some clutch putting by Austin.
Austin holed a 6-foot birdie on the 15th, and stayed alive when Scott missed from the same distance on the 16th. It looked as though the match would end on the 17th when Austin hit an eagle putt from the fringe 8 feet left of the hole, and Scott lagged his eagle putt to 3 feet. Austin made his birdie, Scott missed and they went to the 18th all square.
Austin hit into a bunker, so close to the lip that he had one foot in the grass and couldn’t reach the green. His wedge spun back to 8 feet, and the par putt fell on the last turn to send the match to extra holes.
It ended quickly, when Scott missed a 10-foot birdie and Austin made his from 4 feet.
“My putter got me down, and then my putter saved me,” Austin said.
He once got so irritated that he bashed his putter against his head until it broke, so it was surprising to hear that Austin has kept this putter for the last 2 1/2 years.
“I’ve been behaving myself,” he said.
Austin said he has missed only two shots in two rounds, and indeed, this was a well-played match. Scott shot 67, didn’t make a bogey and missed only one green in regulation. Austin had 28 putts through the first 14 holes, then one-putted four of the last five.
Scott missed three putts inside 10 feet over the last four holes, and faced a long, lonely walk to the clubhouse.
“I think our No. 1 player found that out yesterday – you have to get lucky,” Austin said. “Even him.”
TOMS OUT: David Toms had advanced to the third round each of the last six years, the longest streak at this tournament, but he never got a chance on Thursday. His back began acting up late in his opening-round victory over Zach Johnson, and he was forced to withdraw before playing Aaron Baddeley.
Baddeley asked rules officials if he could still play, and thought about a nine-hole match against par.
The next opponent could be tougher than par.
Baddeley plays Tiger Woods in the third round, the first time he has been paired with him since the final round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont, where Baddeley made triple bogey on the opening hole and shot 80.
The good news for Baddeley?
Woods is 4-3 against Australians at this event, and 23-3 against the rest of the world.
BOO: Boo Weekley had a reason for not knowing the protocol of conceding short putts in match play. It has been a decade since he has played the format, and he hasn’t been paying attention to the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
“I don’t watch golf,” he said. “I’d much rather watch fishing or hunting or NASCAR or something. It’s got to be moving, man. Golf ain’t moving.”
After a 3-and-1 victory over Sergio Garcia, the country boy from the Florida Panhandle expounded on his love for the outdoors.
For one thing, he builds his PGA Tour schedule around it.
“I take two weeks at a time,” Weekley said. “By the time I get back home, it’ll be turkey season. I just got back from deer hunting. Then I’ll play five weeks and go back home, and it’ll be fishing season.”
One reporter asked him if he hunted for the kill or the thrills.
“It ain’t about killing,” he said. “We ain’t going to kill nothing unless we’re going to eat it. I learned that quick. My great-granddaddy … I shot a blackbird. He said, ‘If you’re going to shoot this bird, take a life, you need to eat it.’ I brought it right in, plucked the feathers off and he stuck it right in the fryer. It ain’t very good, I can tell you that.”
His golf has been quite solid. Next up for Weekley is Woody Austin in the third round.
RYDER CUP ASPIRATIONS: If he were the Ryder Cup captain, Colin Montgomerie said he would pay close attention to the Accenture Match Play Championship. That’s easy for him to say – he’s still playing.
“It’s the only match play tournament we have before the Ryder Cup,” Montgomerie said. “I would obviously pay attention to it because it is a different form of golf to stroke play. It’s like playing tennis on grass or on clay.”
European captain Nick Faldo and Montgomerie are not the closest of friends, and many believe Monty will have to earn a spot on the team if he wants to play for the eighth straight time. He at least made a good impression, closing with three birdies over the last five holes to beat Charles Howell III, 1 up.
“Charles had just birdied the 11th to go to all square, and my caddie said, ‘Right, Mr. Montgomerie, it’s Ryder Cup mode.’ And I was 4 under from then on. He should say that more often.”