MARANA, Ariz. (AP) – Peter Hanson welcomed the snow storm that suspended play Wednesday just before he was scheduled to tee off against Thomas Bjorn in the Match Play Championship.
It gave him a chance to nail Ian Poulter with a snowball and, more importantly, provided an extra day of rest and treatment for a bulging disk in his back that had him thinking about withdrawing.
“I actually changed beds, almost slept on the floor to get it a bit stiffer, a bit harder, to keep it in place,'' the Swede said Thursday after his 3-and-2 victory over Bjorn. “I put one of these wood boards underneath the mattresses and took the top mattress off, so it made it really firm. I think that helped a little bit. Still a bit stiff in this cold weather, didn't start great.''
The bulging disk flares up two or three times a year.
“It's quite often when I've done it that I'm traveling and whatever bed I might have been sleeping in or whatever exercise I've done in the gym,'' Hanson said. “We're just trying to figure out exactly what makes it flare up, but I think the margin from the disk to the nerve is very, very small, so that's why I get it a few times a year. And luckily it hasn't been too often over the last couple years.
“I kind of squat down a little bit at impact because I get a little bit of impingement when I make the turn. I try to tell the brain, `It's not a problem.' But the signal is there and it just makes the body protect it a bit, so it's a bit stiff and it's a bit blocked up. Hopefully, I'll get a bit more treatment now and try and get it one step better tomorrow.''
Hanson will face U.S. Ryder Cup rival Webb Simpson in the second round. Last year in Europe's victory over the United States at Medinah, Simpson and Bubba Watson beat Hanson and Paul Lawrie 5 and 4 in the opening fourball matches.
“It would be nice to get some revenge,'' Hanson said. “He's a great guy. We're very good friends.''
Simpson advanced with a 5-and-4 victory over England's David Lynn.
CONFIDENT AUSSIE: Marcus Fraser is an Australian who plays the European Tour. He's also a great putter – and isn't shy about it.
“I know I'm one of the best putters in the game,'' Fraser said. “My putting stats in Europe and Asia have proved that sort of the last 10 years. But that's the whole idea, every time I look at a putt I try and make it, and I was lucky that that one went in.''
That one that went in was a 25-footer for a birdie that gave him the lead in a 1-up victory over U.S. Ryder Cup player Keegan Bradley.
Little known in the U.S., Fraser bristled at the suggestion the victory was an upset.
“You've only got to have a look at the European Tour,'' Fraser said. “Yeah, we don't play for as much money, but the fields are just as strong as the PGA Tour. I'm not sure of the exact record, but the Ryder Cup over the last however many years, I think Europe was in front.
“It's no surprise that there's so many European players in the field this week and international players. This week is not a PGA Tour event. It's a world event.''
Fraser will play Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson in the second round. Jacobson, known for his scrambling ability and touch around the greens, beat British Open champion Ernie Els 1-up.
WINTER WONDERLAND: Matt Kuchar's sons got exactly what they wanted Wednesday when snow blanketed Dove Mountain.
“Two years ago I was playing on Sunday in the consolation match and my family was here,'' Kuchar said Thursday. “I've got two young boys and they thought that snow was the coolest thing. It was pretty heavy snow in the morning and then the sun came out and melted it pretty quickly, but it was fun to see just a pretty good snow covering.
“My boys came back last year and they said, `When is it going to snow? We want it to snow again.' I said, `We're in Tucson, it's not going to snow.' They remembered again this year. `When is it going to snow? Is it going to snow?' I said, `No, it's not going to snow here.'''
“They loved it,'' Kuchar said. “We had a good time making snow angels and having all sorts of fun with the kids yesterday afternoon.''
Kuchar parred the 15th and 16th holes Thursday when play resumed to finish off Hiroyuki Fujita 3 and 2, then played the final two holes by himself for practice.
“A hole and a half wasn't quite enough to justify all the time and practice I put in this morning, so I played 17 and 18 just to keep going,'' Kuchar said.
Kuchar will play Sergio Garcia in the second round. Garcia needed 20 holes to beat Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee.
WEATHER FORECAST: Morning frost is expected the rest of the week, with overnight lows around 34 on Friday, 32 on Saturday and 38 on Sunday.
Friday is expected to be partly cloudy with a high of 56. Saturday will be the best day of the tournament with mostly sunny conditions and a high of 63. On Sunday, it is expected to be partly cloudy and breezy with a high of 58.
After snow Wednesday, the course was soggy Thursday when play resumed.
“The course being wet, it makes everything a bit more accessible,'' long-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts said after beating Bill Haas 5 and 4. “You're going to hit a lot of fairways because they're pretty wide and the ball is going to finish pretty much where it lands. It's pretty much throwing darts if you're on.''
SLUMP-BUSTER: Ian Poulter survived the first round for the first time since winning the 2010 tournament, beating Scotland's Stephen Gallacher 2 and 1.
“I'm fully aware of my early exits the last couple years and, obviously, didn't want to do that again,'' Poulter said. “Stephen was in good form, I knew that. He was, obviously, fresh and ready to play off the back of a good win (in Dubai). I knew he would be a tough opponent.''
Poulter resumed play Thursday on the 13th green.
“It was nice to get the adrenaline going,'' the European Ryder Cup hero said. “Match play does that really nicely for me. Walking on that green, putting my ball marker down, your heart rate is not moving, and then all of a sudden when it's time to hole it, your heart is moving again, so it's great. It's good to have that buzz. We don't get it often enough. You only get it generally when you're in contention in stroke-play events.''
Poulter set up a second-round match against Bo Van Pelt, a 6-and-5 winner over Australia's John Senden.
BIG-GAME HUNTER: Defending champion Hunter Mahan advanced with a 5-and-4 victory over Italian teenager Matteo Manassero.
“I guess I feel comfortable on this golf course from tee to green,'' Mahan said. “I feel like I've got good lines. I step on the tee with my tee shots and I just feel comfortable and I want to make free swings. Getting on the greens is difficult. These are difficult greens. You've got to be on the right tiers and you've got to have the right speeds. From there it's kind of a different game, but I feel like my ball-striking here gives me an advantage.''
Mahan will play South Africa's Richard Sterne in the second round. Sterne, the Joburg Open winner two weeks ago on the European Tour, beat Jason Dufner 1-up.