Stormy forecast forces Match Play changes

MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Expected strong wind this weekend forced Match Play Championship officials to alter the schedule, moving up the starting times for the quarterfinals and switching the semifinals from Sunday to Saturday.

The wind is expected to be 25-30 mph Saturday with higher gusts on the high desert course north of Tucson at Dove Mountain. Blowing dust also is expected to be a factor Saturday and morning snow could fall Sunday.

“The goal is to finish the championship by Sunday night and the forecast tomorrow of high winds in the afternoon, there’s some uncertainty whether we’d be able to play golf because of the balls moving on the greens,” PGA Tour rules official Steve Carman said Friday.

“So, we’ve decided to try to play the quarterfinal matches early and finish them and start the semifinals with the idea that if the wind doesn’t go at the velocity that it was projected that we’d be able to play all right. If it doesn’t we’d be able to get some golf in the semifinal rounds and maybe come back Sunday morning and finish the semifinals and still have the opportunity to play the championship and the match for third place and finish Sunday afternoon.”

The high temperature at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on Sunday will be about 50 degrees, and there is a chance of rain or snow showers through the morning.

“It’s unlikely that snow is going to stick,” Carman said. “The soil temperature and the ground temperature is warm enough that it’s unlikely that snow is going to stick.”

The quarterfinals will start at 7:10 a.m., with the semifinals set to follow at about 11:30 a.m. Previously played on Saturdays, the semifinals were originally scheduled for Sunday as part of a format change that included the reduction of the championship match from 36 to 18 holes.

Organizers are taking precautions because of the high wind.

“It’s my understanding that after play today, they’re going to start taking the mesh off all the television towers, the ShotLink towers, trying to get what I call the sails down,” Carman said. “The tents seemed to hold up pretty well last Saturday, but they’ll make provisions to make sure that they’re well anchored and we’ll move some of the items that are going to cause the tents to become unstable.”

MATTEO’S CURFEW: Luke Donald ended 17-year-old Matteo Manassero’s surprising run, beating the Italian 3 and 2 in the third round.

“He didn’t make a bogey,” Manassero said. “And when he was missing shots, he was recovering. He’s doing every single thing in the right way.”

Manassero beat Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel in the first two rounds.

“I’m delighted with the way I played this week,” Manassero said. “And I’m delighted to go up to Friday here. And I think I have done my best today. I certainly didn’t play worse than the other days, I just met a tough competitor.”

Donald was impressed.

“I know I was nowhere near ready to be competing at 17,” Donald said. “He’s ahead of the curve, for sure. … He pushed me at the end, but I held on. “

UNCOMFORTABLE FORMAT: Bubba Watson had breakfast with Bill Haas, then beat him in the first round. The long-hitting Torrey Pines winner knocked off another good friend in the third round, topping Geoff Ogilvy 6 and 4.

Watson was asked if he’s comfortable in the head-to-head format.

“No, because I have to play my friends,” Watson said. “In stroke play you’re not really thinking about the person you’re beating. You’re trying to beat that score. Or if you’re ahead of the score, you’re trying to stay ahead of that.

“But in match play it’s mano-a-mano. It was Ogilvy today, who I consider a good friend. Our manager (Paul Galli) is the same manager. He didn’t come out today. He didn’t want to watch. It’s tough when you’re beating or playing against a friend.”

Watson will face J.B. Holmes, a fellow long-hitter and yet another friend, in the quarterfinals Saturday. Holmes beat Jason Day 1-up.

BLOWOUTS: Miguel Angel Jimenez routed Ben Crane 7 and 6, a day after Crane thrashed Rory McIlroy 8 and 7 in the second round.

The 47-year-old Jimenez won the first four holes, took a 5-up lead on No. 8, won the next two holes and halved 11 and 12 to end the match.

“When I’m playing well, I’m not afraid of anything,” said Jimenez, a three-time winner last year on the European Tour.

DIVOTS: Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer are the only remaining players with victories this year. Watson won at Torrey Pines and Kaymer won the European Tour event at Abu Dhabi. … For the final three rounds, extra holes will begin at No. 10 and continue through the back nine. … The third-round losers received $140,000. The quarterfinal losers will get $270,000. The winner will receive $1.4 million, second is worth $850,000, third $600,000 and fourth $490,000.