Fowler and Senden safe and secure after booking last-16 places
Rickie Fowler and John Senden could afford to take a relaxed perspective of their final Group matches in the $9.25m WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
Of the 64 starters on day three, Fowler and Senden were the only two players who were assured of their place in the draw for today's round of 16.
Another 22, including Ireland's Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry, went into action to fulfil their commitments knowing that they were playing only for pride and enhanced finishing money.
The rest, including the participants in the two matches of the day - Rory McIlroy v Billy Horschel, and Jordan Spieth v Lee Westwood - had to fight their way through to the straight knock-out series.
Fowler caught a few breaks to defeat Lowry on the 18th hole on Thursday, rallying from a deficit of two down at one stage.
He then faced a tricky balance between expending mental and physical energy in his final match against McDowell, and pacing himself for the next stage of the championship.
"Don't worry, I'll still be competitive," said Fowler. "There's still pride involved. By no means am I going to take it as a practice round, but it's a little bit of stress off the shoulders."
Senden faced a similar situation in Group 4. No matter what happened in his match with Brendon Todd of the USA, the Australian had security of tenure in the last 16.
There was no such luck for European Ryder cup hero Justin Rose, who narrowly failed in a gallant great escape bid.
Rose, winner of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last Sunday, faced a 'do or die' challenge against American Ryan Palmer, who was already eliminated after two defeats.
He carved out a 2&1 win over Palmer, but his efforts were in vain once Australian Marc Leishman edged out Anirban Lahiri of India by one hole in the other Group 6 match.
Leishman's recent experiences of real life, when wife Audrey almost died from a combination of pneumonia and infections, have put golf into perspective .
"Yeah, it was devastating there for a while. It wasn't looking good at all, but she's coming good now and is on the other side of it," he said.
He was soon joined in the last 16 by 2012 Match Play champion Hunter Mahan, conqueror of 2013 winner Matt Kuchar, and Gary Woodland.
WGC-Cadillac Match Play,
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