As Graeme McDowell continued his remarkable “Houdini” run in the Accenture World Match Play, Sergio Garcia wrote yet another startling chapter in his colourful career.
While Garcia’s concession of an 18-foot putt, before losing on the 18th to Rickie Fowler, will live long in the memory, then McDowell’s progress to the quarter-finals will have statisticians scratching their head for decades.
McDowell has stood on 58 tees so far at Dove Mountain here this week – and not held the lead on any of them. “I can’t get my head around it,” McDowell said. “It’s ridiculous. I’ve robbed three players in this Championship.”
On Wednesday he was three down with three to play against Gary Woodland. On Thursday, he was two down with four to play against Hideki Matsuyama. And on Friday he was two down with two to play against Hunter Mahan before winning on the third extra hole.
When Dowell three-putted from 20 feet on the 16th it seemed certain that Mahan would gain a measure of revenge for losing the deciding point to the Northern Irishman at the 2010 Ryder Cup. But Mahan bogeyed the 17th, McDowell hit it to five feet on the 18th and nervelessly holed.
Surely Mahan had won when he holed for a par on the second extra hole (the ninth) and McDowell was left with a downhill 20-footer to stay alive? Not a bit of it. McDowell holed and on the next did it again, this time converting a 15-footer for a birdie and a hat-trick of unlikely triumphs.
The Spaniard was two up against Rickie Fowler on the par-four seventh when he stunned the crowd and the game at large. Fowler was 18-feet away in three, while Garcia was five feet away for the same number of strokes.
With Fowler lining up his putt, Garcia asked if he wanted a halve. Fowler looked bemused before Garcia made the offer again. Fowler accepted and Garcia later explained the reason behind the bizarre scenario. The story only became more weird.
On the par-three sixth, Garcia took a drop from near a sprinkler head by the side of the green, because bees were swarming in that area. The ruling took an age and then Garcia took another drop as he was still not happy. Eventually, Garcia made his up and down, while Fowler missed a 10-footer for the hole. The incident played on Garcia’s mind.
“I felt bad because of the time it took,” Garcia said. “At least I feel good with myself even though I lost." Fowler’s reaction was comical. "When Sergio said, 'You want to halve?' I thought maybe he had a sandwich," he said.
Fowler came back to prevail with a great approach to three feet on the last and now faces countryman Jim Furyk. In the other quarter-finals, Louis Oosthuizen faces Jason Day, while Ernie Els plays America’s brilliant 20-year-old Jordan Spieth.