Early Match Play wins for Walker, Watson and Fowler

Wed Feb 19, 2014 2:59pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - Jimmy Walker, arguably the hottest player in the game, drew first blood at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship with a commanding 5&4 win over South Africa's Branden Grace in Marana, Arizona on Wednesday.

American Walker, who has already triumphed three times on the 2013-14 PGA Tour, never trailed in his first-round match at Dove Mountain before sealing victory with a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-four 14th.

He will next play fellow American Rickie Fowler, who pulled off an upset 2&1 win over matchplay expert and 2010 champion Ian Poulter of England.

In other early matches, Bubba Watson clawed his way back from two down after 12 holes to battle past Finland's Mikko Ilonen 2&1 while South African George Coetzee won 3&1 against a rusty Steve Stricker.

Walker, making his debut in the elite World Golf Championships (WGC) event, was delighted to maintain his red-hot early season form.

"I played pretty solid all day, hit a lot of really good shots, made some birdie putts," Walker told reporters. "You've got to go out and continue to hit good shots and make good putts.

"Branden had a couple of three-putts early in the round and that got me up to a pretty good little lead. Just kind of stayed nice and steady and then closed it off with two birdies there at the end."

MATCHPLAY PROWESS

Fowler took advantage of a sub-par performance by Poulter, who is renowned for his steely matchplay prowess, especially in the Ryder Cup.   Continued...

 
Feb 16, 2014; Pacific Palisades, CA, USA; Jimmy Walker (USA) hits on the fourth hole fourth round of the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports - RTX18YJV