If you’ve been following the professional golf version of a tournament bracket, you know four former Georgia Bulldogs qualified for the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play. And you know 3 advanced to the round of 16 (Sweet 16), and the quarterfinals (Elite 8).
Late yesterday, Bubba Watson took care of Kiradech Aphibarnrat (pronounced app-ee-barn-rat. Yes, barn rat) with a 3&2 victory - Bubba having a 3 hole lead after the 16th hole (3 up with 2 to play - 3&2). So Bubba advanced to this morning’s semi-finals (Final 4).
Likewise, Kevin Kisner faced a player most known for his match play aptitude, as Englishman Ian Poulter is undefeated in Ryder Cup singles matches. But Kevin played well, and Poulter couldn’t keep up his somewhat surprising run, and the Kiz took the match 8&6 (he won the 12th hole to move to an 8 hole lead with only 6 holes remaining - 8&6). Besides being a good ol’ fashioned butt-whoopin’, it was also a strong statement considering he had played a match earlier in the day, and 3 straight days prior. This means he is getting the attention of US Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk for this fall’s bi-annual team competition between the US and Europe, to be held in Paris, France.
Bubba started the semis against world #2 Justin Thomas who has won 7 times in the last 18 months or so including the 2017 PGA Championship and probably the hottest player on the planet. Bubba won the first hole, picked up a couple near the turn, let a couple slip before picking a few back up and likewise won the match 3&2. So Bubba advances to the finals.
Not to be outdone, Kevin Kisner faces the #19 seed and someone rising up the world rankings in Swede Alex Noren (who played collegiately at Oklahoma State). Noren had been leading the field in putting this week and the first few holes were no exception - 4 of the first 5 holes were tied with birdies by both players. Noren and Kisner were sinking putts from everywhere. But Kisner picked up an early lead before Noren squared it up before the turn. Neither player could gain an advantage after such a hot start, and though Noren had several makeable chances to win, including a 8 footer at the 18th to win the match, he just couldn’t find the same stroke from earlier in the day. They go to the first playoff hole, their 19th of the match (played on #12 a par 5), and Kisner makes a clutch 5 footer for birdie to win and move on.
So while our ‘Dawgs didn’t qualify or accept a tournament invitation, and our Lady ‘Dawgs didn’t get past the first weekend, we are assured of a Georgia Bulldog winning a 64 entry field, based on seeding, and having advanced and defeated higher ranked competitors.
Coverage is basically now, and all afternoon, on NBC television. So tune it and let’s watch a ‘Dawg cut down the nets... er, remove the flag from the flagstick as they capture a tournament against the world’s best in Austin, Texas, and a $1.8 million first prize.
And as always...