Final week to qualify for Match Play
PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Gary Woodland has one week to avoid making the wrong kind of history in the Dell Match Play.
In the 16 years since the Match Play made its debut, no runner-up has ever failed to qualify for the 64-man field the following year.
The field will be determined by the world ranking after this week. Match Play starts on March 23 at Austin (Texas) Country Club.
Woodland, who lost in the championship match to Rory McIlroy last year at Harding Park, is No. 69 in the world going into the Valspar Championship.
It would appear he needs to move up only three spots with Jim Furyk recovering from wrist surgery and Henrik Stenson saying he would not be playing.
It might help that Woodland won his first PGA Tour event at Innisbrook in 2011.
Even so, he might not have imagined himself in this position when he left the Match Play a year ago at No. 32 in the world, and went up to a career-best No. 24 two weeks later with a tie for fourth at the Wells Fargo Championship.
But he hasn't had a top 10 since May. He opened the year with a tie for 13th in the Sony Open, and he was one shot out of the lead going into the final round at Torrey Pines until getting caught in the worst of the brutal weather and closed with an 82 to tie for 18th.
Of the players from No. 62 through No. 70, the only ones not playing this week are Marcus Fraser (No. 63) and Thorbjorn Olesen (No. 65). They risk getting bumped because the next four players beyond the 66th spot all are playing the Valspar Championship.
Thomas Pieters (No. 66) is playing in Thailand.
Ian Poulter, meanwhile, is helped by the field going at least to No. 66. Poulter, who won the Match Play in 2010 for his only PGA Tour win on U.S. soil, is at No. 64 this week and playing Innisbrook. Poulter has not missed the Match Play since 2003.
Others on the bubble are Ryan Palmer (No. 67), PGA Tour rookie Patton Kizzire (No. 68) and Harris English, who moved up nine spots to No. 70 after finishing 10th at Doral. Smylie Kaufman played his way into the Match Play with his tie for eighth at Doral, going from No. 65 to No. 49.
RICKIE'S ACE: Rickie Fowler came through in the clutch again, and this one paid off handsomely.
Fowler was among several PGA Tour players who took part in the Cigar Aficionado-Wine Spectator Pro-Am on Monday at Old Palm Golf Club for Ernie Els and his "Els for Autism." When it was over, all the players got one shot on the 19th hole to win $1 million for the charity if they made a hole-in-one.
According to Golf Channel, Fowler wasn't wearing golf shoes and he had to borrow a wedge from Luke Donald.
The shot went in the hole, and the crowd erupted. The wild scene of high-fives ended with Els hoisting Fowler as if he had just made the game-winner. Which he did.
Fowler said on Twitter, "One of the coolest moments in my career no question!! So cool & pumped what we able to help raise yesterday!!"
LAUREUS NOMINEE: Jordan Spieth faces some tough competition off the golf course, too.
Spieth has been nominated for a pair of honors in the annual Laureus World Sport Awards, which will be April 18 in Berlin. The Masters and U.S. Open champion was nominated as sportsman of the year along with Stephen Curry, Usain Bolt, Novak Djokvic, Lewis Hamilton and Lionel Messi. Spieth would be the youngest winner of the sportsman of the year award.
Spieth also was nominated for breakthrough of the year along with PGA champion Jason Day, boxer Tyson Fury, Formula One driver Max Verstappen, English swimmer Adam Peaty and Chile's national football team.
STAT OF THE WEEK: For the first time, the four World Golf Championships titles are held by non-Americans — Adam Scott of Australia (Cadillac Championship), Russell Knox of Scotland (HSBC Champions), Shane Lowry of Ireland (Bridgestone Invitational) and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (Match Play).