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Match Trims Take Lot Off Top

Times Staff Writer

The buzz factor at the Accenture Match Play Championship dropped Friday to slightly elevated murmur status. This is what happens when Tiger Woods is shown the door at La Costa and then, just before it slams shut, Phil Mickelson is right there with him.

Everybody ready for the Zach Johnson-Geoff Ogilvy 36-hole final?

There’s still a chance for that matchup, but anything involving Woods or Mickelson, or Vijay Singh or even defending champion David Toms, is no longer a possibility after they all lost third-round matches in this $7.5-million tournament.

The 64-player, limited-field event is getting more limited all the time. There are only eight players left for this morning’s quarterfinal round, which will dwindle to two after the semifinals in the afternoon.

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The casualty list Friday was sort of like a roll call of top-ranked players. With Woods, Singh, Ernie Els and Mickelson all gone, third-ranked Retief Goosen, who outlasted Luke Donald, 1-up, is the sole survivor of the group.

Chad Campbell made sure Woods had the weekend off, pinning a 1-up decision on the top-ranked player, saving par from a fairway bunker at the 18th while protecting a one-hole lead. Woods could have stayed in the match, but he missed a 12-foot birdie putt that looked as if it had a chance.

Even Campbell thought so.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I mean, I wasn’t really all that disappointed, but, you know, he makes so many of those and it’s just amazing.”

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Equally as surprising was that Woods lost without making a bogey. His problem was a sudden scarcity of birdies. Woods had one, at the par-five third, to go along with his eagle at the 11th when he chipped in from 20 feet. Other than that, Woods wasn’t able to apply pressure on Campbell by taking over on the greens.

“I didn’t play badly, but he made a lot more birdies than me,” Woods said. “I didn’t make any putts. I had my opportunities, but I didn’t do it.”

Typical of Woods’ fortunes was the par-three 16th, where he hit an eight-iron and sent the ball right over the flagstick, then watched it spin back off the green into the fringe. One down to Campbell, Woods’ 17-footer for birdie spun out of the hole and Woods flipped his putter backward over his head in disbelief.

For three days here, Woods earned $125,000, the same as Mickelson, who bogeyed two of the last four holes and lost, 3 and 1, to David Howell of England. Howell, who held off Woods in November in a European Tour event at Shanghai, said he gained confidence from that outcome.

“If you stand up to Tiger ... it would be strange to be intimidated by anybody else,” he said.

But Howell, who is ranked 15th, said he was fortunate to beat Mickelson.

“It’s just one round of golf,” Howell said. “It’s a bit of a lottery out there.”

The numbers didn’t come up for Toms, who lost to 46-year-old Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, 4 and 3. Singh’s day lasted 19 holes, ending when he bogeyed the last one to lose to Padraig Harrington of Ireland. Harrington won four of the last eight holes when Singh struggled with his putting and made bogeys. In a quarterfinal, Harrington will play Davis Love III, who defeated Chris DiMarco, 3 and 2.

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Lehman plays Campbell, with the winner meeting either Ogilvy or Howell in the afternoon. Mike Weir was four-up with four holes to play, but Ogilvy won four straight holes -- two of them with pars -- and beat Weir in 21 holes with an eagle at the last one, the par-five third hole.

Ogilvy said there is probably only one explanation for his turnaround: “If you believe in momentum, I guess.”

Lehman has worked his way through three rounds with three upsets -- over Stuart Appleby, eighth-ranked Adam Scott and Toms, who is ranked ninth.

“It would be safe to say that I played pretty steady golf all the way through to this point,” Lehman said.

Love was streaky at the right time, jumping off three birdies in his first six holes, then simply held on after the turn. Love took note of Woods’ absence and said everyone should feel fortunate that Woods is gone, along with his 23-5 record in this event.

“You know, I don’t think anybody of the eight that are going to be wishing Tiger was here,” Love said. “I don’t know that I would want to be playing Zach Johnson. You never know who’s the hot player, who’s the guy with the hot putter.

“It’s still match play. Anybody can beat anybody. You certainly have a different feeling if you’re playing Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson if they’re playing well, but I think anybody can beat anybody. And if you made it this far, you’re playing pretty good.”

*

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Quarterfinals

Starting times for today’s four matches in the Match Play Championship at La Costa. Semifinals will follow:

* 7:15 a.m. -- Chad Campbell vs. Tom Lehman

* 7:25 -- Geoff Ogilvy vs. David Howell

* 7:35 -- Padraig Harrington vs. Davis Love III

* 7:45 -- Retief Goosen vs. Zach Johnson


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