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NISSAN OPEN NOTES

From a missed match to mismatch?

February 19, 2007|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

J.J. Henry was walking up the 17th fairway Sunday at Riviera Country Club when he heard the good news: Charl Schwartzel had withdrawn from this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Then Henry, No. 65 in the World Golf rankings, realized that meant a first-round date with No. 1 Tiger Woods in the tournament for the top 64 players.

Still Henry, who shot 68 on Sunday and tied for 22nd at the Nissan Open, said he was happy to get into the $8-million tournament, which pays $1.35 million to the winner and $40,000 to anyone who loses in the first round.

"This makes my day," Henry said. "I don't have to really sweat it out and feel like I'm on the outside looking in."

Henry was 0-0-3 in the 2006 Ryder Cup, halving his singles match against Paul McGinley, but hasn't played in the WGC match-play event. He'll be at less of a disadvantage, however, because the tournament has moved from La Costa Spa and Resort in Carlsbad to the Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., just outside Tucson.

"I think that could really help me," Henry said. "We are all kind of on a level playing field."

As for the opportunity to end Woods' PGA Tour winning streak at seven, Henry said he is looking forward to it.

"It's a great way for me to see how I match up," he said.

*

Shaun Micheel defeated Woods, 4 and 3, in September in the first round of the HSBC World Golf Championships, a victory that halted Woods' worldwide victory streak at five.

Micheel offered the following advice to Henry: Don't do anything to make Woods mad.

"I learned from Stephen Ames that I'd better keep my mouth shut," Micheel said.

Last February, Ames was slated to play Woods in the first round of the WGC event and provoked Woods by saying, "Anything can happen, especially where Tiger's been hitting the ball" -- a knock on the struggles Woods had been having with his driver.

Woods beat Ames, 9 and 8.

*

Anthony Kim, a 21-year-old rookie, outplayed all of the big names in the final round of the Nissan Open when he shot a seven-under-par 64.

It was the low round of the day, the second-lowest of the week, and vaulted Kim, the youngest player on tour this year, from a tie for 46th to a tie for ninth. The La Quinta High graduate made the cut for only the second time in five 2007 events, earning $135,200, but he now has three top-16 finishes in seven PGA Tour starts.

"I hadn't really played a good round this year," Kim said. "So to play a pretty solid round, it shows that it's coming back and I have enough game to be playing well out here."

Kim said he hopes to play this week at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Cancun, Mexico, but is having passport problems.

"I lost it like two months ago and I can't find it," he said.

*

Robert Allenby shot three-under 68 in the final round and finished tied with Ernie Els and Jim Furyk for third at 13 under, and Jeff Quinney shot two-under 69 to tie for ninth at eight under.

Allenby, the 2001 Nissan Open champion and a four-time PGA Tour winner, and Quinney, a rookie, extended their strings of consecutive top-10 finishes to four, but both are still looking for their first victory of the season.

"It's all there," said Allenby, who bogeyed two of his final four holes and hasn't won since 2001. "I might not have finished where I should have finished, but at the same time, my golf is starting to come really good."

*

In the five years the Accenture Match Play Championship was played at La Costa Spa and Resort, Els never made it past the second round, losing in the first round in three of his five appearances.

He advanced to the semifinals in 2001, when the tournament was held in Australia, so Els said he was happy to learn the tournament had been moved to Arizona.

"It's not at La Costa, so that's a good omen for me," he said.

peter.yoon@latimes.com

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