On a day that saw defending champion Suzann Pettersen and a bunch of big names go down at the Sybase Match Play Championship, Natalie Gulbis put on the performance of the day against Mika Miazato.
Gulbis fell 4-down through ten and needed a big putt on the ninth to turn the tide. “I was 4-down after the 9th hole (and I) actually had to make birdie to stay at 4-down and not go to 5-down,” Gulbis said. “Mika played really well on the front nine and I knew I would have to make some birdies on the back nine. I think when you get to being that far down; you really get to play more aggressive and don’t really have anything to lose.”
Gulbis used that position to turn the tide on the back nine, earning birdies on Holes 11 and 12, while Miyazato bogeyed to cut the lead to 2-down and took advantage of Miyazato coming in to take a 1-up lead with two to play. Miyazato would birdie the 17th to square the match, but Gulbis would birdie the 18th to take a 1-up victory.
Gulbis was happy with her performance due to such a strong result. “It’s always nice (to win),” Gulbis said. “Every match you want to win, and it’s so much different when you’re playing at a professional level in match play because anybody really can beat anyone every day, and players can actually beat you.”
Working off two top-10 finishes in her last three starts, Gulbis feels like she is coming into form at the right time. “Everything’s just continuing to get better and just working hard on my golf game and still have plenty of work ahead of me,” Gulbis said. “This is a pretty important time of the year, so just a lot of hard work and hopefully it continues to get better and better.”
Rolex number one player Yani Tseng went to the 18th hole in her first round match against Jeong Jang, but pulled out the victory. The fact that she went down to the 18th was a surprise to her. “I just can’t believe I played until 18 holes today,” said Tseng. “I played very well today, actually. I hit it good today, driving, hitting lots of good shots, but I just can’t putt. Hopefully, tomorrow it’s another new day and hopefully tomorrow I’ll drop more puts.
Struggling to make putts is a big problem in match play. In this format, if you cannot putt, you stand to lose. While Tseng and second seed Na Yeon Choi won close matches, Pettersen fell to Jodi Ewart 3&1 and was very unhappy with her second first-round defeat in three years.
“I just played awful from the fairway to the green,” Pettersen said. “I missed more greens today than I have all year. Putted pretty good, kept me in it. I had a pretty good shot into 11 and it kind of turned around for her. I hit a perfect shot and it spun off completely. I made two bogeys in a row. I just wasn’t on today, to be honest.”
Fourth seeded Ai Miyazato fell to Mariajo Uribe 2up, to take out two of the top four seeds in the tournament. American major champions Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome were upset by younger counterparts Jennifer Johnson and Ryan O’Toole by 2&1 margins.
Fellow American major winners Cristie Kerr (2&1) and Stacy Lewis (4&3) won their matches over Belen Mozo and Pat Hurst to advance to Friday’s second round.
The first round of the Sybase Match Play Championship saw major upsets and it stands to continue through Friday and Saturday.