Justin Rose survives challenge as countrymen Westwood, Poulter, Donald fall at Match Play Championship

The first round of the Match Play Championship was rough on Englishmen on Wednesday, with Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald all suffering upsets, while Rose just edged underdog Scott Piercy.

Justin Rose was the only one of five Englishmen to survive Wednesday's first round play at the Match Play Championship. Sam Greenwood / Getty Images / AFP
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US Open champion Justin Rose edged upset-minded American Scott Piercy 1 up Wednesday to prevent a total England ouster in round one of the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship.

Rose, the top seed in his quarter of the bracket in the 64-man event, didn’t break par until a long eagle putt at the 11th hole to square the match, then nursed a lead off a birdie at the 12th into the clubhouse.

“It wasn’t a classic, but it didn’t need to be,” Rose said. “I kept saying to myself, ‘I’ve got all day to beat him,’ and that’s the way it turned out.”

The opening day of the $9 million (Dh33m) event at Dove Mountain produced only a record-low nine upsets according to seedings, but three of them were suffered by Englishmen – Lee Westwood and past champions Ian Poulter and Luke Donald.

Third seed Poulter, who won the Match Play crown in 2010 and reached last year’s final four, fell 2 and 1 to American Rickie Fowler.

Italy’s Matteo Manassero routed fifth seed and 2011 winner Donald 5 and 4, for only Donald’s second first-round loss in 10 starts at the event, while Westwood, an eighth seed, was a 5-and-3 loser to American Harris English.

“Tee to green I played very solid,” Manassero said.

Add David Lynn’s ouster despite pushing US fourth seed Brandt Snedeker to 20 holes, the American taking his lone lead of the match with a nine-foot birdie at the last, and it was four of five gone quickly for England.

“You are going to have matches where you don’t play good and survive,” Snedeker said. “I did that today.”

The day’s biggest upset victim was US top seed Zach Johnson, who was routed 5 and 4 by Richard Sterne. The 62nd-ranked South African next faces 2012 winner and 2013 runner-up Hunter Mahan, an American who has eliminated Sterne twice.

Also ousted was US second seed Dustin Johnson, who lost 4 and 3 to 59th-ranked Peter Hanson. The Swede won the first hole and never trailed.

South African Ernie Els, who faces Rose next, beat Scotsman Stephen Gallacher in 19 holes, the same number 2013 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner needed to dispatch fellow American Scott Stallings.

Top seed Rory McIlroy beat Boo Weekley 3 and 2 to book a date with English. The Northern Irishman won the last three holes on the front nine but struggled to close it out.

“I went 4-up through 11 and got a little complacent,” McIlroy said. “Lost a little bit of concentration. I probably went a couple holes further than I should have.”

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, the overall top seed, birdied 16 and 17 for his first lead of the back nine to edge Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat 2 and 1.

“I’m still in shock,” Stenson said. “It was a tough match. Kiradech is a good player.”

There were also plenty of thrillers among the openers, including Hideki Matsuyama edging Germany’s Martin Kaymer 2 and 1. The Japanese star won 14 and 15 with birdies to go 1-up and took the match when Kaymer missed the 17th green and missed a 20-foot par putt.

“I was fortunate to come out on top,” Matsuyama said. I played well too. I’m really not that good at match play. I’m just happy to death I won.”

His next foe is Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who edged Gary Woodland in 19 holes. Woodland birdied the 15th to go 2-up but he went over the green to halve the par-3 16th.

McDowell birdied to win 17, took 18 at par when Woodland took four shots to the fringe and won the last with a wedge to six feet.

“I thought it was over,” McDowell said. “It required a mistake from him to give me half a sniff even.”

The longest match was Spanish second seed Sergio Garcia’s 22-hole triumph over Australian Marc Leishman. Garcia squared the match with an eight-foot birdie putt at 17 then missed a six-footer for par at 18 to force extra holes.