Missing clubs pose no problem for Snedeker at Volvo World Match Play

Brandt Snedeker at the Volvo World Match Play Championship
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Even after his long-lost clubs arrived, Brandt Snedeker played his entire first-round match with a borrowed driver and a mix-and-match bag of equipment.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

CASARES, Spain -- In a history going back to 1964, the Volvo World Match Play Championship has never seen anything quite like Brandt Snedeker's victory over Thomas Bjorn on Thursday.

The 31-year-old American began his opening match with just 10 replacement clubs in his bag, and yet he won the first three holes before his original clubs finally arrived.

Snedeker was forced to seek replacements when his usual set went missing en route from Florida on Monday. They eventually showed up at Malaga Airport on Thursday morning, then were driven an hour to Finca Cortesin and taken to him on the fourth tee.

Under the rules, he was allowed only to add four to those he had started with. But he was so happy with the driver he had borrowed from Australian John Senden and the putter he had picked out at the course’s golf shop that he continued with them.

"The driver worked really well, so I think it's mine now and no longer his," said the three-time PGA Tour winner, who hopes to use this week to impress U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III.

"It was kind of a weird day, to say the least," he added. "I didn't like my chances at all, actually -- I knew Thomas was a world-class player and it was pretty windy, so I knew it favored him."

Bjorn, though, has been suffering from a virus lately -- he pulled out of the last two events in America -- and he could never recover from bogeying the opening three holes, falling five down after six and losing 5&4.

It was not the biggest defeat of the day, however. Robert Rock lost 7&6 to fellow Englishman Justin Rose, who birdied the first five holes, winning four of them, and later added two more.

The week is not yet over for Bjorn, Rock and the other five who lost on opening day -- Swedes Peter Hanson and Robert Karlsson, Senden, Alvaro Quiros and top seed Martin Kaymer, under the revised format since Volvo took over sponsorship of the famous event.

They could yet make it through to the last 16 if they win their second matches on Friday. Ian Poulter won the title last year after failing to win either of his group matches -- he halved them both.

"The game was good," said Rose. "I adjusted to the speed of the greens quickly and Robert didn't."

His only hiccup came when he missed from three feet on the ninth after his opponent had holed from eight.

"I had to remind myself to keep in it and play solid golf," he added.

To guarantee himself a place in the weekend knockout stages, Rose now needs only a half against British Open champion Darren Clarke, the lowest-ranked player in the group after his slide to 70th in the world, on Friday.

The same applies to Poulter against Tom Lewis, the 21-year-old who led the British Open as an amateur last July and then won the Portugal Masters on only his third professional start. Both are from Hertfordshire and Poulter was recently shown a picture of a 10-year-old Lewis caddying for him at Welwyn Garden.

"I think he's a great player. Also very shy, very quiet -- that to me is probably the bit that he needs to try and change in a way," said the extrovert Poulter after his 3&2 win over Senden.

Paul Lawrie started his 500th European Tour event with a 2&1 victory over the higher-ranked Hanson, winning the 16th with a par to go 1-up and then making birdie from five feet on the next after his 6-iron tee shot kicked off the bank right of the green.

"It came out absolutely beautifully," said the former Open champion, on course for a return to the Ryder Cup after a gap of 13 years. "But it wasn't much of a game -- neither of us holed any putts."

Lawrie could empathize with Snedeker because he lost his luggage on his way to the Spanish Open two weeks ago -- and still has not got a suitcase back.

Lawrie and Hanson now have to play Colombian Camilo Villegas in their two matches on Friday, while Graeme McDowell next meets South African Jbe Kruger after his thrilling last-green win over Karlsson.

The 2010 Ryder Cup hero trailed entering the closing stretch, birdied the 16th, got up and down from a bunker at the short 17th and then almost eagled the 568-yard last. That left Karlsson, in the sand on his second shot, needing to hole from eight feet for a half, but he missed it.

"One down with three to play against a great player, I feel very fortunate," said the Northern Irishman.

Kaymer lost 3&2 to Dubai Desert Classic winner Rafael Cabrera-Bello, and Spain's other winner was Sergio Garcia, who came from behind to beat compatriot Quiros 2&1.

There was also one halved game, last year's Masters champion Charl Schwartzel making birdie on the last to square things against last year's surprise semifinalist Nicolas Colsaerts.

Thursday's results:
Group 1: Rafael Cabrera Bello def. Martin Kaymer, 3 & 2
Group 2: Graeme McDowell def. Robert Karlsson, 1 hole
Group 3: Justin Rose def. Robert Rock, 7 & 6
Group 4: Charl Schwartzel vs. Nicolas Colsaerts, halve
Group 5: Sergio Garcia def. Alvaro Quiros, 2 & 1
Group 6: Ian Poulter def. John Senden, 3 & 2
Group 7: Paul Lawrie def. Peter Hanson, 2 & 1
Group 8: Brandt Snedeker def. Thomas Bjorn, 5 & 4