PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Maybe it's just a coincidence, but two players who had become regulars on U.S. teams are off to good starts this year after being left off the Presidents Cup team last fall at Muirfield Village: Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.
Johnson talked about the motivation of being at home when he won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Since then, he tied for sixth at Kapalua and was runner-up in consecutive weeks at Pebble Beach and Riviera.
Watson wasn't even considered as a captain's pick for Muirfield Village. In his last three events, he was runner-up in Phoenix, won at Riviera and reached the third round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
"It motivates you watching it on TV," Watson said. "I had the second worst year since I've been on tour, so I knew what I needed to do. Bad golf motivates me."
QUEL DOMMAGE: This was only the second time in 16 years that the final of the Match Play Championship went extra holes.
Both times, the losing player was from France.
ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY: Future likely to be decided in next month or so
With an asterisk.
Victor Dubuisson lost in 23 holes to Jason Day of Australia. The other runner-up when the championship match went overtime was Andrew Magee, who lost to Jeff Maggert's chip-in at La Costa in 1999.
Magee was born in Paris.
MJ AND POULTER: Ian Poulter made his debut hosting a show on SiriusXM and included an amusing tale from the Ryder Cup involving Michael Jordan.
Poulter said the Chicago Bulls great, a presence at the Ryder Cup the last several years, was watching what turned out to be the pivotal match Saturday afternoon when he and McIlroy defeated Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. Poulter birdied his last five holes that match.
"I remember walking off the tee box at 13, looking over and he kind of wagged his – I don't know if you can call it a finger, it looked like an arm – this big finger comes up and he was wagging it at me, pulling a face as if to say, `We've got you,'" Poulter said on the show two weeks ago.
JORDAN SPIETH: Increases schedule to honor events that gave him his start
McIlroy made a big birdie on the 13th to start the comeback – Europe was 2-down through 12 in the match. Poulter took it from there. He recalled seeing Jordan again on the 15th, staring at him.
"I'm a little golfer, Ian Poulter, playing golf in the Ryder Cup, and there's legend basketball player Michael Jordan psyching me out in the Ryder Cup," he said. "And you know what? I said, `I'm gonna hole this putt.' He'd done that for so many years on a basketball court. He hit the shot time and time again. I said to myself, `I'm not going to allow him to get in my space.'
"He was playing his basketball game and ... it was my court, and he's not playing ball."
DIVOTS: With Adam Scott at No. 2 and Jason Day at No. 4, Australia has two players in the top five of the world ranking for the first time since July 2008 (Scott and Geoff Ogilvy). ... Miguel Angel Jimenez has made Pablo Larrazabal and Thorbjorn Olesen his two captain's picks for the EurAsia Cup on March 27-29 in Kuala Lumpur. The rest of the European team includes the captain, Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Stephen Gallacher, Joost Luiten and Graeme McDowell. All 10 were in the Accenture Match Play last week. ... Anna Nordqvist at the Honda LPGA Thailand was the first Swede to win on the LPGA Tour since Maria Hjorth at the 2011 Avnet LPGA Classic.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Jason Day's victory in the Accenture Match Play ended a pair of American streaks – 13 consecutive wins in PGA Tour events and four straight wins in the World Golf Championships.
FINAL WORD: "I don't see it as being in a groove. I'm just not in a slump right now." – Bubba Watson, who has four top-10s in six starts this season, including a win at Riviera and a runner-up finish in Phoenix.