Three-time champ Sowards leads four into PGA Match Play semifinals

By Craig Dolch
Published on
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (Feb. 8, 2016) – Adam Rainaud, golf’s marathon man, won his two matches Thursday to move closer to defending his title in the PGA Match Play Championship at PGA Golf Club. 
Three-time Match Play champion Bob Sowards kept his hopes alive of becoming the first four-time winner in the event’s 53-year history with a pair of victories to move into the semifinals.
“It motivates me a lot, especially when Rick Schuller is texting me every night,” said Sowards, referring to the player who also has won three Match Play titles. “He wants me to do it. But just by him texting me, I’m not sure if he wants me to do it or he wants to keep a piece of that record.”
Rainaud, who survived a nine-hole playoff Wednesday – remarkably, his second nine-hole playoff in the last two months – beat Rob Corcoran 4-and-2 in the Round of 16 and Frank Dully 3-and-2 in the quarterfinals. Rainaud played 32 holes Thursday on the Dye Course, just five more than it took him to beat Mitchell Camp on Wednesday.
“Playing 27 holes didn’t take too much out of me,” said Rainaud, a PGA Assistant Professional at Black Hall Club in Old Lime, Conn. “I play 36 holes a day probably 10 times a year. Carts make it pretty easy. If I had to walk, it would be tough.”
Still, the odds of playing in two nine-hole playoffs in the last two months are longer than his frame – the 29-year-old Rainaud is 6-foot-7.  The longest playoff on the PGA Tour was 11 holes, by Lloyd Mangrum and Carey Middlecoff in the 1949 Motor City Open (they were declared co-winners because of mutual agreement after darkness fell). The longest playoff on the PGA Tour Champions was 11 holes, with David Graham beating Dave Stockton at the 1998 Royal Caribbean Classic. 
“I guess it’s pretty amazing I’ve had two in two months,” said Rainaud, who lost the earlier playoff to Jeffrey Schmid in a PGA Tournament Series event in December. “My buddies think it’s funny. They say, ‘Why the heck did it take you so long to win?’
“It’s tough. It’s a grind. Everybody out here is a solid player and it’s difficult to make birdies on these fast greens. Guys make a lot of pars.”
Rainaud, who is 10-0 in the Match Play, faces Jeff Wells of Redondo Beach, Ca. Wells beat Pete Catanzaro 3-2 and Jonathan Mansfield, 3-and-2. This is Wells’ first Match Play
“I’ve never played with Adam before,” Wells said. “My putting has been really good and now I’m starting to hit the ball better. I’m looking forward to it.”
Sowards was 2-up after two holes, but Worthington made three consecutive birdies and had a chance to go 3-up at the ninth hole without a three-putt. Sowards chipped in for birdie at 11 and also won the 12, 14th, 15th and 16th holes.
“I hit a terrible chip on 11 and then chipped in for birdie, and that kind of turned the match around,” Sowards said.
Sowards faces Rich Berberian, who lost in last year’s finals to Rainaud. Berberian beat Justin Pollock 5-and-4 and Tim Puetz, 3-and-2. 
“It would be nice to have another chance at Adam,” Berberian said. “I really didn’t have anything to run at him last year. He played well and I played pretty bad. I’ve been playing well this year and I would like another chance.”
There was a 30-minute delay Thursday morning because of frost. First prize is $5,000.
The Match Play Championship is the final event of the PGA Winter Championship season sponsored by Premier Golf and Golf Advisor.
Thursday’s Round of 16 and quarterfinal results from the 53rd PGA Match Play Championship on the 7,053-yard Dye Course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.:
Round of 16
No. 1 Adam Rainaud, South Hadley, MA, def. No. 17 Rob Corcoran, Melbourne, FL, 4-and-2.
No. 9 Frank Dully, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, def. No. 8 Troy Pare, Seekonk, MA, 6-and-4.
No. 47 Bob Sowards, Dublin, OH def. No. 2 Jeff Sorenson, Blaine, MN, 5-and-3.
No. 7 Wyatt Worthington, Reynoldsburg, OH, def. No. 42 Gregory McClimans, Clearwater, FL, 2-and-1.
No. 30 Tim Puetz, West Palm Beach, FL, def. No. 51 Husband Kimmel, Greenwich, CT, 2-and-1.
No. 6 Rich Berberian, Derry, NH, def. No 54 Justin Pollock, Ann Arbor, MI, 5-and-4.
No. 4 Jonathan Mansfield, Clearwater, FL, def. No. 52 Joe Kern, Vero Beach, FL, 1-up.
No. 12 Jeff Wells, Redondo Beach, CA, def. No. 37 Pete Catanzaro, Stamford, CT, 3-and-2.
Rainaud def. Dully, 3-and-2.
Sowards def. Worthington, 3-and-2.
Berberian def. Puetz, 3-and-2.
Wells def. Mansfield, 3-and-2
Friday’s semifinals:
Berberian vs. Sowards, 7:30 a.m.
Rainaud vs. Wells, 7:39 a.m.