The Best of the Best Read 2017 The Match

Pat Pettersson, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Sergio Garcia, Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Kenny Perry, Kevin Na, Freddie Couples, Fred Couples, Darren Clarke, Billy Horschel, Jim Furyk, Fred Couples, Jeff Maggert, Roger Sloan, Charles Howell III, Lucas Glover, and Davis Love III all spoke to The New York Times’ David Mazza about the 2017 edition of The Match, the hastily arranged, hastily arranged series of matches between professionals in which the best players from both teams vie for a $10 million prize.

Scoring is on the cards for the fifth match, between Koepka and professional amateur Michael DeChambeau, on Thursday, but the eighth and ninth rounds of the tournament, both of which have yet to be played, will feature the best of the pros.

Here’s what happened in the first two rounds.

It was a coming out party for Justin Thomas.

In his first match of the day against Phil Mickelson, Thomas was in command throughout, and wound up beating the five-time major winner 6&5. He needed only 116 total strokes to complete his win over Mickelson, compared to Mickelson’s 141 strokes.

Mickelson looked rattled by Thomas throughout the match. He entered the final hole trailing by one, but only managed to hit the green on the 18th and then missed a putt from just inside a foot that would have broken the match. The match was essentially over.

Mickelson wasn’t the only one who looked different to early in the tournament. Thomas’ brother Justin, who plays in the PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open, said he got the idea for his brother’s performance from watching the second Stanley Cup final between the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins. After that series, Adam Murray, the Kings’ second-round pick in the 2015 draft, had been quoted as saying that he wouldn’t be nervous facing the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. That said, Thomas was as good as, if not better than, Crosby in his win over Mickelson.

Dustin Johnson really couldn’t hit his driver.

The world’s top-ranked player was a 1-under (68) through the first four holes, but really couldn’t catch his stride until the fifth hole. There, he hooked two tee shots onto the fairway. The worst of the misses were a poor shot to the front of the green at the par-3 11th, but then Johnson was able to move up the slope a bit and make a 12-foot putt. It was the first time Johnson had hit the green in regulation on that hole.

Johnson would see his fellow pros, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas, struggle.

Johnson entered Thursday’s match-up as the favorite, by at least two shots, and wore down to the status of a co-favorite, next to Mickelson, in the event he got to play.

Mickelson began slow, as Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson did earlier in the day, but Johnson still wasn’t seeing the ball really fly all that far. His approach shot at the par-4 first hole missed the hole by a few feet. His drive at the par-5 third hole landed into a bunker and on the third hole, at the par-4 11th, Johnson got into a fairway bunker and his third shot short-sided a bunker. Later, Johnson’s short second shot at the par-4 ninth and Mickelson’s behind-the-tee shot at the par-4 11th, respectively, also ended up in green-keeping waste.

The match would result in Johnson’s missing the cut for match play.

This article appears in the October issue of The New York Times.

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