MARANA, Ariz. (AP) – Rickie Fowler was lining up an 18-foot par putt on the seventh hole Friday in the Match Play Championship when Sergio Garcia interrupted him.
“He goes, `You want a halve?'” Fowler said. “I’m like, `What? What is he saying?’ He goes, `You want a halve? Excuse me?’ `Do you want a halve? Halve the hole?'”
Fowler took the halve, also conceding the Spaniard’s 7-footer, and went on to rally for a 1-up victory at Dove Mountain.
“I’m thinking in my head that, `I kind of want to just play it out there, but I’d be stupid not to take a halve. I’m twice the distance he is.'” Fowler said. “I really didn’t feel like it changed the flow of the match. He goes and makes birdie on 8 and goes 3 up.”
Garcia made the gesture after feeling guilty about taking a long time to make two drops away from bees on the previous hole.
“This is a gentleman’s game, and lately it hasn’t felt like it’s been like that,” Garcia said. “This is the way I was brought up by my dad. … I felt like my drop on 6 took too much time. If I would have been in his position, I would not have enjoyed waiting so long.
“I thought it was the only thing I could do on 7 to make myself feel better and not feel guilty.”
Fowler was OK with the time Garcia took on the drops on No. 6.
“I wanted him to feel comfortable about the shot,” Fowler said. “There were quite a few bees around the sprinkler head, and his ball was probably a pace from it. It wasn’t exactly a safe situation.”
The players are friends.
“I’ve gotten to know Sergio quite a bit over the last year,” Fowler said. “We’ve had a lot of fun playing together. We did out there today, as well. … Just with feeling guilty about something and being able to get it off your chest, it definitely makes you feel better. I know that’s why he did it.”
Fowler won Nos. 9 and 10 with birdies to cut Garcia’s lead to 1 up, and made another birdie on No. 11 for a halve.
The American missed a chance to pull even on No. 14 when they halved with bogeys, and escaped No. 15 with a halve after Garcia missed a 5-foot birdie putt. On the short 15th, Fowler drove under a Buckhorn Cholla and played his second shot from his knees. He advanced the ball 25 yards and chipped to 5 feet for par.
“I was just trying to make 4 and make him make 3,” Fowler said. “He did miss some short putts on 14 and 15. If he makes those, it’s probably a different story. I was able to hang around and made a few good putts coming in.”
Fowler took the lead on the par-3 16th, holing a 15-foot birdie putt.
They halved the 17th with pars, and Fowler won with a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
Fowler’s 95-yard wedge shot from the 18th fairway bounced onto the ridge above the hole and had just enough spin to catch the slope and trickle down.
Garcia’s 140-yard shot from the left rough lacked spin and ended up on the top of the ridge. He missed from 18 feet, the same distance Fowler had on the conceded putt.
Garcia was asked if he regretted the long conceded putt.
“No, not at all. I don’t regret it at all,” Garcia said. “He played much better than me on the last 10 holes and he deserves a win.”
Fowler will face Jim Furyk in the quarterfinals. Furyk beat Harris English 1 up.
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