Match recaps from Friday: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
35 Min Read
Capsule look at all completed matches from Day 3 of group play at Austin Country Club
Written by Staff @PGATOUR
The World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play is back. Friday's third round is the third of three days of group play. After Friday, the player with the best record in each of the 16 four-man pools will advance to knockout play (ties of two or more players will be broken via sudden-death playoff). Two rounds apiece will be played Saturday and Sunday to crown a champion.
This is the only PGA TOUR event where players go mano-a-mano, and Austin Country Club is a perfect site for this format thanks to its offering of risk-reward holes.
Upon the conclusion on Friday's 32 matches and any sudden-death playoffs, 16 players will advance to weekend competition, where knockout play will commence Saturday morning in the Round of 16.
As each group concludes its competition, this file will be updated to keep you apprised of the action from the TOUR’s only match play event. Return here often to learn about the latest upsets, comebacks and nail-biting finishes.
JON RAHM ADVANCES
PATRICK REED (1-1-1) def. JON RAHM (2-1-0), 3 and 2
Reed was already eliminated before the match started and had nothing to play for, yet he played the best he’s played all week and defeated the world No. 1 fairly easily. Rahm did, however, jump out to an early 2-up lead after four holes and made four birdies in the first five holes. Reed rebounded with a birdie on the par-3 seventh hole from just outside 6 feet, won the par-3 11th hole when Rahm found the water with his tee shot and, all of a sudden, the match was tied.
Reed then birdied Nos. 12 – a two-putt from 75 feet – and 14 to move 2 up, then closed the door on the par-5 16th hole when Rahm’s second shot found the penalty area. He had to take a drop, failed to hole what was then his fourth shot and gave Reed the hole and the match in definitive fashion.
Rahm needed to win or tie the match in order to advance to the Round of 16. A loss meant that he needed to wait for another 20 minutes to see the outcome of the Cameron Young-Sebastian Munoz contest. When Munoz tied the 17th hole against Young to head to the 18th hole at 1 up, that guaranteed Munoz a tie and gave Rahm the ticket to the next round.
SEBASTIAN MUNOZ (1-1-1) def. CAMERON YOUNG (1-2-0), 1-up
Munoz did Jon Rahm a favor. He was already eliminated before the match started but, when Rahm lost to Patrick Reed, Rahm needed Munoz to at least tie Young in order to advance without having to play in a playoff. If Young would’ve won outright, he and Rahm would have had a playoff.
Young won three of four holes on the front and went from 1 down to 2 up after the seventh hole. He was 2 up as recently as the 12th hole via a birdie, but Munoz then won Nos. 13, 15 and 16 to take the 1-up advantage, his first lead since the third hole. Ties on the last two holes gave Munoz the outright win, but when Munoz tied the 17th hole to head to the last hole 1 up, it meant that Rahm had advanced from their group.
COLLIN MORIKAWA ADVANCES
COLLIN MORIKAWA (2-0-1) def. JASON KOKRAK (1-2-0), 1-up
Morikawa, the world No. 2, came out firing against Kokrak, making five birdies and an eagle on his opening nine to build a 4-up lead. But this match would be anything but a stroll for Morikawa. The long-hitting Kokrak birdied the 10th, eagled the 12th(15 feet), birdied 13 (his drive caroming off the roof of a right-side hospitality tent) and birdied the 15th, and suddenly the two players were tied.
Kokrak made a big mistake at the reachable 16th, missing his second on the short side, against a grassy hill, and advanced his third into a bunker. Morikawa would get up-and-down from behind the green to win the hole with birdie. At the 17th, both players hit the green, but Morikawa rapped his birdie putt 9 feet past the hole and missed the putt coming back. Kokrak had a chance to advance with a win on the 18th hole; he went down 18 in all three of his matches. Morikawa just needed to tie the match, and he ripped his tee shot onto the green at the exciting 371-yard closer. The 96th and final match after three days of group play ended with Morikawa two-putting from 33 feet to win and advance. He will meet Abraham Ancer on Saturday.
ROBERT MACINTYRE (1-2-0) def. SERGIO GARCIA (1-1-1), 4 and 2
MacIntyre began Friday at 0-2 with no shot at advancing through his group, but he was tough against Garcia. MacIntyre fell behind early, 2 down, but leveled the match by winning the eighth and ninth holes with pars. The young Scottish left-hander took control on the second nine. Neither player played the par-5 12th well, but MacIntyre won it with a par – needing to make a 35-foot putt to make his 5. At the 14th, MacIntyre hit a beautiful approach from 168 yards to 4 feet, pushing his lead to 2 up. He sealed the victory with another spicy wedge shot at the par-5 16th, hitting his third to 4 feet. He was conceded the birdie when Garcia failed to get up-and-down from short and left of the putting surface. Garcia finished his week 1-1-1.
WILL ZALATORIS ADVANCES
WILL ZALATORIS (2-1-0) def. VIKTOR HOVLAND (2-1-0), 1-up
PLAYOFF: WILL ZALATORIS def. VIKTOR HOVLAND on second extra hole
Two of the game’s premier young stars, Viktor Hovland and Will Zalatoris, wowed the crowd with a thrilling finish. Needing a match win to force a Group 3 playoff after Cameron Tringale’s 5-and-3 victory over Sepp Straka, Zalatoris held a 1-up lead for a majority of Austin Country Club’s back nine. A birdie after a magnificent bunker shot on the par-5 16th brought the lead to 2 up, increasing the pressure on the Norwegian, who stepped up with an iron right over the flag on the par-3 17th. Zalatoris nearly slammed the door without giving Hovland a chance to putt, but his birdie roll from outside of 30 feet slid just under the hole. Hovland confidently walked in his 15-foot birdie, then unleashed a blistering 350-yard drive up near the 18th green. Another strong bunker shot from well below the green gave Zalatoris the 12-foot look he needed to seal a match win and force a Group 3 playoff after Hovland settled his pitch to ‘gimme’ range. Zalatoris delivered.
Facing a bare lie on the first playoff hole, similar to his second shot the first time through No. 1, Hovland stuffed his approach to 6 feet. Zalatoris answered with a well-struck approach, making birdie before Hovland matched. At the second, Zalatoris played the contours around the green perfectly, setting up a birdie try from 10 feet away with Hovland off the green 15 feet to the right of the flag. Hovland missed, Zalatoris made, and the Wake Forest alum advances to take on Kevin Na in the Round of 16.
"It's really nice," Zalatoris said after the playoff. "I mean, it was kind of hard fought today against Viktor. I basically played where I tried to make sure I just didn't make any mistakes. I made one mistake all day, really, and that's tough to beat, but Viktor obviously made me earn it today."
CAMERON TRINGALE (1-2-0) def. SEPP STRAKA (1-2-0), 5 and 3
Straka needed a win to keep his hopes alive for group advancement, but the University of Georgia Bulldog was derailed by the Georgia Tech alum Tringale who started fast and never trailed, closing out the match on No. 15 green.
Tringale drained a 14-foot birdie to win the opening hole, then went 2 up with a 9-foot birdie at the third. The duo traded winning holes across the front nine, with Tringale taking command via a 28-foot birdie to win the par-4 ninth hole, extending his lead to 3 up at the turn. Straka couldn't make a dent in that advantage on the second nine, as Tringale strung together four consecutive birdies on Nos. 12-15, his 4-foot birdie at No. 15 providing the match's final verdict.
SEAMUS POWER ADVANCES
KEITH MITCHELL (1-1-1) def. SEAMUS POWER (2-0-1), 2 and 1
Power didn’t get the result he wanted on Friday, losing to Mitchell – the first setback of the week for the Irishman – but Power accomplished a bigger goal, advancing through his group to the Round of 16 that will begin on Saturday.
Mitchell saved par at the 11th to take a 1-up lead and provided some fireworks on the par-5 12th, where he hit the green in two shots and drained his 28-foot putt for eagle. Power was 2 down in the 16th fairway when he learned he had actually got through the group; Patrick Cantlay was 2 up with two to play against Sungjae Im, meaning only Power would have as many as two points through three matches. Power will play fellow European Tyrrell Hatton on Saturday.
It was brought to the attention of Power that this time last year, he had yet to win on the PGA TOUR, and he was ranked outside the top 400 in the world (463rd). He won the Barbasol Championship in July, and he entered this week ranked 48th. Now he has advanced through his group in his first Match Play.
“Obviously, yeah, my golf has improved,” Power said. “That's what's changed. Things don't quite seem as hard on the golf course. But besides that, still, I'm really enjoying it, and looking forward to playing my next round.��
PATRICK CANTLAY (1-1-1) def. SUNGJAE IM (1-2-0), 2 and 1
It had to be an odd feeling for Cantlay, the 2021 FedExCup champion, to face the third round of the Match Play knowing he had no shot to advance. But he played well against Im, who started Friday’s match with a mathematical chance to advance. (Seamus Power would advance with a record of 2-1.) Cantlay hit his tee shot at the par-3 fourth inside 2 feet, which touched off this run: birdie-birdie-birdie-par-birdie. When a par was good enough to win the ninth hole, Cantlay was 4 up. Im fought hard, though, and three birdies on the first six holes of the second nine cut Cantlay’s advantage to 1 up. He hit a miraculous shot (his third) with a fairway metal from the left trees at 16 to 25 feet, but narrowly missed the putt, and when he missed from 8 feet at 17, the match was over. In four trips to the Match Play, Cantlay has yet to advance out of his group. He is 6-4-2.
SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER ADVANCES
PLAYOFF: SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER def. MATT FITZPATRICK on sixth extra hole
Having lost decisively in the morning, 5 and 4, Matt Fitzpatrick had to regroup for a playoff against the opponent who had trounced him, and he gave Scottie Scheffler all he could handle. The two had to go six holes to decide a winner, tying a playoff record in the current Match Play format. Scheffler’s 5-footer for birdie at the par-5 sixth was enough to win the match after Fitzpatrick’s attempt from 14 feet fooled him, drifting off right.
Scheffler and Fitzpatrick hit some terrific shots in the playoff. Scheffler drove the green at the 342-yard fifth, but Fitzpatrick, who chips cross-handed, answered with a clutch downhill chip to 3 feet to set up birdie. After a poor first putt, Scheffler had to recover quickly and make from 6 feet to stay alive.
Scheffler (2-1) will take on Billy Horschel on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s Match Play final, won by Horschel.
“Billy is a great competitor,” Scheffler said. “He got the best of me here last year, and I got the best of him at Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational, which Scheffler won earlier this month). Should be a fun match tomorrow.”
SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER (2-1-0) def. MATT FITZPATRICK (2-1-0), 5 and 4
Scheffler, a Match Play finalist in his debut a year ago, needed to win to stay alive in his group and got off to the ideal start, jumping out to a 3-up advantage after six holes. He nearly aced the par-3 fourth (3 feet) and won the sixth when Fitzpatrick tugged a drive left, next to an out-of-bounds fence. He scrambled for par, but Scheffler got up-and-down for birdie. A key turnabout came at the ninth: Fitzpatrick hit his approach to 11 feet, looking to cut into Scheffler’s 3-up lead. Scheffler was 29 feet away, facing a downhill, right-to-left putt. He rolled it in, and Fitzpatrick missed, Scheffler stretching his cushion to 4 up. Scheffler ended the match with birdies at the 13th and 14th holes. Both players finished group play at 2-1-0.
Scheffler: “I didn't really make any mistakes. I took advantage of a few mistakes he made early. He got a really bad break on our second hole (which Scheffler won with a par), and after that I started cruising and played some good golf.
IAN POULTER (1-2-0) def. TOMMY FLEETWOOD (1-2-0), 4 and 3
After two opening losses, match play's Postman (he always delivers) broke through on Friday, making sure he did not exit Austin without at least one match victory. Poulter defeated his fellow Englishman pretty handily, never trailing in the match. Leading 1 up through four holes, Poulter went on a bit of a tear, starting the run with a pitch-in for eagle from behind the front right bunker at the 342-yard fifth hole. He birdied the par-5 sixth, won the eighth with a par, and when he rolled in a 16-foot birdie at the ninth, he was 4 up. Fleetwood made a nice birdie at the par-3 11th, but it was just a matter of time until Poulter closed the match out. He did so with his sixth consecutive par, winning the 15th hole. Poulter is 33-19-0 in his career at the Match Play, defeating Paul Casey for the title in 2010.
KEVIN KISNER ADVANCES
KEVIN KISNER (3-0-0) def. JUSTIN THOMAS (1-2-0), 4 and 3
Kisner, the 2019 WGC-Dell Match Play champion, continues to mow his way through this competition, this time it was friendly SEC foe Thomas. Kisner went scorched-earth, making five birdies and an eagle in the first eight holes and was 5 up at the turn. He birdied the first, second, fourth, fifth and eighth holes and made eagle on the par-5 sixth hole. (Here are the astounding numbers – No. 1, 6 feet; No. 2, 12 feet; No. 4, 9 feet; No. 5, 6 feet; No. 6, 16 feet for eagle; No. 8, 9 feet.) For more perspective, Thomas was 2 under after nine holes and found himself 5 down.
Yet Kisner knew that he couldn’t let up at all on the back nine. Thomas made birdie on the par-4 10th hole and the par-4 13th hole to get only 3 down, but with five holes remaining the hill was too steep to climb.
“He’s relentless, man,” Kisner said of Thomas. “He hits every shot right at the flag so you know you can’t get away with average golf, and trying to keep your head in it to keep making birdies after you’ve made a bunch is tough.”
Kisner remained undefeated on the week and will face Adam Scott in the Round of 16. Kisner is now 19-6-1 in this, his sixth Match Play appearance.
MARC LEISHMAN (1-2-0) def. LUKE LIST (1-2-0), 3 and 2
Leishman was already eliminated before the match started but played some of his best golf of the week, although List did not play well at all. List birdied the fourth hole to take a lead, but Leishman bounced back with wins on the next three holes – two of those wins coming when List conceded the hole. Leishman extended the lead with a birdie from 3 feet on the 12th hole and then won the par-4 15th hole with only a bogey to move 3 up. A tie with birdies on the par-5 16th hole ended the match.
List had a chance to get into a playoff with Kevin Kisner with a victory over Leishman and a Kisner loss to Justin Thomas. But Kisner routed Thomas and that match was over well before the Leishman-List match, meaning that List was already out of contention over the waning holes of this one.
TAKUMI KANAYA ADVANCES
TAKUMI KANAYA (2-1-0) def. LUCAS HERBERT (2-1-0), 5 and 4
PLAYOFF: TAKUMI KANAYA def. LUCAS HERBERT on first extra hole
Two short misses – one in regulation, one in a playoff – will haunt Australia’s Herbert, who controlled his destiny on Friday, entering his match against the 56th-seeded Kanaya, a fellow Match Play rookie, at 2-0. Kanaya needed to win to have a chance to advance. With his fate in his hands, Herbert did not play very well, and spent much of his afternoon fighting just to stay in the match. A three-putt at 10, which included a miss from 3 feet, left Herbert 3 down. Kanaya increased the lead to 4 up when he rolled in a 9-foot putt for birdie at 12 and went 5 up when he made a 13-footer at the short 13th, pretty much clinching the match.
The two returned to the course for a playoff after both finished 2-1, and Herbert seemed to have a huge advantage off the tee. He pounded a tee shot well down the fairway, and had only 99 yards in; Kanaya hit fairway metal up near the lip of a left-side fairway bunker, and had to lay up to 84 yards. Ah, match play. Kanaya used the slope of the green to spin a pitch inside 2 feet; Herbert missed his birdie putt on the low side, then missed the 3-foot comebacker for par. Kanaya, 23, advances.
TONY FINAU (1-2-0) def. XANDER SCHAUFFELE (1-2-0), 4 and 2
Neither Schauffele nor Finau had the week they were looking to have at Austin Country Club. Schauffele had a chance to advance with a victory over his Ryder Cup teammate, but Finau wasn’t obliging. He played his best against Schauffele after he had struggled for two days, rolling to a relatively easy triumph. Finau, 0-2 to start the day, birdied the 12th, 13th and 14th holes, winning two of them to increase his lead to 4 up. Schauffele would finish with three birdies, and he did not make a birdie on any of the three par-5 holes, which proved quite costly.
Takumi Kanaya, the highest-seeded player in Group 7, was the one to advance.
DUSTIN JOHNSON ADVANCES
DUSTIN JOHNSON (3-0-0) def. MAX HOMA (1-2-0), 1-up
Destiny was in Dustin Johnson’s hands as he stepped on to the first tee at Austin CC needing a win or tie against Max Homa to advance out of Group 8. Homa, who needed a win to force a playoff, broke the deadlock with a well-played iron shot to 12 feet on the par-3 fourth after DJ’s tee shot flew over the green.
The next hole provided a display worth the price of admission, when the two stars beautifully displayed two very different ways to get it done on the course. Playing slightly downwind, Johnson crushed a drive up to the front of the green on No. 5 while Homa pulled off a wild punch-out underneath multiple trees to within 5 feet of the hole. Both would go on to convert their birdies.
The 2020 FedExCup champ found his groove off the tee, blasting another drive 375 yards down the middle of the fairway on the par-5 sixth. He’d go on to make birdie, then dialed in an iron to 5 feet on the 7th, turning the match in his favor before extending the lead to 2 up at the turn.
With DJ sitting comfortably 6 feet from the hole on No. 11, Homa came inches from an ace to steal a win but ultimately couldn’t halve the deficit. A birdie from Johnson on the 13th forced a must-make from Homa from 8 feet on the 16th, which he’d pour in to extend the match. Trouble from the greenside bunker on No. 17 for DJ meant another win for Homa, but the California native couldn’t salvage a tie.
Dustin Johnson advances to meet 49-year-old Richard Bland in what already can be called one of the most interesting matches to look forward to in the Round of 16.
"He's a solid player," Johnson said of Bland. "I know it was a long time before he got his first win, but obviously he's playing well, he's playing well this week, so it's going to be a tough match. I need to go out and just play my game, just keep hitting fairways and greens and giving myself looks."
MACKENZIE HUGHES (2-1-0) def. MATTHEW WOLFF (0-3-0), 1-up
Needing Max Homa to defeat Dustin Johnson in the group ahead, in order to maintain hopes of a three-man playoff to advance from the group, Hughes could only watch as DJ pulled out his narrow 1-up victory on the final hole.
Ever the pro's pro, Hughes drained a 5-footer for birdie on the finishing hole to best Wolff's par and earn the match point.
Looking for his first point of the week, Wolff jumped to a 1-up lead through six holes, only to see Hughes take a 1-up lead at the turn by virtue of winning pars on Nos. 7 and 9. Propelled by three birdies in a five-hole stretch, Wolff again turned the tides and carried a 1-up lead to the 17th tee.
At the par-3 17th, Hughes dialed a wedge to 9 feet and made birdie to tie the match into the final hole, where he defeated Wolff by virtue of that closing birdie.
RICHARD BLAND ADVANCES
RICHARD BLAND (2-0-1) def. LEE WESTWOOD (1-2-0), 2 and 1
This was a match pitting two Englishmen, 48-year-old Westwood against 49-year-old Bland. It was the elder of the two, Bland, who held on and drained a 32-foot birdie bomb on the par-3 17th hole to win the match and advance to the Round of 16. In March Madness speak, Bland is absolutely the Cinderella of this dance.
The front nine was back-and-forth, but Bland grabbed a 2-up advantage by winning the ninth hole with a par. That lead jumped to 3 up with another par on the 11th hole but Westwood, playing in his 20th Match Play, made eagle from 14 feet on the 12th hole. Westwood won the 15th hole when Bland missed a 10-footer for par, they tied the 16th hole when Bland made an 8-footer for par, then Bland collected the dramatic birdie on the 17th hole to close out the match.
“The messages that I get from people, all over the globe, over the last 12 months has been incredible,” Bland said. “People that you never will ever meet and they tell me their kind of story that what I've done has inspired them to carry on their journey. They were losing a little bit of hope, (wondering whether they’re) going down the right path, and it's given them that extra sort of belief that they are on the right path.
“And that's, reading them is quite emotional. I will always keep them. Whenever this phone gets sort of upgraded or whatever, all those messages will stay forever. That's something that I will cherish very deeply.”
Bland gets no break in his next match as he’ll go up against Dustin Johnson.
TALOR GOOCH (2-1-0) def. BRYSON DECHAMBEAU (0-2-1), 2-up
DeChambeau was eliminated before the match started and still quickly jumped out to a 3-up lead after the first five holes with birdies on Nos. 3, 4 and 5. But Gooch, who still had a chance to advance, began to chip away at the big deficit and was able to tie the match after a birdie on the par-4 13th hole. In fact, Gooch birdied the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th holes, won them all and went from 1 down to 2 up in that span. DeChambeau won the 16th with birdie, they tied the 17th hole and then on 18, when DeChambeau hit his drive well left into a penalty area, he conceded the hole to Gooch, giving him the 2-up victory.
At the time, Gooch still had a chance to get into a playoff to advance to the Round of 16. But a few moments later, when Richard Bland defeated Lee Westwood, that meant Bland would advance. On the other hand, DeChambeau only managed one tie for the week and his record is 2-6-1 in three appearances in the WGC-Dell Match Play.
COREY CONNERS ADVANCES
COREY CONNERS (3-0-0) def. ALEX NOREN (2-1-0), 3 and 2
In a battle of two undefeated players through two days of group play, this match represented a winner-take-all scenario for a spot in the Round of 16.
Drawing on past match play success at the amateur level, Conners delivered with a steady performance throughout the day, taking a 1-up lead with a 10-foot birdie at No. 2 and never trailing in the match.
After a fairway wood from 258 yards to 12 feet at the par-5 sixth, the proud Canadian two-putted for birdie to take a 2-up lead. From there, the match embarked on a journey of six consecutive holes tied, including the par-5 12th where each player incurred a penalty stroke and recorded bogey.
Perhaps feeling as if he got away with one on No. 12, Conners delivered a 13-foot birdie at the short par-4 13th and then assumed a 3-up lead as Noren’s 11-foot birdie try did not drop. Noren stayed resilient with a 30-foot birdie from the fringe on No. 15 to pull 2 down, but Conners made the verdict official with an up-and-down birdie to win the par-5 16th.
With an unblemished record in group play, Conners erases any lingering memories from an 0-3-0 mark in his 2021 Match Play debut, and he turns his attention to Saturday morning’s Round of 16, where he'll face Takumi Kanaya.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN (1-2-0) def. PAUL CASEY (0-3-0), concession
Casey conceded his match for the third consecutive day, this time against Oosthuizen. In Wednesday's first day of group play, Casey conceded his match on the second hole against Corey Conners, citing back spasms.
Casey withdrew from Thursday's match against Alex Noren prior to teeing off, and he conceded Friday's match later in the day Thursday.
ADAM SCOTT ADVANCES
ADAM SCOTT (2-0-1) def. JORDAN SPIETH (1-2-0), 3 and 2
It was a frustrating start for the home fans and Jordan Spieth, who had no choice but to win his match against Adam Scott to have a chance at advancing.
An early look at birdie for the Texan rolled by on the first, and a laser approach from the rough by Scott set up a 6-footer to take a 1-up lead at the next. A break off the rocks for Scott allowed the Aussie to pull off an incredible up-and-down par at the third to maintain the lead was compounded by a missed par from Spieth on No. 4.
At the par-5 sixth, Scott pushed the lead to 3 up after carving an approach through the trees and two-putting for birdie after another bad break for Spieth, who nearly hit the pin with his 250-yard approach but had too much pace, settling 60 feet away at the back of the green. An unlikely Spieth comeback attempt seemed to be on after nearly putting in for eagle from off the green at the 13th, but it was too little, too late for Spieth, whose missed 7-foot birdie on No. 16 sealed Scott’s 3-and-2 win.
Without a defeat in group play, Scott advances to the Round of 16 at the WGC-Dell Match Play for the first time in 17 years.
JUSTIN ROSE (1-1-1) tied KEEGAN BRADLEY (0-1-2)
With Scott defeating Spieth in the group ahead, the Australian clinched his spot in the Round of 16 regardless of this match’s outcome.
It went down to the wire nonetheless, in a match that was played evenly throughout the day – neither player held an advantage of more than 1 up, and after Bradley moved to 1 up with a winning par on No. 11, six consecutive holes were tied leading into the short par-4 finishing hole.
At No. 18, needing to win the hole to tie the match, Rose delivered with a pitch to 11 feet and resultant birdie. Bradley’s 9-foot birdie try slid by, and Rose kept Bradley winless on the week.
BILLY HORSCHEL ADVANCES
BILLY HORSCHEL (2-0-1) tied THOMAS PIETERS (1-1-1)
The first match out on the day and it was beautifully played from beginning to end. Yet Pieters walked off the 18th green heated, even though he made five birdies and no bogeys during the epic duel. That’s because Pieters was 2 up with two holes remaining and Horschel, who made six birdies in the match, made birdies on 17 and 18 to win the holes and tie the match overall.
On the 17th green, Pieters had already made par and Horschel was standing over a birdie putt from 13 feet. He needed to make, or he’d have lost the match and would’ve been heading to a playoff to determine who would advance from the group. But the defending WGC-Dell Match Play champion calmly poured in the putt, then got up and down for birdie from 30 yards short of the 18th green, won the hole, tied the match and is moving on. Pieters missed a birdie attempt from outside 6 feet on the last hole that would’ve given him the victory.
Pieters was 2 up after three holes and made birdies on the second, third and fourth holes. Horschel tied the match after birdie on the ninth hole, then Pieters went to 1-up on 13 when Horschel drove the ball into the water. Birdie on the par-5 16th from Pieters gave him the 2-up advantage before Horschel closed with the heroic finish to be able to continue his Match Play title defense.
“I hung in there,” Horschel said. “I hit some really quality shots. Some of them didn’t turn out. I made some putts, which was nice to see. Being 2 down with two to go and knowing all I needed was a half to move on to Round of 16, that’s a real confidence boost to birdie the last two to get through.”
TOM HOGE (0-2-1) tied MIN WOO LEE (1-1-1)
Hoge was already eliminated before the match but still gave it a valiant effort, making birdie on the last hole to squeeze out a tie after being winless in his previous two matches. Hoge, who told reporters earlier in the week that he hadn’t played in a competitive match play event for 11 years, jumped out to an early 1-up lead, but Lee was 1 up at the turn. Lee went 2 up with a birdie on the 12th hole, but Hoge won the 13th with a par. Lee remained 1 up until the final hole, where he made a mess of it and drove it wildly left off the tee. That allowed Hoge to cruise, blasting a 342-yard drive and hit an approach to 7 feet to win the hole and tie the match.
Lee had a chance to advance to the Round of 16 before the match started, but when Billy Horschel birdied the last two holes to tie his match against Thomas Pieters, Lee was officially eliminated before his match with Hoge ended.
TYRRELL HATTON ADVANCES
TYRRELL HATTON (3-0-0) def. DANIEL BERGER (1-2-0), 2-up
Another tremendous match among the early groups, although the golf was not of the quality that either player particularly loved. Berger needed to win outright to have a chance at a playoff with Hatton. He did everything he could in this close contest but just came up short in the end with Hatton winning 2-up to remain undefeated and move along to the Round of 16.
Neither man ever held more than a 1-up advantage at any point during the first 17 holes. When Hatton tied the 17th to head to the 18th hole 1 up, he had essentially advanced in the championship, eliminating Berger and Kim.
There were several oddities in this match that made it entertaining. Berger took an unplayable lie on the sixth hole and still managed to tie it. Hatton hit his approach on the ninth hole into the native area left of the green and the two deliberated for nearly 10 minutes as to where the ball last crossed land. On the 12th hole, both players hit the ball into the water. Berger rattled in a 37-foot birdie from off the green on the 14th hole to tie the match. But Hatton moves on after going undefeated over the three days.
“It was a hell of a pillow fight,” Hatton said. “Neither of us played great. To be fair, I feel like had that finished in a half, you’d have probably said it was fair. It wasn’t great golf from either of us. Obviously from my side, delighted that I came away with a win to obviously win the three matches and be progressing to the next stage of the tournament."
SI WOO KIM (2-1-0) def. CHRISTIAAN BEZUIDENHOUT (0-3-0), 6 and 4
This match was lopsided from the opening tee shot and Kim was 5 up after seven holes. Bezuidenhout was eliminated before the match even started and didn’t put up much of a fight. He conceded the first hole, then Kim birdied the fourth, sixth and seventh holes, eagled the fifth hole and the match was quickly out of hand. Bezuidenhout made birdie on the 11th to cut into the lead, but Kim birdied No. 12 to move back to 5 up and then closed the match out on the 14th hole, not needing to play the final four. Bezuidenhout was winless on the week.
With the match being over so quickly, Kim had to sit and wait to learn his fate. If Daniel Berger had defeated Tyrrell Hatton, there would have been a three-man playoff between Kim, Berger and Hatton. Hatton won his match to advance, no extra holes needed.
KEVIN NA ADVANCES
PLAYOFF: KEVIN NA def. MAVERICK MCNEALY on first extra hole
Kevin Na finished his afternoon match on a run and kept it going in his playoff matchup with Maverick McNealy, wasting little time in moving to Saturday play as he birdied the opening hole. Na hit his approach to 13 feet, leaving a difficult, left-to-right slider. McNealy had hit his tee shot on the 373-yard hole to the right, and though he took a daring path through the branches, he came up short of the green in two. McNealy was trying to become only the second 64 seed to advance through group play since the Match Play went to its current format in 2015.
Na: “Mav has been playing great. I knew I had to make that one to close the door. It was a tough, tough putt and I was glad to see that one go in.”
KEVIN NA (2-0-1) def. JOAQUIN NIEMANN (1-2-0), 1-up
Na needed to win his match to have a chance to catch Maverick McNealy, hoping to force a playoff in the group at 2-0-1, and he came up big with birdies on four or his last seven holes to win. Na saved the best for last, walking in his winning putt at 18, nearly getting to the cup before the ball did. Na’s make was from 6 feet after Niemann barely missed from 7 feet. Neither player ever was more than 1 up, and they went to the tee at the 18th tied. Na laid back off the tee, playing to the top of the hill, then hit a brilliant approach from 101 yards just past the flag.
Na had inched ahead when he chipped in from just off the right edge of the green at the par-4 15th. Na made a nice putt to save par at the 16th, but Niemann knocked in a 4-footer for birdie, and the two were tied again. They tied the 17th with pars, leaving the stage for Na’s late heroics at the 18th. He immediately headed to the first tee for a playoff against McNealy.
MAVERICK MCNEALY (2-0-1) def. RUSSELL HENLEY (0-3-0), 2 and 1
Maverick McNealy didn’t know if he would even get into the Match Play last Sunday, only getting into the field once Valspar Championship winner Sam Burns decided to withdraw. The last man in responded with two victories on the week. He dismantled Joaquin Niemann, 8 and 6, in the biggest rout of the Match Play on Wednesday. On Friday, he was red-hot again. McNealy birdied the second, the fifth, eagled the par-5 sixth (29 feet), and made another birdie at the seventh (13 feet). When Henley bogeyed the eighth to lose the hole, McNealy was 5 up. Henley can heat up himself, and he would answer with birdies at the ninth, 11th and 12th holes to see a glimmer of daylight. A Henley birdie from 6 feet at the 15th left the Georgia Bulldog with a chance – 2 down, with three to play – and he needed (and made) birdie at the 16th to match McNealy and stay 2 down. Henley had a chance to push the match to the 18th, but his 14-footer for birdie at 17 caught the edge of the hole and spun out. With a record of 2-0-1, McNealy advanced to a playoff with a spot in the Round of 16 on the line, but he lost to a first-hole birdie by Kevin Na.
ABRAHAM ANCER ADVANCES
ABRAHAM ANCER (2-0-1) def. WEBB SIMPSON (1-2-0), 2-up
The main highlight here is that Ancer never trailed at any point during a match for three full days. Impressive.
Ancer, Simpson and Bubba Watson each entered the day with a chance to advance to the next round. Only Brian Harman did not have a chance from this group. Ancer opened a 2-up lead with birdies on the sixth and seventh holes – from 14 and 12 feet, respectively – and remained 2 up as late as the 13th hole. Simpson pulled back tied with birdies on the 14th and 16th but then both players hit below-average wedge shots into the par-3 17th green. Simpson was outside 50 feet and from just off the green he putted it to 12 feet and missed the par attempt. Ancer two-putted from 35 feet to take the 1-up lead into the last hole. Ancer hit his approach on the 18th hole to 4 feet, and when Simpson missed his 14-footer for birdie, the match officially was over.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Ancer said about advancing to the Round of 16. “I love match play. This golf course, it’s a lot of fun, anything can happen. It’s awesome playing in front of these fans, so I’m excited.”
BRIAN HARMAN (0-1-2) tied BUBBA WATSON (1-1-1)
Harman was eliminated from advancing before the match started yet bounced back from being 3 down with four holes remaining against his fellow University of Georgia alum to earn a second tie of the week. Watson needed Abraham Ancer to either tie or lose to Webb Simpson in order to have a chance to advance, but Ancer defeated Simpson while this match still had three holes remaining, and the tie in this match was probably the result it deserved.
Neither man played particularly well on the front nine and Watson took a 1-up lead into the back nine. Watson took a 2-up lead on the par-3 11th with a birdie from 18 feet and even moved to 3 up after Harman made an untimely bogey on the 14th hole.
Harman birdied the 15th hole from 4 feet, they tied the 16th hole with birdies and Watson three-putted the par-3 17th hole to head to the last hole with only a 1-up advantage. On the last hole, Watson missed his birdie attempt from 16 feet, setting the stage for Harman to drain his birdie from 10 feet to win the hole and tie the match.
BROOKS KOEPKA ADVANCES
BROOKS KOEPKA (3-0-0) def. SHANE LOWRY (1-2-0), 1-up
This match went down to the last putt, with Koepka burying a 9-footer for birdie at the short 18th to move to 3-0 on the week. (Koepka could have advanced with a tie.) Koepka, who has been good with the putter this week, started birdie-birdie and moved to 3 up when he made 4 at the par-5 sixth (from 4 feet). Lowry would not go away easily, however. The 2019 Open champion at Royal Portrush birdied 11 and 12, and the match was tied. It stayed that way all the way to 18. Both players had birdie putts. Lowry slid his 24-footer just right of the hole; Koepka stepped up and knocked his birdie down, finishing the week with a perfect record in group play. It marked the second time in five Match Play starts he made it through group play to the Round of 16. Koepka will take on world No. 1 Jon Rahm, the winner advancing to the quarterfinals.
Koepka: “It was nice to close one out. I hadn’t seen the golf course since 2019, and was kind of going off memory. Just keep playing the way I’m playing, and I’ll be all right.”
HAROLD VARNER III (2-1-0) def. ERIK VAN ROOYEN (0-3-0), 5 and 4
Varner III, playing in the Match Play for the first time, was terrific on Friday, knowing he needed to win to have a chance at possibly catching Brooks Koepka. Three birdies starting on the third hole put Varner on top, 3 up, before van Rooyen battled back, trimming Varner’s lead to 1 up after a birdie on the ninth. Varner would find a different gear early on the back nine. To say he got hot with the putter would be an understatement; he was completely on fire. He holed a 25-footer for birdie at 12, holed from 38 feet at 13, and finished the match with a 15-footer for birdie at 14. Varner finished 2-1 and needed Shane Lowry to beat Brooks Koepka, who was 2-0. Koepka won his match on the 18th green.