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From Fowler's upset to Spieth's winning chip-in, a look at Wednesday's biggest moments at WGC-Dell Match Play

7 Min Read


AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 22:  during the first day of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 22, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 22: during the first day of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 22, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

A quick look at Wednesday’s results from the first round of pool play at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play.

    Written by Paul Hodowanic @PaulHodowanic


    Someone had to lose between Sahith Theegala (26) and Min Woo Lee (41), although it didn’t quite seem fitting. Such is the beautiful madness of match play that was on full display Wednesday. A combined 13 birdies and two eagles were carded between the two upstart pros. Emblematic of a high-scoring football game, it came down to who had the ball last, or in this case, who could tally the last birdie.

    That was Lee, who finished with back-to-back birdies to flip a 1-down deficit into a 1-up win over Theegala.

    “It sucked that one of us had to win and one of us had to lose,” Lee said. “It was such a special match. You go back and it was back and forth. No one got to 2-up, no one got to 2-down, and it was back and forth. He had it in the palm of his hand, I had it pretty close, and then it just flipped so quick, and that's match play, which is the awesome thing.”

    Read more here.


    Rickie Fowler, the No. 49 seed, rallied from an early 2-down deficit to beat FedExCup leader Jon Rahm, 2 and 1. This is Fowler’s first appearance at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play since 2016.

    Fowler’s only blemish came at the par-4 first, a bogey that quickly propelled Rahm to a 1-up lead. A birdie at the par-4 third for the Spaniard extended the lead to 2 up. For many, that early hole against the No. 2 player in the world could be the beginning of the end. Instead, it was the last hole Rahm won.

    Fowler matched all of Rahm’s four remaining birdies, including the par-4 fifth and par-5 sixth and, pivotally, avoided trouble on the eighth and 11th, where Rahm made a pair of bogeys that brought the match back to a tie. Fowler won the 12th with a birdie and the 15th with a par as Rahm again made bogey, three-putting from 31 feet.

    “Very uncharacteristic from Jon. I know he didn't play very well today and struggled on the greens a bit,” Fowler said. “… It wasn't exactly easy out there today, but yeah, just got fortunate to kind of turn it around, get in control of the match there on the back nine, and just kind of kept the throttle down.”

    Eyeing an invite to the Masters, Fowler needs, at minimum, a top-8 finish to qualify. An upset on day one is a good way to start.


    The final result was a tie, but it sure felt like one man won and one lost coming off the 18th green.

    Standing on the 14th tee 4-down with five holes to play, Keegan Bradley finished par-birdie-eagle-par-birdie to manage a tie against Denny McCarthy. Still 1-down on the last hole, Bradley drained his six-foot birdie putt while McCarthy couldn’t get his 15-footer to drop.

    “Man, it was looking pretty bleak there for a while, but I just put my head down,” said Bradley, who won the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP earlier this season and ranks fourth in the FedExCup. “My boy gave me Starburst walking down 10 and I put it in my back pocket (for) good luck, and (it) gave me some good luck.”

    For the nearly the entire day, McCarthy was in control. He won the first hole with a birdie and stood on every tee box after that with the lead. In a match defined by waiting for the opponent to make a mistake, it was McCarthy who stayed steady. That was until the 14th hole, when McCarthy made a bogey 5, despite his ball lying two just off the green, 26 feet from the hole. Bradley won the hole with a par and then made his run toward the clubhouse.

    “That (tie) has the possibility of going a long way,” Bradley said, “so I'm excited about it.”


    It was over on the 12thgreen.

    Sungjae Im (16) closed out Maverick McNealy (58) with only his third birdie of the day, yet the winning margin stood at 8 and 6, the largest such victory at the event since Kevin Kisner beat Ian Poulter by the same score in the 2018 quarterfinals. It’s the fifth-largest margin in tournament history.

    It was a combination of mostly steady golf from Im and a wayward performance from McNealy, who failed to make a birdie and carded only six pars.

    After each made par on the first hole, Im won the next six holes with four pars and two birdies. McNealy, meanwhile, made three bogeys and conceded from the native area on the par-4 third.

    A double-bogey at the par-4 eighth from Im led to his only lost hole.


    McIlroy, new equipment steady in win: In a search for more consistency, Rory McIlroy put a brand-new Scotty Cameron putter and revamped driver in the bag for this week. So far, so good. The reigning FedExCup champ, who won this event in 2015, never trailed in his 3-and-1 victory over Scott Stallings (52), winning the 1st hole with a par and quickly extending his lead to 3-up with birdies on the fourth and fifth.

    “Driver was really good. I'm much happier with where I am there,” said McIlroy, who hit four of five fairways on the back nine with the TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, which features a new, softer shaft. That didn’t include driving the green on the reachable par-4 13th, which led to one of his four back-nine birdies.

    “It was a good first starting for both those clubs, and they both performed pretty well,” McIlroy said.

    Spieth’s hole-out winner: Jordan Spieth looked bashful, if not a little embarrassed as his birdie-chip on the 15th hole fell in the cup, closing out his match over Mackenzie Hughes, 4 and 3.

    More frustrated that he pulled his drive left into the rough and missed the green with his approach than happy about his miraculous hole-out, that’s the Spieth experience. So that’s not how he drew it up?

    “Not exactly,” Spieth said.

    No matter what it took to finish off the match, Spieth continued the positive momentum from his T3 finish at the Valspar Championship with a first-round win. He made birdie on the par-3 fourth to go 1-up and made another on the par-3 seventh that matched a Hughes birdie and kept him ahead. Spieth later drove the green on the 309-yard par-4 13th and made his eagle putt from just over 8 feet to take a commanding 3-up lead.

    “It always comes down to there's a few key holes that you either need to kind of catch a break on or maybe go earn it, and I kind of was on the right side of three or four of those today,” he said.

    Scottie bests Riley again: Scottie Scheffler, the newly-minted PLAYERS champion and defending Match Play champion, was able to keep Davis Riley from exacting revenge. Riley lost to Scheffler in the final of the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur (then lost in the final a year later to Will Zalatoris). In the rematch, Riley missed a short birdie putt on 16 that would have tied the match, but Scheffler returned the favor by failing to convert his short birdie putt at 17 that would have ended things. The No. 1 player in the world ended things by draining a 13-foot on the 18th hole to beat Riley 1-up at Austin Country Club.

    “I'm going to remember that putt on the last hole and take that energy with me tomorrow,” Scheffler said.

    MARQUEE MATCHUPS (a look at the biggest matchups for the next day)

    Cameron Young (15) vs. Corey Conners (36), 11:04 ET: A pair of first-round winners that combined for 13 birdies in their victories.

    Rickie Fowler (49) vs. Billy Horschel (22), 11:37 ET: A win over 2021 champion Horschel would leave Fowler in great position to advance out of his group.

    Max Homa (5) vs. Kevin Kisner (42), 12:10 ET: Kisner lost a tight match to Hideki Matsuyama and will look to rekindle his match play success against a red-hot Homa, his teammate at last year’s Presidents Cup.

    Xander Schauffele (6) vs. Aaron Wise (40), 3:06 ET: Schauffele picked up his match play success right where he left off at the Presidents Cup and now faces the other winner from his group in a pivotal matchup.

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