Stuff you may have missed: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
March 31, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods' 82-yard hole out for eagle at WGC-Dell Match Play
AUSTIN, Texas – Another fun week in Austin for the world’s best culminated with a great win for Kevin Kisner at Austin Country Club. Kisner avenged his final loss from a year earlier, besting Matt Kuchar 3 and 2 in the championship match. Kuchar still continues his impressive renaissance, moving to the top of the FedExCup and Wyndham Rewards standings.
Let’s take a look back at the highlights… and perhaps a few lowlights… of the week.
MATCH OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods beat Rory McIlroy 2 and 1: This one might not have had the most birdies or haymakers being thrown, but it was enthralling and hyped none-the-less. Woods took an early lead thanks to birdies at the fifth and sixth holes and maintained it over the front nine as McIlroy’s putter refused to be helpful. A short par putt missed on the 10th from the PLAYERS Champion gave Woods a 3-up lead and it appeared he may cruise to victory. But then the real Rory showed up. He picked up a win on the par-5 12th, played the short par-4 13th to perfection to make it back-to-back birdies and wins and set up a grandstand finish. Woods was forced to make a fighting par save on the 15th before the critical hole – the par-5 16th. McIlroy made a statement by absolutely crushing a drive some 395-yards down breeze into the fairway. Woods pulled his tee shot left into a terrible lie in a bunker. It meant that after a lay-up, Woods was still away some 204-yards from the hole. The 80-time PGA TOUR winner then produced one of his trademark long irons up the hill, a laser to find the putting surface some 24-feet from the flag to keep birdie alive. With a shot up his sleeve and just 173-yards to the hole McIlroy executed poorly, flaring his shot to the right. He came up well short and unluckily stopped in the rough just above the lip of a bunker, creating a terrible lie and stance. His third shot came out hot and flew the green, ending up in an unplayable spot. After a few more hacks from around the green he conceded the hole and fell 2-down with just two to play. Just as Woods looked to have potentially given him life with an average tee shot and chip on the par-3 17th the three-time WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play champion drained his 13-foot par putt for the win.
Louis Oosthuizen beat Marc Leishman 2 and 1 in the Round of 16: Out in front of the hyped Tiger/Rory match a pair of International Presidents Cup teammates were producing some unbelievable golf. Three birdies apiece over the opening six holes had the players all square before Leishman made the only mistake either produced in the match. Facing a 6-foot par putt to tie the hole, the Australian burned the edge to go 1-down. It was then the critical play came from Oosthuizen. He made a 31-foot birdie on the ninth hole and then hit his approach on the 10th to gimme range to race to a 3-up lead. Leishman refused to quit and birdied the 14th to cut the lead to two holes. He made a huge birdie putt on the 16th to give hope only to see Oosthuizen make his own on top of it. Leishman than gave himself a quality close look at birdie on the 17th hole only to see the South African curl in a 23-foot birdie from the fringe for the win.
Lucas Bjerregaard beat Tiger Woods 1 Up in Quarterfinals: Three birdies in a row helped Woods overturn an early deficit to be 2-up on the Dane through five holes. Bjerregaard could have been forgiven if the moment got the better of him, but his fighting spirit became very evident against the wave of crowd support. Through 11 holes he trailed by just a hole and matched birdies with Woods on 12 and 13 to stay in it. By the time they came to the par-5 16th, Woods still appeared to be in control. But then Bjerregaard dropped a lengthy eagle bomb on the 80-time TOUR winner to square the match. He then poured in a must make birdie on the 17th before navigating the last better than Woods for the shock comeback win.
Tiger Woods vs. Lucas Bjerregaard highlights from WGC-Dell Match Play
There are no real upsets when you put the best 64 players in the world head to head however:
Lucas Bjerregaard beat Justin Thomas 3 and 2: The result that became the catalyst for the Danish star to make it all the way to the final four, taking out four major champions and three FedExCup champions along the way, was his first up start in the event against Justin Thomas. Thomas was 2-up through three holes and seemingly cruising as the fifth overall seed against the Dane, who came in as the 50th overall seed. But Bjerregaard had stolen the lead four holes later and then never let up. As he headed around the turn, Bjerregaard stepped up his offensive with three birdies, leaving Thomas in his wake.
Kevin Na beat Justin Rose 2 Up in Round of 16: While Rose doesn’t have the greatest WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play record, he was still the number two overall seed coming up against Na, the 57th seed. And Na had limped into the final 16 despite a loss in his group. Through 11 holes, Na was 2-down and Rose was seemingly heading to a win, a result that would have seen him return to world No. 1 status. But Na made back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th holes to square the match and then Rose made back-to-back bogeys to relinquish his grip on advancing.
John Rahm beat Si Woo Kim 7 and 5: Jon Rahm won five holes in a row on the back nine to give former PLAYERS champion Si Woo Kim a match play bath. Sadly he couldn’t continue the form, losing to J.B. Holmes and tying Matt Kuchar to miss out on the round of 16.
PRESIDENTS CUP WATCH
International Team captain Ernie Els might have hoped for more but a quarter of the final 16 were players eligible for his team for December’s Presidents Cup to be held in Melbourne, Australia. Three of them – South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace and Australian Marc Leishman are basically certainties to be part of the team as former standouts. China’s HaoTong Li continues to stake his claim to be the first Chinese representative to play in the Cup.
For Tiger Woods and his American team, the case for inclusion was clearly put forth by finalists Matt Kuchar and Kevin Kisner. Kisner was unlucky not to be part of the Ryder Cup in Paris and has now surely ensured he won’t be overlooked again.
Louis Oosthuizen’s 31-foot birdie at WGC-Dell Match Play
Sergio Garcia’s brain fade in his quarterfinal against Matt Kuchar proved to be the most talked about quirk of the week. Already 1-down in his match, Garcia had a seven-foot par putt on the par-3 7th hole to bring the match back even following a Kuchar bogey. But he pulled it slightly offline, missing barely to the left. Before Kuchar could verbally concede the four-inch tap in for a half, Garcia swiped at it with the back of his putter and the ball lipped out of the hole. Without a concession Garcia was then ruled to have lost the hole, sending him 2-down. But rather than let it lie, Garcia then spent the next few holes trying to get Kuchar to concede a hole to square the ledger. While Kuchar said he didn’t feel comfortable with what happened, he stopped short of acquiescing to Garcia’s proposal.
“It is quite simple. I screwed up. Simple as that,” Garcia said.
“The only issue was that Kuch was like I didn’t say good, but I don’t want to take the hole, I don’t want to do this like this, and I was like OK that’s fine - so what do you want to do?"
“Because there are many options that you can do if you don’t want to take the hole, even though you’ve already lost that hole. Obviously, he didn’t like any of the options that were there. So it’s fine. At the end of the day I am the one who made the mistake.”
Sergio Garcia’s double bogey on No. 7 at WGC-Dell Match Play
THREE NAMES TO WATCH GOING FORWARD
Lucas Bjerregaard: Just take a look at the players the Danish 27-year-old star beat to make the final four. Among them major winners Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley, Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods. Those four players combine for 17 majors, 99 PGA TOUR wins and four FedExCups.
Justin Harding: The South African has been in hot form of late on the European Tour with a win and runner up over the last month or so. Only a red-hot Rory McIlroy stopped him coming out of group play. Does Ernie Els have his eye on this guy for the Presidents Cup in Melbourne?
Abraham Ancer: Nerves – and a pretty good opponent in Paul Casey – got the better of Ancer in his WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play debut. But the Presidents Cup hopeful rebounded from a first up loss with impressive wins over Cameron Smith and Charles Howell III. Put up eight birdies in 15 holes against Howell.