Match recaps from Wednesday: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
Capsule look at all completed matches from Day 1 of group play at Austin Country Club
March 23, 2022
By Staff , PGATOUR.COM
- March 23, 2022
- The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play features three days of group play before knockout play begins in the Round of 16. (Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)
The World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play is back. Wednesday’s opening round is the first 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 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.
Those are among the storylines we’ll be tracking this week.
There will be 32 matches in each of the next three days, and this file will be updated live at the conclusion of each match 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 (1) def. SEBASTIAN MUNOZ (58), 4 and 2
Rahm, the world No. 1, got off to a solid start against Munoz in his opening match. Munoz hung tough and was only 1 down as the players stood on the tee at the par-5 12th hole. Rahm would make the most of the back-nine par-5 holes, as he birdied (and won) both. He fist-pumped after making an 8-footer at 12 (to go 2 up) and, after pounding a 373-yard drive at the 574-yard 16th, would eventually get up-and-down from a right-side bunker to win at 4 up. (Also in there was a birdie at the short 13th, which Rahm stole with a 31-footer.)
Munoz was seeking his first match victory after going 0-3 in his debut last year. Included in those losses was a 1-up setback to Rahm. Rahm moved to 11-5-3 in the event. He lost in the 2017 championship match to Dustin Johnson, and last year dropped a quarterfinal match to eventual finalist Scottie Scheffler.
Rahm was asked if he believes he can win this week. “I don't know why I wouldn't think that,” he said. “Of course, you’ve still got to prove it though. Obviously, I'm not thinking about it all day. But, yeah, I'm here to compete and win and prove myself.”
CAMERON YOUNG (40) def. PATRICK REED (23), 1-up
Patrick Reed is known from success in international team competition as a match play warrior, and he fought hard Wednesday afternoon at Austin CC, but he was bested late by a rising rookie from Wake Forest who is steadily moving his way onto the radar of golf fans across the globe.
Cameron Young, who was roommates with Will Zalatoris at Wake Forest and is statistically one of the longest drivers in the game, was 2 down to Reed at the turn but battled back to even with winning birdies on Nos. 10 and 12.
With the match tied on No. 14, Reed missed a 7-footer for par that gave Young his first lead of the afternoon. It was a lead he did not relinquish, as the New York City-area native matched Reed stroke-for-stroke on each of the closing four holes -- par, birdie, par, par -- and begins his WGC-Dell Match Play career with a 1-0 mark.
COLLIN MORIKAWA (2) def. ROBERT MACINTYRE (61), 2 and 1
Morikawa had a rocky Match Play debut a year ago, tying one match and losing two others. Wednesday, he was in complete control over Scotland’s MacIntyre, who advanced to the Round of 16 in Austin a year ago. Morikawa made birdie on the first and fourth holes to go 2 up and never relinquished his lead.
MacIntyre had an off-day. Needing to make a move after the turn, he bogeyed three of five holes, including the par-5 12th. When Morikawa made bogey at 13, MacIntyre could only manage to tie the hole. A 23-footer for birdie at the 15th by MacIntyre – his second birdie of the afternoon – cut Morikawa’s lead to 2 up. They tied 16 with pars, and Morikawa sealed things with a tee shot to 14 feet at the par-3 17th, giving him two putts to win the match.
Asked the key to his match, Morikawa said, “Luck. Look, I mean I started off really well and I told myself to wake up the past couple days to get ready for this, and I just did everything I told myself not to do. It happens, but hopefully I wake up for tomorrow ... going to have a good match against Sergio.”
SERGIO GARCIA (43) def. JASON KOKRAK (22), 4 and 3
Few know Austin Country Club as well as Garcia, who lives in town and is a club member. (He once played a member event with fellow Masters champion Ben Crenshaw as his partner.) Garcia had a tight match going with the long-hitting Kokrak before pulling away in a key stretch early on the back nine. Garcia won the 10th with a birdie from 6 feet, then rolled in a 24-footer for eagle at the 555-yard 12th. The eagle put Garcia in command, 3 up, and he would win the match when Kokrak failed to make par at the shortish 15th. Garcia improved his WGC-Match Play record to 29-22-1.
“I felt like I putted nicely,” Garcia said. “Conditions weren't easy, it was a bit breezy, it was gusty. But I felt like I hit a lot of good iron shots, I hit a good amount of drives, missed a couple here and there, but overall it was pretty solid. I was able to make a couple of key putts at the right time and that obviously made a big difference.”
WILL ZALATORIS (24) def. CAMERON TRINGALE (45), 5 and 4
Zalatoris made birdie on the opening hole, then never looked back. He opened a significant advantage with victories at Nos. 5, 6 and 7 (the sixth with an eagle). Tringale won the ninth and 10th holes to go from 4 down to 2 down, but Zalatoris was having none of it as he rattled off consecutive wins on Nos. 12, 13 and 14 to close out the match in his second appearance at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
“I kind of had a good off-week last week with Josh (Gregory, swing coach), figured some stuff out and just played really solid on the front,” Zalatoris said. “I didn’t really feel like I hit a bad shot.”
VIKTOR HOVLAND (3) def. SEPP STRAKA (63), 1-up
A steady match where neither player ever gained more than a 1-up advantage. Straka, in his maiden appearance in the WGC-Match Play, took an early lead, then Hovland wrestled it back in the middle of the match. Straka then took a 1-up lead again on the 11th hole when Hovland made double bogey. Hovland drew even on the 16th, then Straka made a massive mistake on the par-3 17th hole when he hit his tee shot into the native area after Hovland had already missed the green. Straka made triple bogey; Hovland easily won the hole to go 1 up and then slammed the door shut on the home hole.
“I feel like if I didn’t make too many other mistakes, I really could have gone away with it today,” Hovland said. “I made it a little too interesting, but those 15-footers kind of kept me in the match today.”
SEAMUS POWER (42) def. SUNGJAE IM (21), 5 and 4
Ireland’s Power, playing in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play for the first time, made a big splash in his opening match. He took advantage of a bogey-bogey start by Im to jump out front, 2 up. Power kept the 2-up advantage through nine, lost the 10th to a par, and then won four consecutive holes to ease away to victory. Conceded the par-3 11th as Im made a mess of it, Power then birdied the next three, the longest of the three approaches being to 11 feet.
Power would birdie four of his last six holes, with a fifth birdie conceded.
“It’s nice to get a point on the board,” Power said. “It's my first time playing here, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but 1-for-1, so it's a good start.”
PATRICK CANTLAY (4) tied KEITH MITCHELL (62)
This was the first match of the day that went down 18 tied, and though both players had quality looks for birdies on the final hole, neither one could convert for the victory. Cantlay had all he could handle in the feisty Mitchell, who can be a birdie machine and go on some hot runs. Mitchell held the lead as the two players went to the second nine, though Cantlay quickly knotted the match with an 11-footer for birdie at the 10th. Mitchell tied the match with a par at 11, and then Cantlay stepped up. He won the par-5 12th with a par (1 up) and stretched the lead at the 284-yard 14th, where he pitched in for an eagle 2. The players traded birdies at 14, and Mitchell made a clutch up-and-down at 15 just to tie the hole and remain 1 down against the world’s No. 4-ranked player. The two traded birdies at 16, and Cantlay was 1 up with two to play. That’s when Mitchell stepped forward and hit a tee shot to 11 feet to set up a match-tying birdie on the par 3. On the 18th, Cantlay putted first after a terrific wedge from a difficult angle left him with 9 feet. Mitchell missed from 8 feet, and the two settled for a tie.
“We both played great coming down the stretch,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately, just didn't make that putt on 18 to get the ‘W.’”
SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER (5) def. IAN POULTER (59), 2 and 1
In one of the top matches of the day, England’s match play maestro took on a young power player in Scheffler, a local favorite who a year ago made a run that took him all the way to the championship match (where he lost to Billy Horschel). Poulter won holes 4, 5 and 6 to build a 2-up lead through six holes. Scheffler would square things by the turn, however, rolling in a 14-foot birdie putt at the ninth to pull even. Poulter led again, 1 up through 13, but Scheffler won the par-4 14th with a par and then poured in a 19-footer for birdie at 15 to assume a 1-up lead. At the 574-yard 16th, Poulter two-putted from the back fringe for birdie, and Scheffler answered by draining a 17-foot birdie, straight up the hill. The match ended at the 17th when Poulter tugged a 9-iron at the 142-yard par-3 that bounced left and disappeared over the rocky edge. Scheffler improved to 5-1-2 overall at this event.
“I got some good experience out here last year, and I know the golf course pretty well,” Scheffler said. “I know what it takes to win matches out here. I struggled a little bit at the beginning of the round, but I fought back and made some nice putts at the end. I’m pleased with the result.”
MATT FITZPATRICK (20) def. TOMMY FLEETWOOD (41), 1-up
This all-English battle between Ryder Cup teammates turned into a nicely contested match that would go down to the very last putt, a testy 4-footer for par by Fitzpatrick to pull out victory. Four times over the first 14 holes, Fitzpatrick would win a hole to inch ahead to a 1-up lead, only to watch Fleetwood quickly provide an answer. Fleetwood tied the match with a birdie at 12 (7 feet) and tied the match again at 14, where he stuffed an approach to 2 feet. In between, at the drivable 13th, Fitzpatrick hit a tee shot just a few paces from the front edge of the green, took out putter, and holed his second from 63 feet for an eagle 2.
Fitzpatrick pulled away with two late birdies at 15 (6 feet) and 16 (two putts from 25 feet), giving himself a little breathing room at 2 up. (Fleetwood had a chance to keep the match at 1 up at No. 16, but he missed from 6 feet.) Fleetwood pushed the match to the 18th tee when he rolled in a 23-footer to win the par-3 17th. Fitzpatrick left his 29-foot birdie putt 4 feet short, then knocked in the decisive putt.
“I felt like it was so tricky,” Fitzpatrick said. “This direction of wind, there were a lot of crosswinds. It makes it difficult for club selection, and you’ve just got to scramble the best you can. I managed to get it together there on the back nine.”
KEVIN KISNER (29) def. MARC LEISHMAN (37), 4 and 3
Kisner has long been known as a match-play aficionado, having finished runner-up at the WGC-Dell Match Play in 2018 and then winning a year later. The Georgia Bulldog didn't miss a beat on the opening day in 2022, as he won three of the first four holes against the Australian, and then went 4 up with a 48-foot birdie at the par-4 eighth.
After regaining a 4-up lead with a 17-foot birdie at No. 11, Kisner matched Leishman with pars on the next four holes to secure his victory. Kisner moves to 10-0-0 in his career at Austin CC when holding the lead at the turn in a match.
LUKE LIST (53) def. JUSTIN THOMAS (6), 3 and 2
In a rematch of the 2018 Honda Classic playoff, where Thomas deprived List of his first TOUR win, the Vanderbilt alum bested the Alabama product with clutch birdies at Nos. 14 and 16 Wednesday to pull away.
List, who earned his first TOUR title at this year's Farmers Insurance Open, took a 1-up lead with a birdie at the par-5 second hole and never trailed. Thomas fought back to 1 down at the par-5 12th, as List took two penalty strokes and conceded, and it looked like Thomas would have a chance to even the match after List found water with his second at No. 13.
List, though, drained a 12-footer for par, then escaped with a halved hole after Thomas missed a 9-foot birdie try. List followed with a 13-foot birdie at No. 14 and never looked back.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE (7) def. TAKUMI KANAYA (56), 3 and 2
Xander Schauffele and former top-ranked amateur Takumi Kanaya traded pars on Austin Country Club’s opening two holes before swapping birdies over the next three. Schauffele, who entered this edition of Match Play with a 4-2-3 record, crushed a 310-yard drive before dialing in his approach to 5 feet for birdie on the par-4 third. Kanaya, making his Match Play debut, calmed the nerves to answer with a 15-footer of his own on the fourth.
Schauffele regained the lead with a birdie on the next before pulling his tee shot on ACC’s par-5 sixth, prompting a provisional and penalty stroke for the four-time TOUR winner as Kanaya got up-and-down for par. Tied through eight, a combination of steady play from Schauffele and costly bogeys from Kanaya saw the American win four of the next five holes to build a 3-up edge.
Things got interesting on the pivotal 13th after Schauffele blasted his drive into the hospitality tent, setting up a testy chip back towards the water that he nestled up to 2 feet for birdie to go 4 up. The 2018 Asia-Pacific Amateur champ stepped up to extend the match on No. 15, with an approach to 13 feet before pouring in the must-make birdie. Schauffele walked in his birdie on the 16th after a well-played pitch from just short of the green to close out the match.
“I think it was sort of my start that kept me in this," Schauffele said. "I hit one OB, I hit one in the hazard and was able to make par and hit a chip-out on No. 1 too, so some good wedge shots early that kind of kept me in it.”
LUCAS HERBERT (39) def. TONY FINAU (18), 4 and 3
After missing out a year ago as an alternate, Herbert made the most of his chance this time around at Austin Country Club. The young Australian started hot with three straight birdies and was 2 up through five before Finau clawed back to even through seven. The American fell behind with a bogey on the par-4 eighth, and Herbert never looked back. Birdies on 10 and 12 set up a buffer for the Bermuda Championship winner, and he closed it out on the 15th with another birdie, setting up a huge match against Xander Schauffele on Thursday.
MAX HOMA (30) def. MATTHEW WOLFF (38), 3 and 1
Matthew Wolff had plenty of chances to take an early lead in his match against Max Homa with birdie looks from inside 15 feet on three of the first five holes, instead settling for pars to remain tied until the par-5 sixth. Sitting comfortably on the green with 10 feet for eagle, Wolff watched as Homa blew his 25-foot birdie attempt 10 feet by before conceding for the first won hole of the match.
The former Oklahoma State Cowboy appeared in control with a par on No. 7 and another birdie on No. 8 to extend his lead to 2 up. From there, Homa turned on the jets and flipped the match, winning four holes in a row. The turning point likely came on the par-3 11th where Wolff’s tee shot found the water before he eventually conceded and sent another ball to the water out of frustration. Wolff rallied with a well-played chip to less than 2 feet from over the 13th green, a tricky proposition the entire day, to get back to 1 down. Homa pushed the lead back to 2 up on No. 16, making a 4-foot birdie while Wolff missed another short birdie look. With a chance to extend the match on the par-3 17th, Wolff’s 12-foot birdie try lipped out before shaking hands with Homa and conceding the match.
DUSTIN JOHNSON (8) def. MACKENZIE HUGHES (51), 3 and 2
In a topsy-turvy contest on Wednesday afternoon, the 24-time PGA TOUR winner outlasted the spirited Canadian. Johnson won the first two holes with pars and was 2 up through 3, but Hughes rallied with three consecutive holes won (Nos. 4-6) to take a 1-up advantage.
The South Carolina native responded with a stuffed short iron and birdie at No. 9 to tie the match, and Johnson won No. 10 with a par to take the lead, before Hughes once again answered with a birdie at 12 to pull the match even.
Johnson's game coalesced over the closing stretch, as he made three consecutive birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16 -- none of which came from outside 11 feet -- winning all three holes and slamming the door shut.
"Conditions weren't that easy," reflected Johnson of the day's challenges. "The wind at times would be none, and then the next thing you know it's blowing 30. So it was tough to judge the wind, but I felt like I did a good job and played solid other than 4, 5 and 6."
BRYSON DECHAMBEAU (9) tied RICHARD BLAND (54)
This was a pretty wild match between DeChambeau, who has been battling wrist and hip injuries and whose last TOUR start was the Farmers Insurance Open in January, and the 49-year-old Bland, who hopes to be playing on PGA TOUR Champions next year. DeChambeau figured to show some rust, and he did, though he did have some nice moments with the putter. Bland won the 10th hole with a par, and neither player could shake the other coming in, as they tied the final eight holes of the match.
At the closing hole, after Bland barely missed from 23 feet off the front fringe, DeChambeau faced 16 feet for the win. The putt was straight downhill, and slick, and he trickled the putt just left of the hole and settled for an opening tie. DeChambeau, who hit six of 14 fairways in the match, will face Lee Westwood on Thursday.
Said Golf Channel’s Justin Leonard of DeChambeau’s return, “I thought it was a little scratchy.”
Bland fought hard in his Match Play debut, making from 23 feet to match a birdie by DeChambeau on the 14th. Those were the lone birdies the players made on the back nine.
“We didn't play our best, obviously,” DeChambeau said. “Hit some wayward shots, just concerned – just more or less cautious, very cautious. There were some pretty good wayward shots because of that, and that probably cost me quite a bit, and then I three-putted a few times. I haven't practiced the way I should have on the putting green for speed, and I'll work on that after.”
TALOR GOOCH (27) def. LEE WESTWOOD (47), 3 and 2
Gooch went winless in his Match Play debut a year ago, but on Wednesday against the match play-tested Westwood he was very much in control. Gooch won three holes on the opening nine with pars, and when he mixed in a couple of birdies (two putts from 33 feet at No. 6, and a holed bunker shot at No. 8), he was 4 up through eight. The match stood at 4 up through 10 when Westwood rallied. He won 11 with a par, was conceded the par-4 13th, and stuck his approach to 6 feet at 15, burying the birdie putt. All of a sudden, this match got interesting, and the pressure shifted to Gooch, still 2 up. He responded nicely, making birdie from 7 feet to seal the victory and move to 1-0. Westwood was playing in his 43rd match at this event. He is 19-23-1.
ALEX NOREN (50) def. LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN (10), 1-up
Perhaps the best match of the day, at least of all the early matches. Oosthuizen made seven birdies in 18 holes and lost. Not only did he lose, he never even led at any point in the match. Noren was 3 up after five holes because of three birdies and an eagle. Oosthuizen then won the next two holes, but Noren then rebounded with wins on the eighth and ninth holes. On the par-3 11th hole, Oosthuizen hit his tee shot to 3 feet, but Noren made birdie from 10 feet. The match tightened again on the 15th hole when Noren made bogey, but both men made par on the last three holes and Noren closed for the 1-up win.
“Just a good battle and I was lucky to come out on top,” Noren said.
Making his sixth WGC-Match Play appearance, Noren’s record is now an impressive 14-5-0. He is scheduled to play Paul Casey on Thursday. Casey conceded his match against Corey Conners on the second hole Wednesday because of back spasms.
COREY CONNERS (36) def. PAUL CASEY (19), concession
Casey won the first hole against Conners, then conceded the match on the second hole, citing back spasms. This is big news as Casey has long been a stalwart in this event, collecting a 28-16-3 record in 15 previous appearances. Casey, however, made it clear that he has not withdrawn from his matches the next two days. He is scheduled to play Alex Noren on Thursday, then Louis Oosthuizen on Friday.
JORDAN SPIETH (11) def. KEEGAN BRADLEY (60), 2-up
Fans arrived bright and early to cheer on University of Texas alum Jordan Spieth as he took on Keegan Bradley in the first match of group play. It was a tightly contested front nine with neither player able to win more than one hole in a row, but a bogey from Spieth on the par-4 ninth gave Bradley a 1-up lead after the turn.
Bradley’s 18-footer to extend the lead on No. 11 nearly had the perfect pace but lipped just out. With the door open for Spieth, he showed off his impressive short game to get up-and-down for birdie from 62 yards on the scenic 12th and tie the match. An aggressive line off the tee on the drivable 13th saw Spieth dump his tee shot in the water, but the line paid off after dialing in his approach to set up par. Bradley flew his drive over the green before nearly chipping back into the water, settling for a par as well after taking a drop on the green and draining a 13-footer.
The Texas native took a 1-up lead with a comfortable birdie on No. 16 after Bradley crushed his approach from 268 yards over the green and was forced to take a penalty stroke en route to double bogey. At the par-3 17th, Bradley’s struggles on the green continued with a missed birdie opportunity from 15 feet, while Spieth was able to two-putt for par from 45 feet.
A missed 8-foot par putt at the last led to a concession from Bradley and a 2-up win for the local favorite.
“I look at this week, end of three or four in a row here, trying to just gain momentum," Spieth said. "The more rounds I can play, the sharper I get. You've got to keep winning matches in order to keep getting rounds in this tournament, so it was just an edgy, edgy match and sometimes you've got to grind those out.”
ADAM SCOTT (32) def. JUSTIN ROSE (46), 2-up
This contest between good friends and former major winners failed to hit any great heights in terms of skill, but it was certainly interesting. Australian Scott started with a win on the opening hole but found himself 2-down after No. 7. Back-to-back bogeys from Rose meant the veterans were tied at the turn and they traded bad shots until Scott fashioned a 2-up lead with birdie on the 15th.
Just as he appeared set for victory, Scott went out-of-bounds on the 16th to give the Englishman hope, and Rose then produced an incredible par-save chip-in from the canyon on the penultimate hole to take the match down the 18th. A shaky par from Scott on the finisher was enough to take the match.
"It was a real pillow fight," Scott said. "We gave each other a lot of holes, certainly nothing for me to brag about. We’ve played a lot of golf with each other over the years and we certainly didn't have our best stuff today, but obviously I'm happy to squeak out a point and kind of keep my hopes alive for the next couple days.”
BILLY HORSCHEL (12) def. MIN WOO LEE (49), 3 and 2
The defending WGC-Dell Match Play champion keeps on cruising as he made five birdies during his convincing victory. Lee won the first and fourth holes, but Horschel won Nos. 2, 3 and 5 to take the 1-up lead. Yes, none of the first five holes were tied. Horschel made birdie on the par-4 10th hole to go 3 up and that lead was insurmountable. Horschel now has collected a 12-5-1 record in this event and will face Tom Hoge on Thursday.
“Solid round of golf today,” Horschel said. “Didn’t do anything special. Min gave me a few holes which in match play we’re always happy to get. After that I felt like I built a lead, it was just play smart, do the right things, give myself opportunities to make birdies.”
THOMAS PIETERS (26) def. TOM HOGE (33), 2 and 1
Pieters was 5 up after eight holes and was absolutely cruising. That lead was built with a combination of making birdies and taking advantage of a couple Hoge hiccups. From there Hoge went on an absolute tear and clawed his way back into the match. He birdied Nos. 9, 10 and 11 in a row, bogeyed the 12th hole, but then made birdies on 13 and 14. Standing on the 15th tee, Pieters was only 1 up after taking that early 5-up advantage. Pieters made birdie on the 15th hole to move 2 up, and the duo tied the next two holes for Pieters to close out the match on the 17th green.
“I’ve never won my first round, and then you’re kind of coming from behind,” Pieters said. “I think the percentage of getting through is very, very small if you don’t win the first match. It’s nice to have won this one and kind of build on that.”
Hoge told reporters early in the week that this was the first competitive match-play event in which he has played in over 11 years.
TYRRELL HATTON (13) def. CHRISTIAAN BEZUIDENHOUT (52), 3 and 2
An early Bezuidenhout birdie coupled with a Hatton bogey saw Bezuidenhout take a 2-up lead after three holes. Hatton went on a run and birdied three of the next six holes to take a 1-up lead after 10 in the topsy-turvy match. Both men made birdie on No. 12 from 15 feet and Hatton birdied the 15th hole to move 3 up and close out the match on the next hole. Hatton made six birdies in 16 holes, now has a 7-6-2 overall record in the WGC-Dell Match Play and noted one key reason for his successful performance.
“Well, Christiaan definitely played better tee-to-green today,” Hatton said. “I’ve got the putter to thank for today. I holed so many putts. Yeah, that kind of just kept us in it.”
SI WOO KIM (48) def. DANIEL BERGER (17), 2-up
There’s no way to sugarcoat this one – Berger was 4 over par after six holes against Kim, and Kim held a 4-up advantage. Kim then began to struggle while holding the big lead and Berger started to chip into the lead, winning the eighth, ninth and 10th holes despite only being 1 under par in that same stretch. Kim was 2 over and only 1 up. Berger promptly butchered the 11th hole with a double bogey, and he rallied with a birdie on the 14th hole but could never find a way to get the match back tied. Kim only needed to two-putt for par on the 18th hole from 6 feet and he made birdie, winning the hole and the match. This is Kim’s fifth appearance in this championship, but it’s only the first time that he has won his opening match.
“I was trying to finish earlier, but Daniel played well the back nine,” Kim said. “It was tough the last six holes, kind of the pressure and everything.”
MAVERICK MCNEALY (64) def. JOAQUIN NIEMANN (14), 8 and 6
McNealy was the last man in the field, getting the nod earlier this week when Sam Burns withdrew after winning the Valspar Championship. He took no time pouncing on Niemann, winning five of the first seven holes before taking a 6-up lead at the turn. NcNealy won the 11th hole with par to move 7 up with seven holes remaining, then won the 12th with birdie to end Niemann’s misery. This is the eighth 18-hole match in tournament history with a margin of victory of 8 and 6 or larger.
KEVIN NA (25) def. RUSSELL HENLEY (34), 1-up
A seesaw battle in which both players were streaky at times – Henley on the front, then Na on the back when it mattered most. Na won the fourth hole, then Henley won four of the next five holes to take a commanding 3-up lead into the final nine holes.
The 10th hole brought a major turn of events when Henley’s approach landed 8 feet from the hole. Na drained his 28-footer for birdie, Henley missed his birdie attempt, and instead of going 4 down, Na was only 2 down. From there Na kept plodding along and when Henley made bogey on the 15th hole, Na was back in the lead. Henley had to make an 8-footer for par on the 17th just to extend the match, and when he came up well short with his approach from 95 yards on the 18th hole, the match was essentially over. Na hit his approach to 15 feet and two-putted for the victory.
ABRAHAM ANCER (15) def. BUBBA WATSON (57), 3 and 1
A terrific match after 14 holes that quickly got out of hand at the end and looked like a blowout. It was not. Ancer was 1 up for much of the match but a confluence of events on Nos. 15-17 made the tide turn. Watson made bogey on the 15th, both Ancer and Watson made birdie on the par-5 16th, then Ancer slammed the door shut on the par-3 17th when he made birdie from 8 feet. Ancer is now 5-2 in the WGC-Match Play. This is his third appearance.
“Yeah, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Ancer said. “Bubba is all-around a really good player and obviously a major champion, and he’s won this event, so he knows what it takes. I just knew I had to play flawless golf. Thankfully I played really well, and I made some putts when I needed to.”
WEBB SIMPSON (31) def. BRIAN HARMAN (44), 1-up
Simpson jumped out to a 3-up lead after five holes, but the match was tied after Harman birdied the 10th hole. After that birdie on 10, Harman then hit his shot into the water on the par-3 11th hole and made double bogey. Simpson won that hole with bogey to move 1 up. Harman birdied the 12th to pull back tied but then bogeyed the 13th to fall behind and was never able to recover. There was a little glimmer of hope on the par-3 17th hole when Simpson found the penalty area with his tee shot, but Harman needed birdie on the last hole to tie the match and was not able to make that happen.
“I do like match play,” said Simpson, who has a 10-11-3 record in this championship. “I haven’t had the greatest of success here, but we took a little different approach this year which was play as smart as possible, and I didn’t look like I did that on 17, but all in all a good start to this event.”
BROOKS KOEPKA (16) def. ERIK VAN ROOYEN (55), 3 and 2
Koepka, the four-time major champion, was busily trading pars with van Rooyen through the middle of the round. Koepka pitched to 9 feet at the par-5 12th to nudge ahead, 1 up, after a pitch by van Rooyen raced across the green, over railroad ties and into water. After bogeys at the third and fourth holes, Koepka played very solidly, making very few mistakes and leaving van Rooyen few opportunities to cut into his lead. After the birdie at 12, Koepka tacked on birdies at 13 and 16 (where he had 40 feet for eagle) to end the match. Koepka, who last played the Match Play in 2019, had not won a match since he beat Patrick Reed, 1 up, to advance from his group in 2017. Since then, and heading into Wednesday, he had been 0-3-1 in his last four matches.
“Erik played pretty well,” Koepka said. “I thought our whole group played really solid. I had to play well. I made a couple putts, which was kind of nice early, to build some momentum.”
HAROLD VARNER III (35) def. SHANE LOWRY (28), 2 and 1
Varner, playing in the Match Play for the first time, went ahead 1 up with a two-putt birdie from 25 feet at the par-5 sixth. He was 4 up by the time he and Lowry reached the par-5 12th, after winning Nos. 8, 9 and 11 with pars. Lowry hit a beautiful, low-drawing long iron past the flag on 12, setting up an eagle attempt from 12 feet. He made birdie. Varner’s chance to maintain a 4-up lead lipped out from 10 feet. Lowry, the 2019 Open champion, kept fighting despite being down, which is what you’d expect. He kept the match going with a clutch 9-foot comebacker at the par-5 16th, but Varner would close out the match when he matched Lowry’s birdie at 17. Lowry's tee shot barely stayed up, but he kept the pressure on when he chipped in from 22 feet from the left of the green. Varner, whose tee shot had settled 14 feet below the hole, then knocked down the right-to-left putt.