Match recaps from Thursday: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
Capsule look at all completed matches from Day 2 of group play at Austin Country Club
March 24, 2022
By Staff , PGATOUR.COM
- March 24, 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. Thursday's second round is the second 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.
There will be 32 matches conducted on Thursday, 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 (2-0-0) def. CAMERON YOUNG (1-1-0), 5 and 4
It wasn’t a great day for several top-10 players on Thursday at the Match Play. Collin Morikawa failed to protect an early lead and tied his match with Sergio Garcia. Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele … all lost matches. Rahm would have none of that. The world No. 1 trailed early but had a big day, and he eventually separated himself from the PGA TOUR rookie making his first Match Play appearance.
Rahm got an early wake-up call, trailing 2 down through his first five holes. Then the powerful Spaniard put the pedal down. Birdie at the sixth, followed by three pars in challenging conditions, and Rahm was 2 up at the turn. When he birdied the 11th (17 feet) and 12th (two putts from 51 feet), he was 4 up, and in for an easier day than he might have expected. Rahm closed the match with pars at 13 and 14.
Rahm improved to 2-0 and will take on Patrick Reed on Friday. Rahm would advance to the Round of 16 for a second consecutive year with a win. The farthest he has gone in the Match Play was getting to the final (against Dustin Johnson) in 2017.
PATRICK REED (0-1-1) tied SEBASTIAN MUNOZ (0-1-1)
Reed never led in this match, with Munoz doing a nice job of keeping him at arm’s length throughout. Munoz never led by more than one hole until he made birdie from 16 feet at the par-4 10th to go 2 up. There was no blood for three holes (both players birdied 12), but Reed would claw back with a birdie at the 14th and an eagle from 17 feet (and accompanying fist pump) at 16. Munoz went on top again, 1 up, with a nice sand save at the par-3 17th, with Reed three-putting from 65 feet (missing from 9 feet for par), which guaranteed that he could do no better than tie the match. Munoz made a great putt from 41 feet that curled around the hole for a conceded par. Reed had one last putt for the tie, and he made birdie from 8 feet. The tie eliminated both players from advancing. Munoz still seeks his first match victory in the event, having gone 0-4-1 in five career matches.
COLLIN MORIKAWA (1-0-1) tied SERGIO GARCIA (1-0-1)
For Garcia, this match of two 1-0 competitors turned into the Great Escape, not only in the overall match, but on the 18th hole, where he was in the right trees, 109 yards from the hole, and had to hit a low, hard-biting sand wedge that checked up nicely and gave him a putt to win the match. Garcia would miss from 26 feet, his ball sliding 3 feet past, but he made par, and sometimes a tie can feel like a victory. Early on, it didn’t appear that this match would go much past the midway portion of the second nine. Garcia had a hard time getting his game untracked, and he did not make his first birdie until the 14th hole. But Sergio being Sergio, he fought, and he wasn’t about to give anything to Morikawa, the world No. 2, who seemed to be in complete control after rebuilding his lead to 3 up with only five holes to play.
Garcia finally broke his birdie drought at the par-4 14th (8 feet) and got a longer putt to go at 15, where he knocked down a 30-footer. Garcia, seeking his 30th match victory in this event, was back in the match, 1 down, and drew even at the par-5 16th, making his third consecutive birdie. Key exchange at the par-3 17th: Garcia’s 18-footer for his fourth straight birdie stopped just short of the hole; Morikawa had to bear down on a 9-footer for par to keep the match tied.
"If you would offer me a tie, a half on the 14th tee, I would have definitely taken it and walked, run to the clubhouse,” Garcia said. “Obviously, yeah, I got on a great run on 14, 15, 16, 17, and you can think, ‘What a shame,’ that I hit that putt on 17 just a tiny bit short right in the middle of the hole and he made a great par putt. But you've got to expect that he's going to make it. But it was a hard-played match, and I'm not going to lie, I'm happy with the half.”
Both players moved to 1-0-1.
JASON KOKRAK (1-1-0) def. ROBERT MACINTYRE (0-2-0), 3 and 2
Needing to win to keep alive in Group 2, Kokrak led throughout this match, though MacIntyre, the scrappy Scottish left-hander, was tough to shake. MacIntyre started slowly, making bogeys on two of his first three holes as Kokrak jumped to a 2-up advantage. Kokrak regained a 2-up edge with a birdie at the 12th – he made it the conventional way, laying up – and a par at the 15th hole, where MacIntyre bunkered his approach, was good enough to go 3 up. He closed out the match at 16 when both players made birdies.
Kokrak’s prize? He gets to take on Collin Morikawa, the second-ranked player in the world.
"Unbelievable ball-striker,” Kokrak said. “But if I hit it the way I did and a couple more putts roll in tomorrow, we'll be right there with him.”
SEPP STRAKA (1-1-0) def. WILL ZALATORIS (1-1-0), 4 and 2
The highlight here is simple – Straka shot 30 on the front nine against Zalatoris. THIRTY. Not only that, the five birdies came in the first six holes and Straka was quickly 4 up at that point. Zalatoris slowly started to chip into the lead, but it proved insurmountable. Zalatoris made birdie on the 10th from 25 feet and when Straka bogeyed the 12th by hitting his approach shot into the water, his lead all of a sudden was cut in half. Zalatoris butchered the 14th hole to fall three behind and the match was essentially over at that point.
“I’m really happy,” Straka said. “I played well other than one mistake on No. 12. It was a really solid day. I hit the ball well, putted the ball well, and yeah, paid off for me.”
Straka will play Cameron Tringale on Friday and Zalatoris will face undefeated Viktor Hovland.
VIKTOR HOVLAND (2-0-0) def. CAMERON TRINGALE (0-2-0), 2 and 1
Tringale was overmatched from the start as Hovland wasted little time jumping on his opponent. Hovland made three birdies and an eagle on the first nine holes and was 4 up at that juncture. The next four holes were tied – the par-5 12th with birdie, all others with par – and Tringale was making no moves despite playing well. He then hit an approach to 5 feet on the 14th hole and made birdie; Hovland then three-putted the 15th from 35 feet for bogey and Hovland only held a 2-up lead. The two tied the 16th and 17th to end the match.
“Yeah, had a nice start today and got myself a big lead, and Cam fought really well in the end and gave me something to think about,” Hovland said. “But it’s nice to get the job done and be 2-0 going into tomorrow.”
Hovland will face Will Zalatoris on Friday. If he wins that match, he’ll advance to the Round of 16 with an undefeated record. Tringale will look for his first victory of the week against Sepp Straka (1-1-0).
SEAMUS POWER (2-0-0) def. PATRICK CANTLAY (0-1-1), 5 and 4
Seamus Power is a player who has come into his own in the past year. He collected his first PGA TOUR victory in July (Barbasol Championship) and ranks 22nd in the 2021-22 FedExCup points race, having never before finished inside the top 70. Thursday in Austin was another one of those great steps for the man from Waterford, Ireland. He didn’t just win his match against world No. 4 Patrick Cantlay. He throttled him. Cantlay did not play well, but Power made the most of that, cruising to one of the bigger upsets on Day 2.
Power was a steady force through this match, there with pars as his opponent often struggled to match him. He went out to a 2-up lead through five holes without making a birdie, and he led by the same margin at the turn when Cantlay double-bogeyed the ninth. On the second nine, Power poured it on. He won the 10th with a par, was conceded the 13th (Cantlay hit his tee shot on the short par-4 into water) and breezed to the victory with an easy two-putt par at the 14th. Power is 2-0, and he will advance should he defeat Keith Mitchell on Friday. It is his first appearance in the Match Play. Cantlay has not advanced from his group in four Match Play appearances.
Power said a par putt he made at the 11th when he was 3 up proved a key moment.
“I ran a 35-, 40-footer maybe 6, 7 feet past, going up the hill, and I made it coming back down for the half (tie),” he said. “It was one of those -- I had won 10 and it didn't give him the momentum straight back. Sometimes like that, you need to make those sometimes in a match, and I was able to get that one in.”
SUNGJAE IM (1-1-0) def. KEITH MITCHELL (0-1-1), 5 and 3
Im got his ball-striking going in Round 2 against Mitchell, throwing three birdies at him in his opening nine holes, sprinting out to a 3-up lead. The way Im hits it – lots of fairways and greens – he can be a tough man to catch when he has a lead. Mitchell, who played Patrick Cantlay to a tie in his opening match, was conceded the par-3 fourth and won the eighth with a par, but that was it for the highlights. Im took his big lead and didn’t leave many openings, adding birdies at the par-5 12th and at the par-4 15th, where he hit his approach to 6 feet. Im moved to 1-1 and faces Patrick Cantlay (0-1-1) on Friday. Im, playing in the Match Play for the second consecutive year, broke a string of three consecutive defeats with his victory on Friday.
MATT FITZPATRICK (2-0-0) def. IAN POULTER (0-2-0), 4 and 2
Fitzpatrick played nicely in this match, keeping his nose out in front of the more seasoned Poulter, his fellow Englishman and Ryder Cup teammate, pretty much throughout. Fitzpatrick made four birdies on his first seven holes and seemed comfortable with a 2-up advantage. Fitzpatrick was 4 up and had a 4-foot birdie putt at 14 to close out the match, but missed, and Poulter jumped right back in, winning the 15th hole with his first birdie of the day.
Fitzpatrick was determined not to give Poulter too much hope. At the 16th hole, he ripped a drive that finished 405 yards off the tee – roughly 70 yards past Poulter’s tee ball – and easily hit the green in two. When Poulter’s brisk eagle chip bounded past the hole, he took his visor off and congratulated Fitzpatrick, who is looking good at 2-0.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD (1-1-0) def. SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER (1-1-0), 2 and 1
Fleetwood led this match the entire day, but Scheffler, a Match Play finalist a year ago, fought hard enough to keep him within sight. Fleetwood was 2 up at the par-5 16th but hit his drive well right, and eventually conceded 3 to Scheffler, who was on the putting surface in two shots. It was a big opening for Scheffler. But he stepped to the 134-yard 17th, the hole cut on the right side of the green, and deposited his tee shot into the penalty area. Fleetwood played safely on, and his par was good enough for a 2-and-1 victory. Both players are 1-1.
Fleetwood controlled the pace of the entire match. He hit his approach at the par-5 sixth to 22 feet and ran in the eagle putt to go on top, 2 up, and had a nice look to go 3 up at the next hole, but he missed a 10-foot putt. The players had a great exchange at the par-3 11th: Fleetwood led, 1 up, but Scheffler appeared poised to tie the match after knocking an iron shot to 5 feet. From a greenside bunker, Fleetwood holed a sand shot from 61 feet for birdie; Scheffler now was forced to make his putt for a tie, and he did. But it was a key early moment that kept momentum in Fleetwood’s favor at a pivotal time.
JUSTIN THOMAS (1-1-0) def. MARC LEISHMAN (0-2-0), 5 and 4
In one of the more surprising results on Day 1, Luke List defeated Thomas, so Thomas was determined not to fall to 0-2. Fortunately for him, he didn’t have to work very hard and did not have to play the final four holes. Leishman was off from the start and never mounted much of a challenge. Leishman had three birdies on the front nine, but he also recorded two bogeys and a double bogey in that same span. Once the duo made the turn, Thomas found his footing and went on a birdie tear, collecting birdies and wins on Nos. 10, 12 and 13. Thomas even won the par-3 11th hole with a par. A par on the 14th was good enough for JT to tie the hole and win the match.
"I played really, really well today," Thomas said. "I felt like it was windier, it was tougher -- and I've had a very tough time with this tournament in the format, so I just, I don't know, I felt very calm and just very in control today."
Thomas will play Kevin Kisner. Leishman, who is winless, will play List.
KEVIN KISNER (2-0-0) def. LUKE LIST (1-1-0), 1-up
Kisner just keeps on rolling. This one took a massive effort, though, as Kisner won three of the last five holes to win 1-up.
Both Kisner and List held 1-up advantages at different points in the first nine holes, but List moved to 2-up when Kisner bogeyed the 10th hole. The score stayed that way until List bogeyed the 14th hole. Kisner has always seemingly risen to the moment and this time was no different. He curled in a 32-footer from well off the green for birdie on the par-4 15th to tie the match. Heading to the home hole tied, Kisner hit a laser wedge from 83 yards to 7 feet and put pressure on List to hit it close. However, List landed his ball about 2 feet short of his mark and the ball rolled back down the green, ending 40 feet from the hole. List did not make, Kisner calmly stepped up and drained his birdie and the match was over. Kisner birdied three of the last four holes to close the door and remain undefeated. He will face Justin Thomas (1-1-0) on Friday, needing only a tie against him to advance to the Round of 16.
“I was struggling all day early, probably through the first 10 or 12 holes,” Kisner said. “Couldn’t really get anything to go my way, and I just kept grinding, staying in the moment. Making that putt on 15 really flipped the momentum and I felt like I had the match in my hand then.”
LUCAS HERBERT (2-0-0) def. XANDER SCHAUFFELE (1-1-0), 1-up
Sometimes in match play, you just have to hang around. Case in point, Lucas Herbert, the Australian who seemed to be down and in a hole throughout his matchup with the gifted Schauffele. Herbert held only one lead on the back nine, and that was on the 18th green, when the two players were shaking hands. Schauffele made a key misstep at the par-5 16th, where he had the advantage, facing 51 feet for eagle. With Herbert scrambling to make par on the hole after hitting his tee shot right, into tall grass, Schauffele had two putts to win the hole. He hit a terrible first putt, leaving him 13 feet for birdie. When that putt didn’t go down, Herbert could exhale. The two still were tied at the short 18th. Herbert hit his approach to 8 feet. Schauffele had 26 feet for birdie and missed, and Herbert stepped up in the moment and made his putt. He is 2-0-0 in the group.
Herbert was 1 up at the turn, but Schauffele won the 10th with a birdie and tacked on wins at the next two holes when Herbert deposited two approaches into water. Herbert wasn’t driving it well, but his short game kept him in the match.
“I wanted to keep pushing him the whole way,” Herbert said. “Just had to try and at least if I was going to lose, make it a contest. Fortunately, I got myself back into the match and gave myself a chance down 18 and played quite nicely.”
TAKUMI KANAYA (1-1-0) def. TONY FINAU (0-2-0), 1-up
A tough year continued for Finau, who went the distance but dropped a tough match to young Kanaya of Japan. Finau made birdies at the 10th (matched by Kanaya) and 12th, the second one moving him to a 2-up lead. He remained 2 up with four holes to play. But Kanaya ran off three straight birdies at 15, 16 and 17, making a 37-footer to surprise Finau, who was looking at a 16-footer thinking he might be able to go 1 up. Classic match play. Finau had an 8-foot look at birdie on the final hole, but his putt drifted off left, and he slipped to 0-2.
Kanaya (1-1) controls his own destiny, taking on Lucas Herbert (2-0) on Friday.
DUSTIN JOHNSON (2-0-0) def. MATTHEW WOLFF (0-2-0), 4 and 2
Dustin Johnson shot out of the gates, winning three of the first four holes before extending the lead to 4 up with a par on No. 6. Matthew Wolff steadied the ship with a par two holes later as DJ played his third from the greenside bunker over the green.
The 2020 FedExCup champ left the door open again on the back nine after a pair of tee shots found the water on Nos. 11 and 13. Wolff converted a 12-foot birdie and settled a chip to gimme range on the drivable par-4 to cut the deficit in half. Momentum stalled for the young star, failing to capitalize from the middle of the fairway on No. 14 and narrowly missing an up-and-down par on the 15th.
A must-make for Wolff from a classic Pete Dye greenside pot bunker settled 10 feet short on the par-5 16th, and the match was conceded with DJ looking at a 25-footer for eagle.
When asked whether the match play format suits his game, DJ provided a quintessential DJ response.
"Match play, stroke play ... either way, you've got to play well if you want to win," he reflected.
MACKENZIE HUGHES (1-1-0) def. MAX HOMA (1-1-0), 2-up
On the verge of elimination, the proud Canadian dug deep and executed a late rally to stay alive into Friday competition at Austin CC.
Homa started fast, assuming a 2-up lead through six holes, and he moved back to 2 up with a tap-in birdie at the par-4 10th.
Trailing by two holes on No. 13 tee, Hughes knew he needed some magic over the closing holes, and the Kent State alum delivered. A par on No. 13 was good enough to win the hole after Homa missed a 5-footer for par. Hughes drained a 15-footer for birdie at No. 14 to tie the match. Once Homa three-putted No. 15 – missing a 5-footer for par – Hughes suddenly assumed his first lead of the match. Hughes won his fourth consecutive hole, the par-5 16th, with an eagle from 14 feet.
Homa regained his composure with a birdie at the par-3 17th to stay alive, but Hughes once again responded on the finishing hole with a wedge to 16 feet. Once Homa failed to knock in his par putt, the hole and match were conceded.
“In match play more than stroke play probably, the momentum can really shift a match,” Hughes said. “I got some there toward the early back nine and just kind of rode it.”
Both players remain alive into Friday action, where Hughes will face Wolff, with Homa squaring off against Johnson. Wolff has been eliminated from contention.
LEE WESTWOOD (1-1-0) def. BRYSON DECHAMBEAU (0-1-1), 1-up
Westwood, the wily English match play veteran, was 2 up through 12 holes after DeChambeau made a mess of things on the par 5 and Westwood notched a third consecutive birdie. Then it was DeChambeau’s turn. He won three consecutive holes beginning at 13 to turn a 1-down deficit into a 1-up advantage with three holes remaining. It was Westwood, not DeChambeau, who made eagle at the 16th hole to pull even (approach shot to 9 feet). Match tied. Westwood stuck one in close at the 134-yard 17th; DeChambeau answered with a key shot, hitting wedge to 6 feet. Both players made their putts, and they headed to 18 tied.
There, Westwood hit his second to 35 feet and two-putted for par. DeChambeau was long in two and, putting through the fringe, left his first putt about 9 feet above the hole. His putt for his second consecutive match tie curled left, caught the low side of the hole, and spun out. Westwood moved to 1-1, DeChambeau 0-1-1.
“It just about had a bit of everything,” Westwood said. “A couple of 'wides' from both of us, a lot of good shots, some nice putts, some nice saves. It’s just about how you want match play matches to go. It came down to the wire at the end. Good game."
DeChambeau is easing his way back into competition after not having competed on TOUR since January (Farmers Insurance Open), and he showed some better signs in his game on Thursday. He mathematically was eliminated from advancing from his group.
RICHARD BLAND (1-0-1) def. TALOR GOOCH (1-1-0), 1-up
Gooch, playing in the Match Play for the second time, and Bland, a Match Play rookie at age 49, had quite a tussle in their second-round match. Bland was 4 up through eight holes, but Gooch would not go away. He birdied the ninth hole, hitting an approach to gimme range from 158 yards, then added birdies at the 11th (8 feet) and 14th (16 feet), and won the 15th with a par, and the match was tied. The players traded short birdie putts at the short par-5 16th. At the par-3 17th, Bland had the edge, hitting his shot to 13 feet, which was 10 feet inside Gooch’s ball. He converted the birdie putt, which would prove the difference when both players made 4 at the 18th hole (Bland had two putts to win the match from 8 feet).
At 1-0-1, Bland could advance from the group with a victory over Lee Westwood on Friday. After his victory over Gooch, Bland, who won his first DP World Tour event at the age of 48, joked that he didn’t “need the stress at this time of my life.”
Added Bland, “I was just trying to hang in. Talor is such a good player. You know he’s going to come back at you. He’s not going to lie down. I didn’t really feel like I did anything wrong … that putt at 17 just kind of gave me that cushion coming down the last.”
COREY CONNERS (2-0-0) def. LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN (0-2-0), 2 and 1
When people talk about the vagaries of match play, Oosthuizen should be presented as Exhibit A this week. He has made 11 birdies in the last two days and is winless. Oosthuizen hit a silky approach to 10 feet on the second hole to make birdie and take the lead, then matched birdies with Conners on the fifth hole. But Conners won the sixth, eighth and ninth holes to turn at 2 up and although Oosthuizen tied the match again on 13, an untimely tee shot on 16 coupled with a birdie from 8 feet by Conners on the par-3 17th hole closed the match quickly.
“It was a hard-fought battle,” Conners said. “I felt like I played really well on the front nine. Got myself into the lead making the turn, kind of struggled in the first few holes on the back nine and was able to escape not losing too many holes and then won a couple at the end.”
Oosthuizen was scheduled to play Paul Casey on Friday, but will not have a match after Casey withdrew from the event due to back spasms. Conners will play Alex Noren. Both are 2-0, with one win coming against Oosthuizen and the other via concession from Casey, meaning the winner of the match will advance to the Round of 16.
ALEX NOREN (2-0-0) def. PAUL CASEY (0-2-0), concession
Casey conceded his match for the second consecutive day, this time against Noren. Again, Casey said that his back was continuing to spasm, just as it was on Wednesday when he stopped his match on the second hole against Corey Conners. Casey later withdrew from Friday's third day of group play as well.
Meanwhile, Noren has the day off and is 2-0. He outlasted Oosthuizen, 1 up, on Wednesday in a match where Oosthuizen made seven birdies and never led at any point.
JUSTIN ROSE (1-1-0) def. JORDAN SPIETH (1-1-0), 3 and 2
Austin fans were again out in full force to support Jordan Spieth as he took on Justin Rose in a matchup of past FedExCup champions. Spieth gave the crowd something to cheer for early on, nearly holing out for eagle from 159 yards on the par-4 third to take a 1-up lead. Unfazed, Rose birdied four of his next five to take a 3-up lead with him to the back nine.
The former University of Texas Longhorn put another charge through the hometown crowd, showing off his renowned short game to get up-and-down for par on No. 11 from the tee box of No. 12. With the pressure on, Spieth hit his 14-foot birdie try past the hole on 13 while Rose’s birdie caught the lip and curled in to go 4 up.
A much-needed birdie from 28 feet on No. 15 led to a roll of the dice from an awkward lie in the fairway bunker on the par-5 16th for Spieth. Taking a hearty rip with hybrid, his approach hit the hill directly in front of him, turning the aggressive shot into merely a layup. With two putts to win for Rose, Spieth had to give his 26-foot birdie a chance and he nearly pulled off another brilliant escape before Rose lagged his birdie try up next to the hole to seal the 3-and-2 win.
ADAM SCOTT (1-0-1) tied KEEGAN BRADLEY (0-1-1)
Despite a heroic late rally, Bradley fell just short and is eliminated from contention to advance to the Round of 16.
Scott took control early in the match, winning the third hole with a par and winning No. 5 with a birdie from 11 feet, moving 2 up. The gritty St. John’s alum responded with a winning par on No. 7 and winning birdie on No. 9, pulling even with Scott at the turn.
The Australian took back control early in the back nine, winning Nos. 10 and 11 with pars and then stuffing a wedge to 4 feet on the short par-4 13th for a conceded birdie, moving 3 up with five holes to play.
There was no quit in Bradley, though. After trading pars on No. 14, the Vermont native won back-to-back holes to move 1 down with two holes to play. Bradley’s chances of winning the match took a blow on the par-3 17th when he found a greenside bunker off the tee, but he did get up-and-down for par to carry the match to the final hole. Bradley won No. 18 with a 4-foot birdie, although the satisfaction of stealing a tie was dampened by the knowledge that he won’t have a scenario to advance to the weekend.
Scott will face Spieth on Friday, while Bradley will match up against Rose. All but Bradley remain alive for a spot in the Round of 16.
BILLY HORSCHEL (2-0-0) def. TOM HOGE (0-2-0), 3 and 2
Former FedExCup champ Billy Horschel took another step towards defending his Match Play title with a 3-and-2 win over AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner Tom Hoge. It was a grind for both players, who never really got it going on a crisp morning at Austin Country Club. Horschel was 4 up at the turn despite playing the front in even par with only two birdies. Hoge had a chance to get back on track after his tee shot on No. 4 settled to within 10 feet but couldn’t convert to close the gap. Facing a 5-down deficit on the 12th tee, Hoge began his comeback bid, winning the next two as Horschel scrambled around ACC’s most scenic holes. Horschel had 7 feet for birdie on the par-5 16th, and they ultimately conceded each other's birdies after Hoge's eagle chip from below the green settled well short.
"I think just my game and the way I play ... I just don't like giving holes away," reflected Horschel, who has won seven consecutive WGC-Dell Match Play matches. "I'm always in it; I'm always giving every shot 100 percent, giving it everything I can."
MIN WOO LEE (1-1-0) def. THOMAS PIETERS (1-1-0), 1-up
Plenty of fireworks in this back-and-forth battle, but the 23-year-old Australian got the last laugh with wins on three of the last four holes, staying alive into Friday competition.
Lee started fast with two birdies in the first three holes to take a 2-up advantage, but Pieters quickly rallied with four consecutive holes won -- including three birdies -- en route to a 2-up lead at the turn. Lee rallied once again with three consecutive birdies on holes 10-12, winning two of the three holes to pull even.
Pieters then struck back, winning No. 13 with a par and No. 14 with a birdie to once again assume a 2-up lead into the finishing four-hole stretch.
Lee wasn't done, though, by any means. He won No. 15 with a 24-foot birdie, then won the par-5 16th with a 17-foot eagle from the front fringe to draw even. Lee won the par-3 17th with a par after Pieters found the penalty area off the tee, and once Pieters' 13-foot birdie try at the 18th slid by, Lee had secured the match point.
Pieters will aim to shake off the loss in a Friday match against Billy Horschel. If Pieters wins and Lee defeats Hoge, there will be a three-man playoff (Horschel, Pieters, Lee) for the right to advance to the Round of 16.
TYRRELL HATTON (2-0-0) def. SI WOO KIM (1-1-0), 1-up
Hatton did not make a bogey the entire round and still had to go to the final hole to squeak out his victory over Kim. Hatton collected a 2-up advantage after eight holes, yet the match was tied at four different points over the final nine holes. Kim missed a par putt from inside 10 feet on the 15th hole and Hatton took a 1-up lead, but Kim tied the match on 17 when he drained a 20-footer for birdie. The final hole was not the cleanest of play from either. Kim was just outside 100 yards for his approach but landed 60 feet away and needed to chip. That shot was not executed well; the ball landed too high and did not trickle down to the hole, running 12 feet past. Hatton hit a good approach, but the ball ended beyond the pin in the fringe long of the green. Kim missed a 12-footer for par, Hatton drained his 8-footer for par straight up the hill to win the hole and the match.
“It was pretty stressful out there, to be honest,” Hatton said. “I feel like I played pretty good for most of the day. Obviously, I was happy that I didn’t drop a shot, so I never gave any holes away.”
Hatton is now 2-0 and will play Daniel Berger (1-1-0) on Friday. Kim moves to 1-1-0 and will square off against Christiaan Bezuidenhout (0-2-0).
DANIEL BERGER (1-1-0) def. CHRISTIAAN BEZUIDENHOUT (0-2-0), 2 and 1
Not the best match of the day, and once Berger gained control, Bezuidenhout never was able to nibble back into the mix. Bezuidenhout made four bogeys during the round, but the worst of it came when he made three in a row on Nos. 7, 8 and 9. Berger went from 1 down to 2 up on that stretch, then made birdie on the par-4 10th hole to move 3 up. He held steady over the next seven holes to close out the match.
“I think neither of us really played the best golf that we could have played, but someone has to win and I played a little better than he did,” Berger said. “I’m still in the tournament, so go out there and win tomorrow and see what happens.”
Berger has not played his best for two days in Austin. He was 4 over after six holes in the opening match on Wednesday against Si Woo Kim, and he did just enough against a struggling Bezuidenhout on Thursday to win. But he has a chance to win the group and will face an undefeated Tyrrell Hatton on Friday.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN (1-1-0) def. RUSSELL HENLEY (0-2-0), 2 and 1
The Chilean displayed strong form early and often Thursday, en route to a victory over the Georgia Bulldog that keeps alive Niemann’s hopes of advancing to the Round of 16, despite a Day 1 humbling at the hands of Maverick McNealy, 8 and 6.
Niemann won the first two holes with pars, then did well to match Henley on the next three holes – two of which were tied with birdies. Niemann moved 3 up with a par at the par-5 sixth as Henley took double bogey, and the reigning Genesis Invitational winner took a commanding 4-up advantage with a conceded par at No. 8, as Henley languished to double bogey.
The spunky Georgia Bulldog didn’t go down without a fight, winning three of four holes around the turn to pull just 1 down as the match stood on No. 13 tee. After tying the 13th with pars, Niemann regained breathing room with a 10-foot birdie at the par-4 14th, and he drained a crucial 26-footer for birdie at No. 15 to match Henley and take a 2-up lead to Austin CC’s final three-hole stretch.
Niemann matched Henley with birdie-par on Nos. 16 and 17, good enough to earn his match point prior to No. 18. The Chilean will have a chance to advance to the Round of 16 on Friday, where he’ll square off against Kevin Na. Henley will duel Maverick McNealy.
KEVIN NA (1-0-1) tied MAVERICK MCNEALY (1-0-1)
A sensational lag putt from over 50 feet on the second saw Kevin Na take an early lead on Day 1’s Cinderella story Maverick McNealy. McNealy quickly regained control of the match with birdies on two of his next three and a par on No. 6 to go 2 up after Na’s par attempt narrowly missed.
A veteran of match play with a 9-12-2 record entering this year, Na kept McNealy in his sights for most of the match before staging a late comeback on Austin Country Club’s final stretch. Birdies from 17 feet and 16 feet on Nos. 16 and 17 respectively tied the match as both players stepped on to the 18th tee.
While Na chose the conservative route off the tee, McNealy smashed his drive 320 yards to the bottom of the hill just below the green. It was nearly three wins in a row to close out the match for Na, who was circling the hole as his birdie try crept closer before just sliding by. McNealy hit a clever flop below the hole before two-putting for par, draining a knee-knocker with the wily vet looking on.
Both players remain alive into the final day of group play.
ABRAHAM ANCER (1-0-1) tied BRIAN HARMAN (0-1-1)
An even match that ended in a result that it probably deserved. Ancer jumped out to a 2-up lead after eight holes, but Harman won the ninth with a par, both men birdied the par-4 10th, then Harman tied the match with a magnificent birdie putt from off the green (52 feet) on the par-3 11th hole. The last three holes were dramatic. Ancer was 253 yards out on the par-5 16th hole and hit his approach to 10 feet and made eagle to go 1 up. They tied the 17th hole with pars, then Ancer made a massive mistake on the home hole when he flew his approach from 120 yards over the back of the green and couldn’t get his chip within 40 feet as he was chipping to a back pin, straight downhill. Harman two-putted from 26 feet for par to win the hole and tie the match.
BUBBA WATSON (1-1-0) def. WEBB SIMPSON (1-1-0), 1-up
This was a tremendously even match where neither man played great, but both just plodded along over the full 18 holes. They know each other well, are good friends and have teamed often in international team competitions over the years. The main nugget here? Watson never led at any point in the match until he won the 18th hole to capture the 1-up victory.
Simpson was 2 up at the turn, then Watson hit a beauty of an approach on 10 that floated up onto the top tier of the green to 8 feet. He missed the birdie attempt, but Simpson three-putted the hole, made bogey and the match tightened. Watson tied the match on the 14th with birdie, Simpson pulled ahead with eagle from 24 feet on the par-5 16th hole, but Watson stole one on 17 when he made a birdie bomb from 35 feet and Simpson missed from 17 feet. That proved to be the difference. Simpson then hit it long on 18, in a similar spot to Abraham Ancer earlier and was not able to get the ball up and down. Watson two-putted from 35 feet to win the hole and the match.
“Finally I made a putt that went my way,” Watson said. “Normally I get beat on 17 with a long putt like that, so it was nice to actually do it.”
BROOKS KOEPKA (2-0-0) def. HAROLD VARNER III (1-1-0), 2 and 1
A bit of a seesaw battle to start, but once Koepka took control on the back he was never in jeopardy of losing. Varner had a thrilling match the day before in a win against Shane Lowry and was not nearly as crisp with his game on this day. He was 3 down after seven holes but won the next two holes as Koepka made bogey on both. On the par-3 11th hole, Koepka carved an absolute beauty into the green and the ball landed 7 feet from the hole. He converted that for birdie to move 2 up and then held on over the next six holes where they tied each. Varner had a chance to extend the match on 17 but when his 20-footer for birdie did not drop, the hole was tied and the match was over.
Koepka is undefeated and will play Lowry on Friday. Varner has won a match and lost a match and will be facing off against Erik van Rooyen, who is in search of his first win this week.
SHANE LOWRY (1-1-0) def. ERIK VAN ROOYEN (0-2-0), 2-up
Lowry had a spirited match with Harold Varner III the previous day and, although he played well, he was not pleased to come out with the loss. He entered the day feeling he had something to prove and continued his solid play. This time, it resulted in victory. However, it was not an easy victory. After birdie on the 14th hole, Lowry was 4 up with four holes remaining. But he promptly bogeyed the 15th (his lone bogey of the day); van Rooyen made eagle on the 16th from 18 feet, then hit 9-iron to 2 feet for a kick-in birdie on 17. Suddenly, Lowry was only 1 up with a hole remaining. Ultimately, once van Rooyen couldn’t make birdie on the 18th hole, he conceded Lowry his birdie putt and the match.
“Some good golf, I’ve been playing quite well,” Lowry said. “My scoring over the last two days was really good. Harold played great against me yesterday; I felt like I was pretty solid, only made one bogey out there in those conditions. It’s quite tricky.”
Lowry will play an undefeated Brooks Koepka on Friday. Van Rooyen will look to get his first win of the week against Harold Varner III.