Dell Match Play features upsets, big wins on Day 1
March 23, 2016
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Jason Dufner (left) defeated Rickie Fowler on Wednesday at the Dell Match Play. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
AUSTIN, Texas – A few observations from the first day of competition at the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play Championship. The top-ranked player from each pool faced the lowest-ranked player, setting the stage for upsets. This was the first day of pool play; after all four players in the pool have faced off, the player with the best record will advance to the 16-man, single-elimination bracket (ties will be broken by sudden-death playoff):
UPSETS IN AUSTIN: The top seed in each pool faced the lowest-ranked player, allowing for some upsets to take place. The leading man in each of the 16 groups went 9-4-3 on the Match Play’s first day. Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Branden Grace and Hideki Matsuyama were the top seeds to lose on Day 1. They’ll have to win their next two matches to have an opportunity to play the weekend. Fowler was the highest-ranked player to lose Wednesday; he lost, 2 and 1, to Jason Dufner. Fowler is No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
The Dell Match Play Championship is making its first appearance at Austin Country Club, and Dufner may have been helped by a visit to the course this fall with his instructor, Chuck Cook, and Tom Kite.
Cook teaches out of the University of Texas Golf Club in Austin, and Dufner said he has spent a lot of time in this area.
Bubba Watson, Adam Scott and Danny Willett halved their matches with Patton Kizzire, Thomas Pieters and Jaco Van Zyl, respectively. Watson, No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking, was the highest-ranked player who failed to win Wednesday. Kizzire was the 2015 Web.com Tour Player of the Year. Scott, the world’s sixth-ranked player, halved with Pieters, a 24-year-old from Belgium who won twice last year on the European Tour. Pieters wore all black Wednesday as his country is mourning the terrorist attacks that killed dozens of people Tuesday.
“It's nice that people are shouting stuff like they're thinking of us and it gives me goosebumps right now,” Pieters said. “But I definitely am thinking about it on the course. You can't put that out of your mind, something like that. It does affect you for life.”
Willett finished third in this tournament in 2015.
Opening drama settles after day 1 of Dell Match Play
DAY’S INJURY: Jason Day tweaked his back during his first-round match with Graeme McDowell. The winner of last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard grabbed his back in pain after hurting it, but he expects to compete Thursday against Thongchai Jaidee.
“Jason tweaked his back on hole No. 15 and had some work done post-round,” Day’s agent, Bud Martin, said in a statement. “He is pleased with the outcome of the match and is getting prepared to play tomorrow.”
BEST PERFORMANCE: Zach Johnson was 6 under for the 15 holes he played in his 4-and-3 victory over Marcus Fraser. Johnson was bogey-free Wednesday, making four birdies and an eagle at the par-5 12th hole, where he hit his 247-yard second shot to 11 feet.
“I was in control of my golf ball,” Johnson said. “I hit maybe two bad shots, but you are going to do that in this kind of wind, a couple bad tee shots. But nothing significant. I was in control of my golf ball, which is key.”
Johnson has won four times in Texas, two times apiece at the Valero Texas Open and two times at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational. He said Austin Country Club suits his game, which may help him replicate that success.
“I like the golf course, especially for match play,” he said. “I think it definitely is a strategizing golf course, if you will, where you have to hit the fairways.”
WINDY WEDNESDAY: Living up to its stereotype, Texas was windy Wednesday, giving players a tough time but also allowing for some long tee shots. Rickie Fowler hit his tee shot 410 yards on the downhill, downwind par-5 12th hole.
“This course is really tough when it's playing like this, with this wind, very gusty, changing direction all the time,” said Sergio Garcia, a 1-up winner over Lee Westwood on Wednesday. “So it's the kind of course you need to be on the right spots of the fairways to be able to hit some of the greens. In these conditions it becomes even tougher.”
McIlroy expressed a similar sentiment after his 1-up win over Thorbjorn Olesen, which he described as “scrappy.”
“With the wind it's tricky,” McIlroy said. “It swirls around here. It drops, it gusts. It's tough to pick a club. I really struggled with that today.”
BIGGEST WIN: Matt Kuchar played in the day’s final match, teeing off at 3:10 p.m. He made quick work of Anirban Lahiri, though, to make sure he could get home in time for dinner.
Kuchar chipped in for eagle on the par-5 12th hole, then holed a 27-foot birdie putt to close out the match. Lahiri arrived in Texas from India, where he was runner-up Sunday in the Indian Open.
“Teeing off at 3:10, it felt like a British Open,” Kuchar said. “To be able to wrap it up early and have dinner at normal hours is a nice thing.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:Driver every hole. It's match play, don't be afraid.
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Free play-by-play coverage of the second round streams from 2-8 p.m. ET Thursday on PGATOUR.COM
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