Johnson and McIlroy shocking losers in Austin
March 21, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Highlights from Round 1 of Dell Match Play
AUSTIN, Texas -- There are always shocks at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play but some are bigger than others.
Last year Dustin Johnson never trailed in any of his seven matches on the way to the title, but on Wednesday at Austin Country Club, the no.1 seed was nine-over against Austrian 52nd seed Berndt Wiesberger.
Amazingly, despite his struggles, he made it through 17 holes before falling 3 and 1.
“I thought it was the easiest game I could have. I'm the underdog playing with the defending champion, so just try to go out there and see what happens,” Wiesberger said of his win.
“He gave away a couple of holes quite unexpectedly. But you've still got to make the par when your opponent makes the bogey.”
Last start winner at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and 2015 champion Rory McIlroy found himself 5-down to Peter Uihlein through just 10 holes.
Not even five birdies in a row down the stretch was enough for what would have been an impressive comeback.
The American 57th seed prevailed 2 and 1.
“I didn't really have much expectations,” Uihlein said.
“It was going to go (one of) two ways, I was going to get crushed early or I felt like I could get him early, because he may be a hair flatter than usual.”
Julian Suri joked pre-tournament that he would “shock the world” and the last man in and 64th seed started on his promise with a 3 and 2 win over 11th seed Marc Leishman.
“I like to think I play my best with a little chip on my shoulder,” Jacksonville native Suri said.
“A lot of people are saying congrats on being in the field. I don't think in any other tournament they would say congrats on being in the field. I wanted to be here and do more than take pictures.”
Phil Mickelson (14) lost to Charles Howell III (59), Tommy Fleetwood (9) fell to Ian Poulter (58) and then Jon Rahm (3), Pat Perez (15) and Matt Kuchar (16) could only manage halves against Keegan Bradley (63), Si Woo Kim (50) and Zach Johnson (54).
On the day where the top seeds play the lowest seed in each bracket, just eight of the favorites were victorious.
But all hope is not lost for those big names.
While moving on to the weekend will be tough - it is not impossible.
Eight players in the three previous years of the round robin format have indeed made the elimination rounds after a first up loss.
Dustin Johnson was one of them in 2016.
“Forget it, go on to tomorrow,” McIlroy said of his predicament.
“Obviously it's out of my control now so I've just got to win my next two matches and hopefully the draw works in my favor.”
Zach Johnson sat 4-down with four holes to play against fellow veteran Matt Kuchar before rattling off four straight birdies to force a halved match. The match featured 16 total birdies and just three bogeys in an old-fashioned shootout.
While the above match could have easily qualified here - the battle between young PGA TOUR winners Cameron Smith and Patrick Cantlay was a tense one. Barely a word was spoken and putts as short as a foot were not conceded. Smith holed out for birdie on the par-3 7th from a bunker to set up a three-hole advantage at the turn before they each traded birdies on four of the next five holes in a you score, I score scenario. Under pressure Cantlay then delivered back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 to pull within one. Smith finally closed it out on the 18th hole 2-up with a clutch par. Get recaps on all 32 matches here.
The defending champion and No.1 seed Dustin Johnson playing 17 holes in 9-over par to lose to Bernd Wiesberger wasn’t on the prediction list of many. Johnson can lose his spot as world No.1 this week if Justin Thomas wins the event. Honorable mentions to Peter Uihlein and Julian Suri for taking out Rory McIlroy and Marc Leishman respectively.
MOST DOMINANT PERFORMANCE
Bubba Watson had seven birdies in his opening nine holes on the way to a 5 and 3 win over South African Branden Grace. Watson made 139 feet, 10 inches worth of putts in just 15 holes. Incredible.
EASIEST HOLE WON
Two-time event champion Jason Day won the par-4 13th hole against James Hahn hitting just one shot. Day attempted to drive the green but missed to the right in the rough. But Hahn hit two tee balls in the water before just walking to the next hole. Day won 4 and 2.
MOST HOLES WON
Wiesberger and Kevin Chappell each won eight holes in their wins over Dustin Johnson and Daniel Berger respectively.
LEAST HOLES WON
Kevin Na, Alexander Levy and James Hahn were only able to win one hole each in opening day losses to Alex Noren, Tyrrell Hatton and Jason Day.
Luke List was already facing a tough ask to beat FedExCup leader Justin Thomas but a moment of madness where he banged his putter against a wall and bent it on the eighth hole meant he had to try to overturn a three-hole deficit while putting with a wedge. He almost did – taking the match to the 18th hole. Read more here.
MADNESS MOMENT 2
We often see players take off their shoes for shots out of or near water hazards, but Sergio Garcia went barefoot for a shot from dry land. The newly crowned father found the cart path with his drive on the par-5 12th and preferred the concrete lie to his nearby options. However, with metal spikes he needed to ensure he wouldn’t slip and blasted away barefoot to set up a birdie.