AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The format is quite temperamental even before that notorious Texas wind arrives. Kevin Kisner, Mackenzie Hughes and even Sergio Garcia showed how quickly fortunes can change in the Dell Technologies Match Play on Thursday.
Kisner added to his record for most games won since moving to Austin Country Club in 2016 when he birdied three on the last four holes and rallied from 2 on the back nine to beat Luke List at the last hole.
“Yesterday was a lot more fun on the head,” Kisner said of his 4 and 3 win in the opener. “But today I like that grind. I like being in that moment. I like having the ball in my hand trying to grind it, and I feel like I have an advantage when it’s going like that.”
Hughes was in a similar situation against Max Homa, until he won four straight holes down the back – twice helped by errors from Homa – and clung to a two-man win to keep his hopes alive. advance to the weekend.
“There are gusts blowing 25 and then he could lay down and blow 10. But if you’re over the ball thinking he’s going to do 10 and he’s going to do 25, that creates turmoil. indecision,” Hughes said. “I kind of got into my head earlier in that back nine, lots of pars and the occasional birdie was going to be pretty good.”
They were among five players who trailed at least 2 holes on the back nine and rallied to win, joining Lucas Herbert on Xander Schauffele, Takumi Kanaya on Tony Finau and Min Woo Lee on Thomas Pieters. Bubba Watson was 1 down with two holes to play when he birdied 35 feet on the par-3 17th and won the par-18th to beat Webb Simpson.
Not to be overlooked, Garcia and Kevin Na.
Garcia, the Spaniard who now resides in Austin, was 3 down to British Open champion Collin Morikawa with five holes to play. He won the next three holes with birdies and tied par with Morikawa to win a half.
“If you offered me a deuce on the 14th tee, I definitely would have taken it and walked — run — to the clubhouse,” Garcia said.
It was all part of a dynamic afternoon in the round robin, with 15 of 32 games going the distance.
This included Lee Westwood, the 48-year-old Englishman, losing a 2-hole lead to Bryson DeChambeau and recovering with a 7-iron 8ft for the Eagle on the par-5 16th-squared he matches, halving the 17th with birdies and winning the 18th when DeChambeau sent a corner onto the green and bogeyed to lose the game.
Next up for Westwood is 49-year-old Richard Bland from England, whom he has known for 30 years since their time on the junior circuit at Blighty. Both have a chance to win the group, while DeChambeau was eliminated from advancement.
Westwood is the only player among the 64 players to have played in the first edition of this world golf championship in 1999 when it was held in La Costa. Such an experience only taught him to lower his expectations in his game.
“There’s a lot of weird stuff going on this week, and I think that’s what makes it fun,” he said.
Westwood reached the semifinals in 2012 in Arizona. Since the format changed from knockouts to 16 four-man round robin groups, it never advanced to the weekend.
With one more day, clarity was provided to 19 players, and it was not good news. They have already been mathematically eliminated from the group win and the knockout stage.
DeChambeau, playing for the first time since Feb. 3 in Saudi Arabia due to left hand and hip injuries, was crazy off the tee and it cost him dearly. Patrick Cantlay, the world number 4, was also eliminated. He halved his opener against Keith Mitchell, then was crushed Thursday by Irishman Seamus Power, who beat him in 14 holes.
Patrick Reed fought back to halve his match against Sebastian Munoz, but it was for nothing. Reed was also eliminated.
Paul Casey ended up playing two holes on Wednesday and no more. He had back spasms on opening day and conceded his match to Corey Conners. He tried to warm up for Thursday’s game and it wasn’t improving, so he lost to Alex Noren. Casey pulled out of the tournament, which was just as well. He would have faced Louis Oosthuizen, already with two defeats and eliminated. Neither will play and Oothuizen will get their first win of the week.
Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka were among the 12 players who are yet to lose a game, which means next to nothing. None is guaranteed to advance. All must deal with Friday because it starts again.
The group includes Tyrrell Hatton, who could have spoken for the entire estate when he said, “It’s definitely more stressful for me.”
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