Match-by-match: WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 2

By Ryan LavnerMarch 23, 2017, 11:30 pm

Here is how things played out on Day 2 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

Group 1: Dustin Johnson (1) def. Martin Kaymer (41), 3 and 2: Coming off a 5-and-3 opening-round victory, DJ remained in good form against Kaymer, building a 4-up lead through seven holes and cruising to the finish line. Johnson needs only a half point Friday to advance to the knockout stage. 

Group 1: Jimmy Walker (18) def. Webb Simpson (58), 3 and 2: Walker stayed alive by leading the entire way against Simpson, who is eliminated after dropping to 0-2 for the week. Walker had a 1-up lead on 13 tee, but his par there was enough to build a comfortable cushion down the stretch. To advance to the weekend, Walker must beat Johnson in his match Friday, then again in a head-to-head playoff.   

Group 2: Rory McIlroy (2) def. Gary Woodland (33), conceded: Woodland withdrew before the start of the match because of a family emergency. McIlroy is now 1-1, but was already eliminated with Soren Kjeldsen improving to 3-0. A tough break, as he was 4 under in his match Wednesday and lost. 

Group 2: Soren Kjeldsen (62) def. Emiliano Grillo (26), 4 and 3: Kjeldsen became the second player to punch his ticket to the knockout stage after rallying on the back nine to take down Grillo. With a guaranteed victory Friday against Woodland, Kjeldsen is 3-0 and now has the day off to prepare for his Round of 16 match. 

Group 3: Lee Westwood (43) def. Jason Day (3), conceded: Westwood had a day off after Day withdrew from the event Wednesday to be with his ailing mother, who will undergo lung-cancer surgery on Friday. Westwood now has a 1-1 record. 

Group 3: Pat Perez (56) def. Marc Leishman (28), 2 and 1: After an early day Wednesday because of Day’s withdrawal, Perez went deep into the back nine with the Bay Hill winner. Perez won the 14th with par to take a 1-up lead and added another won hole after Leishman whiffed a 5-footer. At 2-0, Perez is in the best position to advance. 

Group 4: Ross Fisher (47) def. Hideki Matsuyama (4), 2 and 1: Fisher (1-1) jumped out to a 3-up lead through four holes, but he needed to bury a 12-foot birdie putt on 16 just to maintain a 1-up advantage into the final two holes. He rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on 17 to drop Matsuyama to 0-1-1 for the week (now eliminated). 

Group 4: Louis Oosthuizen (23) def. Jim Furyk (51), 3 and 2: Furyk won three holes in a row on Nos. 11-13 to hand Oosthuizen his first career loss in pool play. Oosthuizen, last year’s finalist, has a 14-4 record in this event since 2014. Furyk leads the way in the group, with 1 ½ points. 

Group 5: Jordan Spieth (5) def. Yuta Ikeda (37), 4 and 2: After a stunning loss in the opening round, Spieth was never threatened and played solidly enough in the toughest conditions of the afternoon to take care of Ikeda. At least now Spieth has given himself a chance to play the weekend, if he can defeat Ryan Moore outright and get some help. 

Group 5: Ryan Moore (32) vs. Hideto Tanihara (54), halved: There were eight lead changes, but no winner. Both Moore and Tanihara made birdie on the last to halve the match. Tanihara leads the group with 1 1/2 points, but Spieth and Moore both have one point.

Group 6: Kevin Na (46) def. Justin Thomas (6), 4 and 2: Despite a huge distance gap off the tee, Na turned an all-square match through eight holes into a comfortable margin of victory, winning Nos. 9, 13, 15 and 16. Na has some unfinished business, after becoming the only player to earn 2 ½ points last year and not advance to the weekend. 

Group 6: Matthew Fitzpatrick (27) def. Chris Wood (49), 4 and 2: With his lead trimmed to only 1 up through 12 holes, the tidy Englishman won two holes in a three-hole span to put away Wood, who dropped to 0-7 in this event.

Group 7: Sergio Garcia (7) def. Kevin Chappell (38), 4 and 3: The result of this one was never in doubt, after Garcia won the first four holes. He never led by fewer than two holes as he dropped Chappell to 0-2. Now with 1 ½ points, Garcia needs at least a halve against fellow Spaniard Jon Rahm on Friday to stay alive. 

Group 7: Jon Rahm (21) vs. Shane Lowry (53), 2 and 1: Playing his first Match Play, Rahm is in control of his own fate after pulling away late from Lowry and improving to 2-0 for the week. All Rahm needs Friday is a halved match against Garcia to advance to the Round of 16. 

Group 8: Alex Noren (8) def. Bernd Wiesberger, 3 and 2: Noren became the first player to clinch his Round of 16 berth after Molinari withdrew and conceded his Friday match. Noren took a 4-up lead through six holes and never looked back. He won’t play again until Saturday. 

Group 8: Thongchai Jaidee (57) def. Francesco Molinari (25), 5 and 3: Jaidee (1-1) grabbed a 6-up lead at the turn despite only playing the front nine in 2 under par. Molinari later withdrew from the event because of a wrist injury.

Group 9: Kevin Kisner (34) def. Patrick Reed (9), 2 up: Kisner gave up a narrow lead when he missed a 5-footer on 16, but he came back with a two-putt par to win the 17th and held on for an important victory that will give him a chance to advance Friday against Koepka. Reed (0-1-1), one of the pre-tournament favorites, has now been eliminated. 

Group 9: Brooks Koepka (20) def. Jason Dufner (59), 6 and 5: It’s back-to-back blowouts for Koepka (2-0), who hadn’t entered the week playing well but now seems to be building off his impressive performance at last year’s Ryder Cup, where he went 3-1 in his debut. After halving the first four holes, Koepka took the next three, then added wins on 9, 10 and 11 on his way to a lopsided result. 

Group 10: Tyrrell Hatton (10) def. Jeunghun Wang (40), 2 up: The Englishman had an early 2-down deficit, but he won three holes in a row before the turn and held on to put away the rising star from South Korea. Hatton buried a 12-foot birdie on 18 for good measure, improving to 2-0. 

Group 10: Charles Howell III (61) def. Rafa Cabrera Bello (22), 1 up: After kicking away his opening-round match, Howell blew another lead against Bello, shanking his bunker shot into the hazard on 17 to square the match. But he redeemed himself on the final hole, chipping to tap-in range for a closing birdie. 

Group 11: Bill Haas (42) def. Danny Willett (11), 6 and 5: Haas (1-1) had little trouble with the reigning Masters champion, winning three consecutive holes on the front nine and then blowing out the match with wins on the 10th and 12th holes. The struggles continue for Willett, who now has been eliminated.  

Group 11: K.T. Kim (64) def. Russell Knox (17), 3 and 1: Kim, the last-ranked player in the field, improved to 2-0 after making four birdies in the first seven holes to take a 4-up lead. Kim needs only to halve his match Friday to advance. 

Group 12: Paul Casey (12) def. Byeong Hun An (45), 1 up: The Englishman never trailed, and 15-footers on 14 and 16 gave him enough breathing room to escape with a full point and face a winner-take-all match Friday against Schwartzel.  

Group 12: Charl Schwartzel (24) def. Joost Luiten (60), 4 and 3: After blowing out a listless Ben An in the opener, Schwartzel took advantage of another out-of-form opponent Thursday, winning five holes in a six-hole span around the turn for an easy day at the office. At 2-0, he will have a winner-take-all match against Casey. Schwartzel is now 7-1 in pool play. 

Group 13: Bubba Watson (13) def. Scott Piercy (39), 4 and 3: Watson (2-0) carried over the momentum from his opening-day victory with an impressive takedown of Piercy in which he never trailed. One up after the sixth hole, Watson birdied back-to-back holes and never let up on the back nine. 

Group 13: Jhonattan Vegas (55) def. Thomas Pieters (30), 3 and 1: Vegas (1-1) birdied the first hole and never looked back against Pieters, whose ball-striking was so good Wednesday that he never trailed in his opening match despite failing to make a putt longer than 4 feet. He wasn’t as sharp Thursday, playing the first 15 holes in even par, including the usual match-play concessions.

Group 14: Phil Mickelson (14) def. Daniel Berger (35), 5 and 4: Mickelson improved to 2-0 with a wild victory over Berger, halving holes with bogeys and even a double bogey. Lefty made three birdies early to take a big lead, then kept Berger at bay in the windy afternoon conditions. He has never made it past the quarterfinals in 12 previous tries.

Group 14: J.B. Holmes (31) vs. Si Woo Kim (63), halved: Holmes looked like he had finally pulled away, after winning the 17th with a par and leaving only 40 yards for his approach into 18. But he hit a mediocre pitch shot, and Kim hit the flagstick with his bunker shot for a short birdie. A half point didn’t do them any good – they’re both eliminated, with Mickelson already with two points.  

Group 15: William McGirt (48) def. Branden Grace (15), 2 up: Clinging to a narrow lead, McGirt chipped in from behind the 16th green for par to maintain a 1-up advantage with two holes to play. He then made a 6-footer for par on 17 to close out the match and improve to 2-0. 

Group 15: Brandt Snedeker (19) def. Andy Sullivan (52), 2 and 1: With a new putter in the bag and windy conditions, Snedeker (1-1) second-guessed himself on the greens but was still good enough to roll past the Englishman, taking the 10th and 12th holes to build a cushion. Sullivan has been eliminated. 

Group 16: Zach Johnson (44) def. Matt Kuchar (16), 2 up: A tight match throughout, Johnson’s two-putt par on 15 gave him the advantage he needed, then he drove the 18th green for good measure. He improved to 1-1 on the week. 

Group 16: Brendan Steele (50) def. Tommy Fleetwood (29), 1 up: Back and forth on the back nine, both players squandered a 2-up lead. The Englishman battled back with a birdie on 16 and par on 17 to square the match, but Steele sank a 7-foot birdie putt on the final hole to take the match. With 1 ½ points, Steele leads the group.  

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.