Arnie: Palmer-Nicklaus, golf's greatest rivalry

By Al TaysSeptember 10, 2014, 10:00 am

On the day of Arnold Palmer's most heartbreaking loss, Jack Nicklaus was there for him.

Nov. 20, 1999, Doral Golf Resort & Spa, Gold Course. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus are watching their son Gary try to earn his PGA Tour card. Nicklaus’ cell phone rings. It’s Palmer, with sad news. Winnie, his wife of 45 years, has passed away from cancer. We’ll fly right up, Nicklaus says. No, stay and watch Gary, Palmer responds. Nicklaus insists  we’ll come.

Nov. 22, 1999. A memorial service is conducted for Winnie Palmer at Unity Chapel in Latrobe, Pa. Afterward, the mourners repair to Latrobe Country Club for a reception. Palmer suggests to Nicklaus that they turn on a TV and see how Gary Nicklaus is doing in the final round.

Nicklaus has been getting updates by phone from his son’s coach, Rick Smith. He appreciates Palmer’s gesture, but says it isn’t necessary. Palmer insists  we’ll watch.

They turn on the TV and watch Gary play his final few holes. When his final putt drops, it completes a 7-under 63 that, on his ninth trip through Q-School, finally results in a PGA Tour card. In Latrobe, Palmer and Nicklaus embrace. There are tears.

Arnold Palmer, who turns 85 on Sept. 10, and Jack Nicklaus, 74, have been rivals on and off the golf course for more than a half-century. On the course, each achieved a status the other couldn’t match: Nicklaus the game’s greatest player, Palmer its most popular. “Jack had the trophies that Arnold wanted, but Jack didn’t have the love of the fans that Arnold had,” said Ian O’Connor, author of “Arnie & Jack.”

“Each guy wanted what the other had. And they couldn’t have both.”

Yet instead of letting jealousy make them bitter enemies, they became lifelong friends. Their rivalry morphed into a relationship, one that, like all relationships, had its ups and downs. But it endures to this day.

"Did Arnie and I agree on everything? No, we had some differences," Nicklaus said. "But I will promise that if I ever had a problem, Arnold Palmer has always been there for me and vice versa."

ARNOLD PALMER was early in his journey to the top of the golf world when he first met the man who would knock him off that perch.

It was 1958. Palmer had already won the first of his four Masters titles and would become the PGA Tour's leading money winner that year. He was in Athens, Ohio, for a day honoring his good friend, Athens native Dow Finsterwald, who had won the 1957 PGA Championship. There was to be an 18-hole match featuring Finsterwald and local amateur Howard Baker Saunders against Palmer and a precocious 18-year-old Ohio amateur named Jack Nicklaus.

“I had been hearing about Jack Nicklaus coming up as a junior and some of the wonderful golf that he had been playing,” Palmer said.

Nicklaus had never met Palmer, but he had seen him a few years earlier, in 1954. "We were playing the Ohio Amateur in Toledo at Sylvania Country Club,” Nicklaus said. “I was on the golf course on Tuesday and it was pouring down rain. I was the only person on the golf course and nobody was out there practicing. Nobody else was stupid enough to be out there – I was 14 years old. I finished my round and there was one guy on the practice tee. I stopped and watched this fellow hitting balls. I said, ‘Boy, is this guy strong.’ He had these Popeye forearms and he was just hitting these 9-irons about 8 feet high. I watched him for about 10 minutes and he didn’t know I was there. I walked into the pro shop and I said, ‘Who in the world is that on the driving range?’ ‘Oh, that’s our defending champion, Arnold Palmer.’"

Four years after the 14-year-old Nicklaus was so impressed by Palmer, the 18-year-old Nicklaus had a different attitude. "Did I know Arnold Palmer was a good player?" Nicklaus told O'Connor. "You're darn right. But was I ever in awe of what he did? Probably not."

One thing that helped change Nicklaus’ view of Palmer: At 18, Nicklaus now was longer. Off the tee, Palmer could intimidate almost everyone. Except Nicklaus.

"On the first hole, a par 4 that was about 335 (yards), Arnold drove the green," Finsterwald recalled. "Jack drove it over the green."

"He was a good sport and he hit the ball long and straight,” Palmer said. “Jack and I got to know each other pretty well on those 18 holes.”

They crossed paths again in the final round of the Phoenix Open Invitational in February 1962. Palmer had a double-digit lead and Nicklaus was in a tight battle for second place. "It was actually the first time I played with Arnold in a tournament," Nicklaus said. "We walked off the 71st green and Arnold was going to win the golf tournament. He turned around to me, put his arm on my shoulder and he says, ‘You know, you can finish second here now. All you have to do is take your time.’ He says, ‘Be relaxed. Just play smart. Birdie the last hole.’”

Nicklaus did, tying for second. He never forgot Palmer’s gesture. “It was a nice little olive branch to throw out to somebody."

Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer

Jack and Arnold prior to the start of the final round in the '62 U.S. Open (AP)

Click here for the full collection of 'Arnie' stories

THE FIRST historic shots in the Palmer-Nicklaus rivalry were fired in the 1960 U.S. Open. Palmer had won his second Masters title and was optimistic about the Open, in which he had finished four shots out of the lead the previous year. At Cherry Hills Country Club near Denver, Palmer charged from seven shots back on the final day to win. Nicklaus, still an amateur, finished second. His playing companion, Ben Hogan, told reporters, "I played with a kid today who could’ve won this by five, if he knew what he was doing.”

Palmer and Nicklaus dueled again in the 1962 U.S. Open. Nicklaus was only a rookie on Tour, but this would turn out to be the zenith of their rivalry.

The setting was Oakmont Country Club, located in a northeast suburb of Pittsburgh. Less than an hour from Latrobe. Palmer country. Arnie's Army of fans was prepared to do whatever was necessary to help their general win. Nicklaus was the enemy, and the USGA, knowingly or not, made it easy for the fans to harass him and support Palmer at the same time by pairing the two in the first two rounds.

“They were horrendous to Jack, calling him Fat Jack, applauding when he missed, really rooting against him in a very negative manner," said Bob Ford, Oakmont's longtime head pro. "Arnold’s caddie, Johnny Garbo, passed away when he was 90 but he was our starter from when I took over till a couple years ago and he talked to us all the time about how uncomfortable he was and how uncomfortable Arnold was with how rude the crowd was towards Jack.”

Nicklaus' father, Charlie, was in his son's gallery, accompanied by Ohio State's legendary  and legendarily volatile  football coach, Woody Hayes. At one point Hayes, of all people, had to restrain Charlie from going after a heckler.

After 36 holes Palmer was tied for the lead with Bob Rosburg, with Nicklaus in a three-way tie for fourth, three shots back. Nicklaus caught Palmer in the final round, setting up an 18-hole playoff on Sunday. Nicklaus won, 71 to 74.

Ford thinks the fans, while trying to help Palmer, instead hurt him.

“I think emotionally he was really upset with his hometown crowd treating his fellow competitor in a negative way,” Ford said, pointing out that Palmer had an inordinately high 11 three-putts. “I think emotionally it really hurt him, the crowds.”

Nicklaus blocked out the fans’ behavior. "It never did register," he said. "I mean that’s the phenomenon everybody can’t understand  how can you not hear the gallery? I say I was playing golf, I paid no attention to anybody. I’m a young kid, 22 years old with blinders on. I had one thing in mind and that was win that golf tournament."

"Jack worried about himself and what his objectives were," Palmer said. "He played that way and still does. It obviously worked for him very well."

In addition to focus, Nicklaus had confidence. It came from his U.S. Open track record  he had finished second in 1960, fourth in 1961  and from a couple of practice rounds he had played at Oakmont the week before:

"I sort of felt going into Oakmont that that was my tournament, nobody else’s. ... I really liked what I took from the practice rounds and I said this is going to be my week."

Despite the best efforts of the pro-Palmer crowd, it was indeed Nicklaus' week. "As I've said many times, I may have had to fight Arnie's Army, but I never had to fight Arnold. Arnie was always considerate, always a great friend, always a great competitor."

When it was over, Palmer issued a prophetic statement: "Now that the big guy is out of the cage, everybody better run for cover."

Palmer was devastated by the loss, but quickly shook it off and won at Troon a month later. Nicklaus, playing in his first British Open, was no factor, tying for 34th place. Palmer was shut out in the majors in 1963 while Nicklaus won the Masters and PGA Championship, but Palmer again rebounded to win the Masters in 1964. It was his seventh and last victory in a major.

Palmer and Nicklaus never again had a duel to match the drama and intensity of the 1962 U.S. Open. They finished 1-2 in majors five times, but three of the second-place finishes weren't close. Nicklaus beat Palmer by nine shots in the 1965 Masters and by four in the 1967 U.S. Open. Palmer beat Nicklaus by six in the 1964 Masters. Only the 1960 and ’62 U.S. Opens could be classified as “duels.”

THE PALMER-NICKLAUS RIVALRY came down to one simple fact: They were the two best players on Tour for most of the 1960s. From 1962, when Nicklaus recorded his first win, through the end of the decade, they were virtually dead even in Tour wins (Nicklaus led, 30-29). Looking at 1962-64, the period bookended by Nicklaus' first major and Palmer's last, they won six of 12 majors (three apiece) and combined for five runner-up finishes.

With a decade’s difference in their ages, it was perhaps inevitable that Nicklaus should pull away from Palmer in overall wins and majors. "That made a big difference," said Thomas Hauser, author of “Arnold Palmer: A Personal Journey.” "The first few years probably worked in Arnold's favor, but Jack was a prodigy and caught up to Arnie pretty early in the game. If it had been reversed and Jack had been 10 years older, who knows how that rivalry would've played out?

"If Jack hadn’t come along, who knows how long Arnold would have reigned?"

Many believe it was more than age that stopped Palmer from winning majors after the 1964 Masters. Confidence shaken by Nicklaus  and by Palmer’s blowing a seven-shot lead in the 1966 U.S. Open  is a popular theory. Another suggestion is less obvious.

"At first when I heard it I kind of laughed, but Dan Jenkins brings it up," said veteran golf journalist Jaime Diaz, editor-in-chief of Golf World. "Arnold quit smoking in 1964. And Arnold, in his book, mentions how it changed his internal feelings and his ability to handle his nervousness. It just changed him a little bit, and at that level a little bit is a lot. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, either. Maybe he didn’t draw the connection at the time. And who knows if he’d go back and still keep smoking, because he was determined not to. But he was not quite as tough at the end of tournaments afterwards. And that happens in the decline, or at least in the later years, of anyone’s career. But Arnold wasn’t old enough in my opinion to just start losing it. Physically he still drove it beautifully, and played wonderfully, but he just didn’t make the same putts."

Though no longer winning majors, Palmer continued to win regular tournaments. His last win on the PGA Tour was the 1973 Bob Hope Desert Classic, when he was 43. It was his fifth win in the event, going back to the inaugural tournament in 1960. On Feb. 11, 1973, an unusually rainy Sunday in California's Coachella Valley, playing in a threesome with John Schlee and Nicklaus, Palmer came from one stroke off Nicklaus' co-lead beginning the final round to beat his old rival and Johnny Miller by two shots.

Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus

Nicklaus puts the green jacket on Palmer in 1964 (Getty)

INEXTRICABLY INTERTWINED with the Palmer-Nicklaus rivalry was their friendship. Thrown together in part because they both were represented by Mark McCormack, they quickly found that they enjoyed each other’s company. "We traveled a lot together," Nicklaus said. "I remember we played a lot of exhibitions. Arnold used to come pick me up in Columbus in his Aero Commander. We’d go fly to Indianapolis, Chicago, Des Moines, Texas, Oklahoma  wherever it might be. We became very close friends. Played a lot of bridge on the plane.

"Nineteen sixty-three was the first year that I qualified to play in the Tournament of Champions. So we go to Las Vegas, which is where it was held at that time. Arnold says, ‘If you’re gonna come to Vegas, you gotta learn how to shoot craps.’ So Arnold took me over to the dice table and it cost him a lot of money to teach me how to shoot craps. I got a big kick out of that. I don’t think he won it back the rest of the week.”

Their wives became friends as well, and whenever their husbands had issues with each other, Barbara Nicklaus and Winnie Palmer laid down the law.

"If Arnold and I had a difference, Winnie and Barbara got together and would say, ‘Hey, you two, this is the way it is,’" Nicklaus said.

"I think I was very fortunate when Jack came out on Tour that Arnie and Winnie were there," Barbara Nicklaus said. "Arnie and Jack have always been wonderful friends and Winnie has been a great friend to me. She always has kind of been my role model and my idol out there. Any questions I had I could go to Winnie."

“We were such good friends with the Nicklaus family, we really were," Palmer's younger daughter, Amy Saunders, said. "I mean Mrs. Nicklaus is like my mom and she’s just such a lovely person. I knew the kids growing up, particularly their daughter, and Hilton Head was always a yearly tournament that we always made sure we got there because it was such a fun time of year and we were always able to go. We had a house that we stayed in that was comfortable and familiar and the Nicklauses and a lot of families would be there and we really we got to know them more on a personal relationship. So I don’t think we ever experienced the competitive spirit that was there in the golf.”

Palmer's sister Sandra Sarni offered a slightly different perspective. Asked what the Palmer household thought of Nicklaus at the beginning, she laughed: “I don’t think I can answer that question," she said. "I like him now, and I love his wife, Barbara. She’s terrific."

ONE OF THE DEEPEST divisions between Palmer and Nicklaus surfaced in later years, when each had established his own tournament. Nicklaus skipped Palmer’s tournament to play in South Florida events, and made critical comments about Palmer’s Bay Hill course. Palmer reciprocated by not playing in Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament.

In 1993 the Memorial chose Palmer as its annual honoree. After the ceremony, at dinner that night, Palmer and Nicklaus had a long, frank discussion that seemed to thaw the chill between them. "People at that dinner told me it was like two old soldiers telling war stories," O'Connor said.

As their post-playing careers evolved, Nicklaus and Palmer continued to compete with each other, whether it was over golf course design, endorsements  or beverages. Palmer has long mixed his iced tea with lemonade, a drink that came to be known among golfers as an "Arnold Palmer." A version licensed with that name began to be sold in 2001. The Arizona Beverage Company, which distributes the Palmer drink, introduced a new line of Nicklaus-branded lemonades just before the 2012 Masters.

"Jack will still come to me and say 'How many ‘S K U's' or ‘skus’ [stock keeping unit, that applies to sales] does Arnold have in his drink?'" said IMG's Alastair Johnston. "I said 'A lot more than yours, Jack.'"

Competition  friendly competition  is the core of their relationship. Always has been, always will be.

"Arnold and I have been the most fierce competitors two guys can imagine, on the golf course, off the golf course,” Nicklaus said. "Neither one of us likes to lose."

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Trio lead Kia Classic; Davies shoots 82

By Associated PressMarch 23, 2018, 3:01 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Laura Davies had a nightmare round days after contending for a title at age 54, and Caroline Hedwall, Jackie Stoelting and Hee Young Park topped the Kia Classic leaderboard.

Davies shot a 10-over 82 on Thursday at rainy Aviara Golf Club - four days after tying for second behind Inbee Park in the Founders Cup, and five days after shooting a 9-under 63 in the Phoenix event.

Fighting Achilles tendon and calf problems in her left leg, Davies opened double bogey-bogey-par-bogey. She bogeyed Nos. 9, 10 and 12, had another double on 15 and bogeyed 16. The 82 was the World Golf Hall of Famer's highest score on tour since also shooting 82 in the 2013 Marathon Classic. On Monday, she jumped 208 spots to No. 155 in the world.

Hedwall, Stoelting and Park shot 66 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills. Ariya Jutanugarn, also coming off a second-place tie in Phoenix, was a stroke back with 2015 champion Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Broch Larsen.

Hedwall closed her bogey-free round with birdies on the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth. The Swede played her final 10 holes in 6 under. Players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairways because of the damp conditions.

''I hit it really well and started making a couple putts in my back nine,'' Hedwall said. ''I'm really happy with how I'm playing and looking forward to the rest of the days.''

Stoelting finished with a birdie on the par-4 18th. She had seven birdies and a bogey.

''I hit a lot of fairways,'' Stoelting said. ''I don't necessarily hit if far, but keeping it in the fairway is super key this week. The rough is much thicker this year than last year.''

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Hee Young Park birdied the final three holes, finishing on No. 9.

''The greens are really soft,'' Park said. ''So, easier on the second shot.''

The 40-year-old Kerr had a bogey-free round.

''I like this golf course,'' Kerr said. ''I think it's a tough golf course and you can't fall asleep on any shot. I mean, it's just a really great course. The layout. The rough is high. You got to pay attention. I think that's maybe why I play a little better here than some other places.''

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 31 on the front nine.

''It's rain today and a little bit windy, but my irons help me a lot,'' Jutanugarn said. ''Just start to make some putts. ... It's pretty tough for me. I always feel like the course here is really hard because the greens really bumpy, and you're not going to hit far here.''

Lydia Ko and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu topped the group at 68.

Ko also played her final nine in 31. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix.

''I holed some really good putts on my back nine,'' Ko said. ''I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key.''

She won the 2016 event at Aviara.

''This is a pretty tough golf course,'' Ko said. ''Putting is a huge key around this course where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.''

Jennifer Song and Jeong Eun Lee also shot 68. Brooke Henderson had a 69, and Lexi Thompson a 70.

Inbee Park was at 71 with Singapore champion Michelle Wie and 2014 Kia winner Anna Nordqvist. Top-ranked Shanshan Feng had a 72, playing alongside Park. Defending champion Mirim Lee shot 74.

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With old clubs returned, Kim (and new clubs) starts strong at Kia

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 1:53 am

Almost two months after her golf clubs went missing, the same clubs she used to win last year’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, In-Kyung Kim was happily reunited with them this week.

She fetched them and her golf bag two days ago at the Carlsbad, Calif., police department.

A man bought them as a used set from a sporting goods store in the area, with Kim’s LPGA I.D. still in the golf bag.

Notably, Kim celebrated with a return to the leaderboard Thursday in the first round of the Kia Classic.

Kim opened with a 5-under-par 67, though she didn’t use her newly rediscovered clubs. She stayed with the replacement set that she put together after her clubs went missing. Her Women’s British Open clubs never showed up after she got off a plane in Southern California upon her return home from the season-opening Pure Silk Bahamas Classic.

“It was really difficult at first,” Kim said of getting used to her new set of clubs. “I really worked hard, like worked a lot, went to the factory like a dozen times.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Kim said she made several visits to the factory folks, trying to get the loft and lies of her new clubs just the way she wanted, close to the configuration that helped her win the Women’s British Open.

“They were like, `I.K., are you ever happy?’” Kim said.

Actually, only five of Kim’s “lost” clubs turned up with her golf bag at that sporting goods store. Still, Kim was happy to get three wedges, two hybrids and her golf bag back.

“It’s kind of good to have a conclusion,” Kim said.

Kim can thank a “What’s in the bag?” segment with Ladies European Tour TV analyst Alison Whitaker for leading to the retrieval of her clubs. Kim explained to Whitaker how her clubs went missing during the telecast of the HSBC Women’s World Championship three weeks ago.

A golf fan in the San Diego area saw Golf Channel’s telecast of that segment.

“One of his friends bought the tour bag,” Kim said. “The other friend knew about my story, and he was like, `No, dude, that's not for selling. It's stolen.’”

Kim was delighted to meet the men who returned her clubs when she picked them up at the Carlsbad Police Department.

“Just good for me,” Kim said.

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Ko (68) off to best start of year at Kia Classic

By Randall MellMarch 23, 2018, 12:39 am

Lydia Ko didn’t take long to put last week’s missed cut behind her Thursday at the Kia Classic.

She got off to her best start of the year.

With a 4-under-par 68, Ko finished the day in a tie for eighth, just two shots off the lead at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif.

“I would say I didn't hit the ball fantastic, but just being able to hole some good birdie putts was key,” Ko said.

Ko scrambled her way to her low opening round of the year in light rain. She hit just seven of 14 fairways and 11 greens, but only needed 25 putts.

“This is a pretty tough golf course,” Ko said. ”I think putting is a huge key around this course, where if you do miss a green, making those clutch par putts and then making those birdie opportunities that you get.”

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Aviara’s poa annua greens have been known to give players fits, but Ko had her flatstick working. After making the turn at 1 over, she made five birdies on her second nine.

Ko, 20, won at Aviara two years ago but missed the cut there last year.

“I love Carlsbad,” Ko said “I would say it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s nice to come back to a place where you’ve played well and love the area.”

Ko, seeking her first victory since July of 2016, has her new coach, Ted Oh, working with her in Carlsbad this week. Oh made the trip to Asia last month, helping Ko to her tie for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship. But, she missed the cut in Phoenix last week in her next start.

“All I can do is try my best,” Ko said. “Hopefully, I'll be able to keep this good momentum going.”

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

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 23, 2018, 12:32 am

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. Click here for Day 1 match results:

Group 1: Adam Hadwin (38) def. Dustin Johnson (1), 4 and 3: After a dominating performance at last year’s Match Play, where he never trailed in any match, Johnson is already mathematically eliminated. He got routed on Thursday by Hadwin, after the Canadian built a 2-up lead at the turn and then poured it on with wins on the 11th and 13th holes.

Group 1: Kevin Kisner (32) def. Bernd Wiesberger (52), 5 and 4: Kisner made three consecutive birdies midway through the front nine to set the tone, then kept the pressure on Wiesberger, who knocked off DJ on Wednesday, to earn the full point and stay in the mix to advance.

Group 2: Justin Thomas (2) def. Patton Kizzire (48), 3 and 1: After DJ’s early exit, Thomas now has a clear path to world No. 1, if he can win the Match Play this week. Thomas did his part, improving to 2-0 after taking a 3-up advantage and then making birdie on 16 and 17 to close out Kizzire. That sets up a winner-take-all match against Francesco Molinari on Friday.

Group 2: Francesco Molinari (21) def. Luke List (60), 3 and 2: Molinari dropped seven birdies on List and won the 13th, 14th and 16th holes to move to 2-0 this week.

Group 3: Chez Reavie (43) def. Jon Rahm, 1 up: On the verge of surrendering a big lead against Rahm, Reavie’s par on 18 was enough to secure a 1-up victory. He led 3 up with three to go, but Rahm birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to send the match to the last. But there, from just short of the green, Rahm hit his pitch shot well past the flag and couldn’t make birdie. Now 0-1-1, Rahm, last year's finalist, is now eliminated.

Group 3: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28) def. Keegan Bradley (63), 1 up: Bradley once again kicked away a late lead. One day after coughing up a 2-up lead with three to play, he squandered a 1-up lead with three to play against Aphibarnrat. Bradley made bogey on 17, then was stymied behind a tree after his drive on 18. Barnrat rolled in a 15-footer for birdie to improve to 2-0.

Group 4: Jordan Spieth (4) def. Haotong Li (34), 4 and 2: Spieth held up his end of the deal, winning the fifth hole with a birdie and never trailing from there. He poured it on late with the Chinese star, winning the 13th, 14th and 16th holes. He'll play Reed, his Ryder and Presidents Cup partner, on Friday in a winner-take-all match.

Group 4: Patrick Reed (19) def. Charl Schwartzel (49), 1 up: In a wild match that saw that only three halved, Reed hung on to defeat Schwartzel, 1 up. Two up with three holes to play, Reed lost the 16th, escaped with a bogey halve on the 17th and then was out of position on the final hole. But he nearly holed his wedge shot, rattling the stick and leaving his ball on the front edge for a conceded birdie and narrow victory.

Group 5: Cameron Smith (46) def. Hideki Matsuyama (5), 1 up: One down with five to play, Smith won the 14th with a par, then chipped in for birdie on 16 to take a 1-up lead. At 2-0, he’s now in control of the group.

Group 5: Patrick Cantlay (30) def. Yusaku Miyazato (53), 1 up: In control throughout, Cantlay bogeyed the 17th hole to return the match to all square. On the home hole, he busted a drive to the front-left corner of the green, then made birdie to win and improve to 1-1.

Group 6: Rory McIlroy (6) def. Jhonattan Vegas (44), 2 and 1: Needing a victory to avoid an early exit, McIlroy won two consecutive holes before the turn and then added a win on 13 to give himself the cushion he needed down the stretch, holing a 6-footer for par on 17 to close out Vegas. McIlroy now has a chance to advance with a victory over Harman on the final day of pool play.

Group 6: Brian Harman (18) def. Peter Uihlein (57), 4 and 2: Harman never trailed in knocking off Uihlein, who soundly defeated McIlroy on Day 1. With 1 ½ points, Harman is in the driver’s seat, but he needs at least a halve against McIlroy on Friday (and a Uihlein loss) to advance.

Group 7: Sergio Garcia (7) def. Dylan Frittelli (41), 2 up: All square with six holes to go, Garcia birdied 13, won 14 with a par and then drove the 18th green for a conceded birdie to close out Frittelli, the former Texas Longhorn, and improve to 2-0 this week. He'll play Schauffele in a winner-take-all match on Friday.

Group 7: Xander Schauffele (20) def. Shubhankar Sharma (62), 3 and 1: Schauffele improved to 2-0 this week by thoroughly handling Sharma, the darling of the recent WGC-Mexico event, never leading by fewer than 2-up on the back nine and playing 3 under.

Group 8: Jason Dufner (42) def. Jason Day (8), 3 and 1: Dufner took down one of the pre-tournament favorites with a steady closing stretch. Five of his six wins came after Day bogeys, but Dufner turned an all-square match on 14 tee into a 3-and-1 victory.

Group 8: James Hahn (56) def. Louis Oosthuizen (25), 3 and 1: Hahn jumped all over the South African, winning the first three holes and never holding less than a 2-up lead on the back nine. With his victory, each player in the group has a 1-1 record.

Group 9: Tommy Fleetwood (9) def. Kevin Chappell (33), 7 and 6: Avenging an opening-day loss, the Englishman won the first four holes and needed to make only three birdies in a monster rout of Chappell. The 2017 Presidents Cupper made five bogeys and conceded two other holes but still has a chance to win the group.  

Group 9: Ian Poulter (58) def. Daniel Berger (26), 2 and 1: Playing this event for the first time since 2015, Poulter improved to 2-0 on the week with a solid victory over Berger, one of many young American up-and-comers. Using the same putter that he put in play at the epic 2012 Ryder Cup, Poulter won three of the first four holes and never backed down. He is guaranteed at least a playoff Friday. 

Group 10: Paul Casey (10) def. Kyle Stanley (45), 4 and 2: A winner at the Valspar, Casey stayed hot in Austin, taking a 3-up lead at the turn and improving to 2-0 this week. He needs only a halve on Friday to advance.

Group 10: Russell Henley (51) def. Matthew Fitzpatrick (31), 2 and 1: Shaking off a narrow loss to Casey on Wednesday, Henley took control of an all-square match by winning the 12th and 14th holes and then rolling in a tricky 25-footer on the 17th green to put away Fitzpatrick. Still alive in pool play, Henley needs to beat Kyle Stanley, and hope Casey loses, to force a playoff.

Group 11: Bubba Watson (35) def. Marc Leishman (11), 3 and 2: Coming off an impressive opening victory, Watson erased an early deficit, then won Nos. 12-14 to put away Leishman, who is now eliminated. Watson is guaranteed at least a playoff Friday.

Group 11: Branden Grace (23) def. Julian Suri (64), 2 and 1: After a shaky start, Grace made four birdies over his last 11 holes to knock off the surprise Day 1 winner, Suri, who was the last man into the field. Watson is still in control of the group heading into the final day.

Group 12: Tyrrell Hatton (12) def. Brendan Steele (36), 3 and 2: All square through 12 holes, the Englishman made four birdies and an eagle over his last eight holes to improve to 2-0 this week. Hatton needs only a halve Friday to advance.

Group 12: Alexander Levy (55) def. Charley Hoffman (22), 1 up: Levy led from the sixth hole, but Hoffman slowly cut into the deficit and took the Frenchman to the final hole. Levy’s par was enough to notch his first point and stay alive in pool play.  

Group 13: Alex Noren (13) def. Thomas Pieters (39), 5 and 4: Noren made quick work of Pieters in what could be a match of future Ryder Cup teammates. Noren built a 4-up lead after seven holes and then cruised from there, moving to 2-0 this week and eliminating Pieters. In 30 holes this week, Noren has made 12 birdies and no bogeys.

Group 13: Tony Finau (29) def. Kevin Na (61), 3 and 2: In a contrast of styles, the powerful Finau birdied the first three holes and never looked back against Na, setting up a battle of unbeatens in a winner-take-all match on Friday.

Group 14: Phil Mickelson (14) def. Satoshi Kodaira (40), 1 up: Four down through seven holes, Mickelson was on the verge of being eliminated before running off a series of wins, including on 16 and 17 to push the match to the final hole. Then, on 18, he pitched to 8 feet and drained the birdie putt to complete the remarkable comeback.

Group 14: Charles Howell III (59) def. Rafa Cabrera Bello (17), 3 and 1: After knocking off Mickelson on Day 1, Howell pulled away from Cabrera Bello late, winning the 14th, 15th and 17th holes – only one of which with birdies – to take control of the lead. At 2-0, Howell is assured of at least a playoff.

Group 15: Webb Simpson (37) def. Pat Perez (15), 3 and 1: Matched up against the fiery Perez, Simpson seized control of the match with wins on the 11th and 12th holes, sank a 20-footer on 15 and then won the 17th after Perez put his tee shot in the hazard. Now 1-0-1, he’ll have a winner-take-all match against Kim on Friday.

Group 15: Si Woo Kim (50) def. Gary Woodland (24), 5 and 3: Kim won the first hole and never looked back, grabbing a 3-up lead at the turn and leading by as much as 5 up after 12 holes. He is now 2-0. 

Group 16: Matt Kuchar (16) def. Yuta Ikeda (47), 1 up: Though he wasn’t nearly as hot as in his opener against Johnson, Kuchar played solidly, going 3 under (including concessions) and making par on 17 to edge ahead of Ikeda and eke out a narrow victory. 

Group 16: Ross Fisher (27) def. Zach Johnson (54), 2 up: After a remarkable comeback against Kuchar to earn a halve on Day 1, Johnson couldn’t summon the same magic on Thursday. Though he won the 15th to cut Fisher’s advantage to 1 up, Johnson couldn’t convert birdie putts on the last three holes.