AUSTIN, Texas – Friday’s frenzied action at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play included dominant performances by Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, disappointing finishes for Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, and much, much more.
1. For the second time in three years, Spieth failed to advance out of group play, although his Friday match against Ryan Moore provided some insight into the state of his game.
“I didn't look at a scoreboard, pretended like winner [of his match with Ryan Moore] was advancing. And that's what brought those nerves and that adrenaline to me,” he said. “I was able to see some tendencies and I can adjust for them.”
2. Marc Leishman played just two holes on Friday, but they were two good holes. Leishman was scheduled to play Jason Day on Day 3, but when the fellow Australian withdrew on Wednesday, it led to a conceded point for Leishman and a strange day of waiting.
Leishman ended up in a playoff with Lee Westwood and Pat Perez, and he earned his spot in the round of 16 with a birdie at the second extra hole.
“It was strange this morning not even knowing if I was going to play,” said Leishman, who won last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. “Even three hours ago I didn't know if I was going to be playing. Now I'm going to be playing tomorrow.”
3. A subplot to this week’s action is the final push to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and qualify for the Masters when the new ranking is published on Monday.
Ross Fisher, who closed with three consecutive birdies earlier this month at the WGC-Mexico Championship to move into the top 64 and qualify for the Match Play, advanced to the round of 16 on Friday thanks to two closing birdies. He’s currently 53rd in the world and on track to crack the top 50.
Charles Howell III, No. 67 in the world, needed a five-hole playoff to advance to Saturday, but he’ll likely have to make it at least to the semifinals to move into the top 50.
4. Paul Casey advanced to the round of 16 with a perfect 3-0-0 record this week, improving his career mark in the event to 23-8-1, just one victory behind David Toms for second-most in the event. Asked why match play brings out the best in him, Casey struggled for an answer.
“I don't know, because I've tried to analyze it. Some of the best golf maybe I ever played was the final match against Shaun Micheel at [the 2006 HSBC World Match Play],” Casey said. “It's my only 10-and-8 victory. I don't mention it was 36 holes.”