Mark Calcavecchia Saturday Masters Press Conference Transcript

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 7, 2001, 4:00 pm
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Sure. It was a good day. I really hit the ball good today. I drove it great, which I had not been doing the first two days, and hit a lot of good iron shots and made a few putts. But, really, obviously I'm happy with my score and my position, but I did miss a few easy putts that I perhaps could have made, but again, I made a few that I really wasn't expecting to make. But as far as my swing goes, I felt great, and, you know, I'm just -- I achieved a lot of confidence out of today's round, based on the way I hit the ball. So, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
Q. Did you feed off Darren at all? Until he had that double, he was doing pretty well, as well.
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Darren got off to a good start. He was a couple under through five and played great on the front. Had a few birdies but a bad break on 7 when he made a bogey. You know, he's such a nice guy, and we're friends, anyway. You know, when you hit a good shot, he'll tell you, 'Good shot.' We had a few laughs out there. But as far as feeding off him, not really. I was still trying to get around there as best I could. When I birdied 10 and 11, I realized I set myself up to have a good day with those two holes. I got one birdie on 13 and was kind of looking for another one or two coming in, but that was in.
Q. It looked like the last four holes, you had birdie putts and two of them looked like you pushed them, on 18 and on 15?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Exactly. I sure did. I had them read both perfectly, too. That was one of the couple putts I was talking about. I had about a seven-footer on 15, just a right-center putt just straight up the hill. Yeah, I pushed it. 16, I just didn't hit it hard enough. I had it read right. It was a big sweeper right-to-left. On those sometimes you know it is going to be fast down by the hole, but because you are putting it up into the hill before it starts breaking, it is actually almost uphill first and the second I hit it I knew I didn't hit it hard enough. 17, I hit a great putt and I just misread it. I didn't think it was going to break that much. 18, I was all over the read there, and I pushed it about a ball, and that's about what it missed by.
Q. There are three guys up there with you and DiMarco and Rocco who use unconventional putting strokes. Given the nature of this golf course is it about technique or about confidence?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Goes to show you, there's a lot of different ways to get it in the hole on the green. I learned that a long time ago. I even remember when everybody looked at Rocco like he was nuts, ten or -- however many years ago that was when he won at Doral with a long putter. He said the same thing. He says, 'I don't care what I look like. I just want the ball to go in.' It's more about what, you know, and it's about what you feel you can do your best with. Yeah, between me and Chris and Rocco, we've got a couple of funky grips and a long putter. So, it's interesting.
Q. You've waited a long time to get back in position going into Sunday with a chance to win, probably since 88. What does it feel like now that you are there?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: It feels good, basically, because, you know, I am 40, and although I do have a lot of good golf left in me, assuming my body doesn't completely fall apart, I wanted to have a shot to win another major championship eventually. You know, depending on what Tiger does in the last three -- whether I'm two, nine, or three behind or whatever he does, you know, I'm I know I'm going to have to play a great round tomorrow, but I do have the chance to do that. The confidence that I have in my putting and my swing, now -- I get confidence in a hurry. It only takes me about two or three good shots in a row and all of the sudden I feel like I can play again. I hit a lot of good shots today. What's even more important, I knew I was going to hit them good before I hit them. So I have the capability to shoot a good score tomorrow.
Q. What's the difference between you in 1988 and today on this course, and the way you play?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Well, not much, really, on this course. 1988, I'm sure I hit the ball better tee-to-green now than I did in 1988, but in the late 80s, I was pretty much amazing around the greens and putting. My short game was just phenomenal for about a three or four-year period there, from '87 to 90. That's pretty much what got me through. Now, my short game is very good again, but my tee-to-green game is probably the best it has ever been. So, that's the main difference. The only thing that I really have a hard time doing, obviously is hitting draws with my driver, which does hurt me on occasion, and it hurts me on a few holes out here, but I can go ahead and turn my 3-wood a little bit and get by that way.
Q. Since then, has your short game been peaks and valleys?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Yeah, it's -- you know, throughout the 90's it was average, at best for three or four years, and then from about '95 or'96, really, through '99, it was down-right bad. My putting was horrific, three or four years in a row, I finished 170-something on the Tour in my putting stats. It was so bad, even when I putted good, I could not get any confidence, because I knew I was going to start putting bad eventually sooner or late. Now when I have a bad putting day, it's like, well, I'm just having a bad putting day, but I'm still putting good. That's the big difference. I've always been pretty good around the greens as far as chipping and bunker shots and things. But it is all about putting out here. It really is.
Q. How many teachers, grips putters, etc., Did you go through during that stretch?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: I've just been with Butch Harmon since '94 and Peter Costas from '85 to '94. So really only a couple of teachers. But I had a lot of suggestions in the mail, gadgets and things. Like Tom Watson, he gets a couple hundred putters sent to him one year from people thinking they had the answer for him. I kept searching, tried a lot of grips, cross-handed, split-handed, the whole thing. Finally, when I came up with this grip, it felt good immediately.
Q. If Tiger is up two or three shots, what are the odds on you and the other guys catching him?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Well I've got to be honest with you, I would not mind seeing him stay at 12, or 11, even -- I don't know if I should say that. Anyway, say he finishes at 12-under, that means somebody, unless Cabrera makes a birdie or Chris or whatever -- Chris did birdie 16. Anyway, we've got to beat him by 2 or 3- to win the tournament, and that's -- that's very doable. Tiger is a human being just like the rest of us and he's going to be out there nervous, also. However, he is the best in the world and he has that going for him - (Laughter.) - Which is nice.
Q. Have you been in any tournaments where you and Tiger have played coming down at the end at all?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: No, we haven't. Last year in Spain, we were paired in the last group, and we both basically had a shot. We both birdied 10 and 11, and I think at that time was tied for the lead and one back with Mike Weir or whatever it was. So we both had a shot there, but we basically both self-destructed on 17 and 18. But that was the only time.
Q. Haven't you and Tiger become pretty good friends and how did that evolve?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Yeah, we're good friends. I think a lot -- it helps, obviously, to have the same teacher in Butch Harmon, because we play practice rounds together. It's good for me, even though Tiger likes to play before the sun comes up in his practice rounds, it's good for me because Butch is there a good amount of time, especially the big tournaments. Any time I can get in with Butch to make sure my swing is in decent shape is good. And I think he kind of gets a kick out of me, in a way, somebody that's a little bit different, a little bit off the cuff, so to speak. We get along real well. I'm not afraid to, you know, tell him what I think.
Q. Do you appreciate this place more now than in 1988?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: That's a hard question. I mean, sitting here in this chair right now, I might say, yeah, but had I shot a pair of 77s, I would have told you no. I've always said, hey, wherever you are playing good, I love. If you asked me what my favorite tournament is, I've got to say the Phoenix Open, especially like the day after. (Laughter.) But I always loved playing here. I missed playing here last year. I definitely missed it. I wished I was here. Turns out I ended up going skiing with my kids in Sun Valley and that was fine. But this is where I wanted to get back to. I realized this is a tournament that, you know, the most prestigious tournament in the world most likely and easily the funnest tournament to watch on TV. What happens on the back nine is just really exciting and it is fun to be part of that again.
Q. Have you guys played a practice round or two this week, you and Tiger?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: We didn't. Phil Mickelson asked me to play. He called me Monday and asked me to play with John Huston on Tuesday and we teed off early. Turns out we only played six holes because of the bad weather. But Tiger and Mark and Notah Begay teed off right in front of us, and Tiger I think thought I would join him. I knew he would be out here early, he always is, and I am, too. Then we got rained out, too, so naturally, at that time, I was rubbing Phil through the first six holes, so we had to continue the match, which he probably birdied eight of the last 12 on Wednesday. So that took care of me there. No, I didn't play with Tiger this week.
Q. No inner-group rivalry going on?
Q. You've been one of the Top-50 money winners since '87. What is the significance of that for you?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: That's good. I think I've only missed three, TOUR Championships since 1987, you know, which is also good. Kind of a tribute of the way I play tee-to-green, because even when I was putting bad, I was still good enough to, you know, get by. I was not winning any tournaments. I only one, you won one in '92, one in '95, one in '97 one in '98. A few in seven years isn't that much, really, at least by my standards. It's a nice stat/number, but that's all it is.
Q. When Chris showed you the grip, did you just not like the hand that way and you changed it?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: He didn't even really show it to me. I saw it from about 90 yards away and I knew how he gripped it and I was putting horrendously at the TPC last year and I tried it and I thought, well, that feels a little queer, and I just gradually -- instant under, because I had a case of the yips, so to speak, especially the short ones. I was twitchy. I could feel it. And I just got my wrist under here so far, got the normal left-hand grip that I just locked it in there, so I didn't have a case to do this (indicating shaking) because it was just in there like that. Right off the get-go, I made a 25-footer on No. 1 Friday at the TPC; and then a 15-footer on the next hole; and a 10-footer at the next hole. And I just had this big old grin on my face that I pretty much knew that I had found my putting grip.
Q. This year or last year?
Q. Will the conditions have to stay the same for the other guys to have a chance? If they get tougher does that just play into Tiger's game?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: That's a hard question to answer. Obviously, Tiger is great in any kind of weather, but I would probably say if conditions were fairly tough, you know, like if we had some breeze, like we did earlier in the day, really, the first five or six holes it was blowing pretty good out there, and then it pretty much laid down. But if conditions were more on the tough side, it might be more to an advantage of us guys trying to chase him.
Q. During that whole Phoenix thing when the birdies are coming left and right, did you believe what was going on?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Well, I do remember thinking to myself: 'Well, I'm doing something special here.' I didn't slap myself, but I said, 'Oh, forget it. Don't worry about what kind of special thing you're doing. Just go out and keep doing it.' I knew I was playing well coming into that tournament. I told my mom, 'I've got it,' type thing. I'm not hitting it as good as I was then, but I'm very comfortable with what I'm doing now, and it kind of reminds me of the way hit it that week. This isn't the Phoenix Open; it's the Masters. We'll see what happens out there tomorrow. But I'm really, really confident right now with my swing.
Q. Is it better for you to be in the final group tomorrow with Tiger or in the next to last group -- not that you have a choice?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: I'd like to play with him in the last group. When we played -- we were not in the last group in Spain. We were about the third-to-last group, I think. Maybe second-to-last. But it was the same sort of feeling, I felt fine. I got right up on the first hole and just bombed one down middle. Tiger doesn't make me nervous himself or his presence or anything else. But that would be a hoot to be in the last group with him.
Q. You talked about having a case of the yips. How bad did it get at the worst point?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: I think a putt from here to here, these two water bottles, there's about a 50/50 chance of me making it. In other words, anything outside of 18 inches was 50/50. That's how bad it was. (Laughter.)
Q. You said yesterday that this was a place that you are always in a hurry to get to, but sometimes in a hurry to get out of. How much has this place been a test of your ability to control your emotions and a test of your temperament?
MARK CALCAVECCHIA: Obviously, I've gotten a lot better at that. Doesn't mean I still don't get mad, and I do, and we all do out here. I did do a real good job of mentally preparing myself; although, my swing wasn't where I wanted it in the early part of the tournament. And I double-bogeyed the first hole right off the get-go-go. That certainly wasn't what I needed to start off with, but just hung tough and made a bunch of pars because I knew I really didn't have it. Lucked in a couple of putts. In the next round, I was back to even; considering doubling the first hole and not playing very well, was pretty good. So I did a real good job in the early part of the week of bracing myself up to be super patient.
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New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:48 am

AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.

But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.

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The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.

“I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”

The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.

“I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”

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On a wild Wednesday, DJ, Rory, Phil saved by the pool

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:39 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Call it black Wednesday, but then the one-and-done aspect of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was dulled three years ago with the introduction of round-robin play that assures every player at least three matches in pool play.

Otherwise Wednesday at Austin Country Club would go down as one of the championship’s darkest hours for the top of the dance card. In order, world No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson dropped his Day 1 match, 3 and 1, to world No. 56 Bernd Wiesberger; last week’s winner Rory McIlroy lost to PGA Tour rookie Peter Uihlein, 2 and 1, and Phil Mickelson, the winner of the last WGC in Mexico, dropped a 3-and-2 decision to Charles Howell III.

All told, 11 lower-seeded players pulled off “upsets” on Wednesday, although it’s widely held that the Match Play is more prone to these types of underdog performances than the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

But if it wasn’t March Madness, it was at the least March Mayhem, particularly for those who shuffled around Austin Country Club in a state of mild confusion.

Although there were plenty of matches that went according to plan – with top-seeded players Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia all winning – it was still a tough day for chalk with three of the top 10 players in the world ranking either losing or halving (world No. 3 Jon Rahm halved his duel with Keegan Bradley) their matches.

At least McIlroy made things interesting after finding himself 5 down through 13 holes. The Northern Irishman played his last six holes in 5 under par to push the match to the 17th hole, but Uihlein closed out the bout with a par.

“If he birdies seven straight on you, hats off to him. It is what it is,” Uihlein said of McIlroy’s late surge. “I felt like if I just kind of kept giving myself a chance, I didn't want to give him any holes. He made me earn it, so hats off to it.”

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Johnson couldn’t say the same thing.

After not trailing in any match on his way to victory at last year’s Match Play, Johnson hit a ball in the water, two out of bounds (on the same hole, no less) and began to fade when he made a double bogey-5 at the 11th hole. Although scoring is always skewed at the Match Play because of conceded putts, Johnson was listed at 9 over through 17 holes before his day came to a merciful end.

“We both didn't have a great day. I think we only made three birdies between us, which is not a lot out here,” Wiesberger said. “Obviously it wasn't his best day. It wasn't the best of my days. I think we both have to do a little bit of work this afternoon.”

Although not as scrappy as Johnson’s round, Mickelson has also seen better days. Lefty made just a single birdie and played 17 holes in even par to lose just his second match in pool play.

But then this event hasn’t exactly been kind to Lefty, who has advanced to the weekend just twice in 13 starts.

“I was fortunate today, obviously, to get past him,” said Howell, who is the second-lowest seeded player to advance out of pool play when he did it in 2017 as the 61st player in the field. “But with this pod play the way it goes now, you never know. You've got to keep playing good. Last WGC we had, he won. So he's never out of it.”

That will be the solace those high-profile players who find themselves on the wrong side of the round-robin ledger now cling to. There is a path back.

Since pool play began, just four players have lost their Day 1 matches and went on to win their group. One of those players is Johnson, who lost to Robert Streb on Wednesday in 2016 but still advanced to the quarterfinals.

But if that helps ease the sting for those who now embrace the Match Play mulligan, it did little to quiet the crowds on what turned out to be a wild Wednesday.

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Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 12:22 am

Here is how things played out on Day 1 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: (52) Bernd Wiesberger def. (1) Dustin Johnson, 3 and 1: Down goes the defending champ. Johnson never trailed in any match en route to victory last year, and he won five holes against Wiesberger. But that wasn't enough as the Austrian turned an all-square affair into an upset victory by winning three straight from Nos. 15-17.

Group 1: (32) Kevin Kisner vs. (38) Adam Hadwin, halved: This was a tight one throughout, as neither player held more than a 1-up lead. Kisner held a lead for much of the back nine, but Hadwin birdied the 17th to draw even and the match was halved when they both made par on the final hole.

Group 2: (2) Justin Thomas def. (60) Luke List, 2 up: In perhaps the most entertaining match of the morning, Thomas edged List in a rematch of last month's Honda Classic playoff despite List spending much of the round putting with a wedge after bending his putter. Thomas was 3 up with four to play before List pushed the match the distance.

Group 2: (21) Francesco Molinari def. (48) Patton Kizzire, 3 and 1: Molinari turned a tight match into a victory thanks to a few timely errors from Kizzire. Pars on Nos. 14 and 17 were good enough to win the hole for Molinari, with the latter sealing his victory and moving him a step closer to a potential winner-take-all battle with Thomas on Friday.

Group 3: (3) Jon Rahm vs. (63) Keegan Bradley, halved: Rahm was a runner-up at this event last year, but he got all he could handle from one of the last men in the field. Bradley was 2 up with three holes to play, but bogeys on two of the final three holes opened the door for the Spaniard to escape with a draw.

Group 3: (28) Kiradech Aphibarnrat def. (43) Chez Reavie, 3 and 2: Aphibarnrat took the lead in his group with a victory over Reavie during which he never trailed. The globetrotting Thai held a 2-up lead at the turn and closed things out with a birdie on No. 16. Reavie won only two holes all day.

Group 4: (4) Jordan Spieth def. (49) Charl Schwartzel, 2 and 1: The top seed in the group scored an early point in a battle between former Masters champs. Spieth never trailed and took control of the match with three straight wins on Nos. 12-14.

Group 4: (19) Patrick Reed def. (34) Haotong Li, 3 and 2: Reed's much-anticipated match with Spieth is still two days away, but he dispatched of Li in his opener by winning the opening hole and never trailing the rest of the way. Li got to within one of Reed after 10 holes but the American won three of the next five to separate.

Group 5: (5) Hideki Matsuyama def. (53) Yusaku Miyazato, 2 and 1: This all-Japanese battle went to the group's top seed, as Matsuyama poured in a birdie on the par-3 17th to close out the match. Miyazato got off to a strong start, holding a 2-up lead through six holes, before Matsuyama turned the tables with two birdies over the next three holes.

Group 5: (46) Cameron Smith def. (30) Patrick Cantlay, 2 up: Smith never trailed in the match, but it turned into a closer contest than it appeared when the Aussie held a 3-up lead with four holes to play. Uihlein won the next two holes, but he couldn't get any closer as Smith earned a critical victory as he looks to earn a Masters spot by staying in the top 50 in the world rankings after this week.

Group 6: (57) Peter Uihlein def. (6) Rory McIlroy, 2 and 1: McIlroy won last week at Bay Hill, but he's now playing catch up after a decisive loss to Uihlein. The American held a 5-up lead before McIlroy reeled off five straight birdies to cut the lead to 2-up, but a par from Uihlein on the 17th hole sealed the upset.

Group 6: (18) Brian Harman vs. (44) Jhonattan Vegas, halved: This was a tight match throughout, with Harman clinging to a 1-up lead for most of the back nine. But Vegas rolled in a birdie putt on the final green to salvage half a point, much to the delight of the Austin galleries who were out supporting the former Longhorn.

Group 7: (7) Sergio Garcia def. (62) Shubankhar Sharma, 1 up: Garcia and Sharma took turns leading this match throughout the day, with the Indian holding a 1-up advantage through 13 holes. But Garcia won the next hole to square the match, then earned a full point with a birdie on the 18th hole in his first competitive start since becoming a father last week.

Group 7: (20) Xander Schauffele def. (41) Dylan Frittelli, 1 up: The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year got the best of the former Longhorn in a tight match that went the distance. Schauffele led for much of the afternoon before Frittelli drew level with wins on Nos. 14 and 15. But Schauffele won the next hole and held on from there.

Group 8: (8) Jason Day def. (56) James Hahn, 4 and 2: Day is a former winner of this event, and he separated from Hahn on the back nine to score an early point. Hahn offered a concession on No. 13 to fall 3 down, then conceded again on No. 16 to close the match.

Group 8: (25) Louis Oosthuizen def. (42) Jason Dufner, 1 up: Oosthuizen appeared poised for an easy point before Dufner rallied with three straight wins on Nos. 14-16 to square the match. But Oosthuizen regained a lead with a par on No. 17 and held on for a hard-fought victory.

Group 9: (58) Ian Poulter def. (9) Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2: The match between Englishman went to the veteran, as Poulter took his putter from the 2012 Ryder Cup out of the closet and put it to quick use. Fleetwood won only two holes during the match, none after the eighth hole, and he now faces the prospect of early elimination as the group's top seed.

Group 9: (33) Kevin Chappell def. (26) Daniel Berger, 3 and 2: Chappell and Berger were Presidents Cup teammates in the fall, but the opener went to Chappell. Berger won the 13th hole to draw all square, but Chappell reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 in response to close out the match.

Group 10: (10) Paul Casey def. (51) Russell Henley, 1 up: Casey is making his first start since winning at Innisbrook, and he scored an early point after rallying back against Henley. The Englishman didn't lead in the match until the final hole, when Henley's tee shot found the hazard leading to an ill-timed concession.

Group 10: (45) Kyle Stanley def. (31) Matthew Fitzpatrick, 1 up: Stanley is making his first match play appearance since 2012, and he got off to a promising start by edging the Englishman. Fitzpatrick was 2 up with five holes to go, but Stanley won three holes the rest of the way including a birdie on the 18th hole to secure a full point.

Group 11: (64) Julian Suri def. (11) Marc Leishman, 3 and 2: Suri was the last man to get into the field following the withdrawal of Joost Luiten, but he's already on the board with an early point. Suri won each of the first two holes and never trailed in the match, closing out Leishman with a birdie on the par-5 16th.

Group 11: (35) Bubba Watson def. (23) Branden Grace, 5 and 3: Watson was absolutely unstoppable in the biggest rout of the day. The two-time Masters champ made seven birdies over his first nine holes, making the turn with a 6-up advantage. Grace never stood a chance.

Group 12: (12) Tyrrell Hatton def. (55) Alexander Levy, 3 and 2: Hatton won the opening hole with a par and never trailed the rest of the way. Levy's win on the eighth hole proved to be his only victory of the day, as Hatton barely had to break a sweat after building a 3-up lead through five holes.

Group 12: (36) Brendan Steele def. (22) Charley Hoffman, 1 up: Steele never trailed in the match and at one point held a 4-up lead, but coming down the stretch it took everything he had to keep Hoffman at bay. Hoffman won four in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17, but a par on the final hole was enough to give Steele the full point.

Group 13: (13) Alex Noren def. (61) Kevin Na, 4 and 2: Noren has come close to winning a few times already this year in the U.S., and he improved his career record in Austin to 5-1 thanks to a steady back nine. The match was all square through 11 holes before Noren took three of the next four, closing things out when Na conceded on No. 16.

Group 13: (29) Tony Finau def. (39) Thomas Pieters, 2 and 1: Two of the longest hitters in the field squared off in this tilt, with Finau notching a full point despite losing two of the first three holes. The American birdied the 15th to take a 2-up lead, then closed out Pieters with a par on the 17th hole.

Group 14: (59) Charles Howell III def. (14) Phil Mickelson, 3 and 2: Mickelson is making his first start since his WGC win in Mexico, but he's now on the ropes after Howell put together a strong back nine that included three birdies in a four-hole stretch from Nos. 10-13 to take control of the match.

Group 14: (17) Rafael Cabrera-Bello def. (40) Satoshi Kodaira, 2 and 1: Cabrera-Bello made a run to the semifinals at this event two years ago, and he's off to another good start following a match in which he never trailed and lost only three holes. With the match tied through 11 holes, Cabrera-Bello's birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 proved pivotal.

Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.

Group 16: (16) Matt Kuchar vs. (54) Zach Johnson, halved: This draw likely felt like a victory for Johnson, who was facing a 4-down deficit with four holes to play before closing with four straight birdies to steal half a point.

Group 16: (47) Yuta Ikeda def. (27) Ross Fisher, 2 and 1: Ikeda now holds the top spot in the group after ousting Fisher, who made the quarterfinals last year. Ikeda squared the match with wins on Nos. 6 and 7 before a pivotal birdie on No. 15 gave him a 2-up lead he would not relinquish.

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Aggressiveness pays off for Spieth vs. Schwartzel

By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 9:32 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – On Tuesday, Jordan Spieth said he hoped this week’s format would free him up and allow him to play more aggressively.

Although that wasn’t the case early in his Day 1 match against Charl Schwartzel, Spieth was able to get his week off to a solid start with a 2-and-1 victory.

After playing his first nine holes in even par, Spieth moved ahead in the match when Schwartzel made bogey at the par-5 12th hole and the American hit his approach at the par-4 13th hole to 3 feet, a shot he said was “pivotal,” and he added another birdie at the 14th hole to pull away.

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“I had a couple of iffy numbers and some swirly winds. I did not play aggressively,” Spieth said of his opening nine. “Once I got a couple numbers where I could put really nice, solid swings on, zeroed in at the target with no worry about anything else around, I did just that and it led to three or four birdies from the eighth hole on. You have to go at flagsticks to make birdies here.”

The early victory puts Spieth on a collision course with Patrick Reed, who also won his first-day match against HaoTong Li, 3 and 2. Spieth and Reed, who are a combined 7-2-2 when teamed together in the Ryder and Presidents Cup, will play each other in the final day of round-robin play on Friday.