AUSTIN, Texas – Sam Burns came into the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play without much fanfare.
That’s kind of his thing.
Burns has had the same coach, Brad Pullin, for years, and lives a quiet life with his wife, Caroline, in tiny Choudrant, Louisiana, where they moved into a new house late last year. He was not featured in the Netflix docuseries “Full Swing” and won’t be in the second season, either. In a sense, then, he was right in his element, even if he’d never played here before.
Amid the usual chaos of the WGC-Dell Match Play, Burns was the picture of tranquility and deadeye putting as he beat Cameron Young, 6 and 5, for the title at Austin Country Club on Sunday. The champion hugged Caroline on the 13th green as his beaming parents, Todd and Beth, looked on before an armada of party barges on Lake Austin.
“I feel like I gained a little bit more confidence as each match went on,” Burns said.
Rory McIlroy beat Scottie Scheffler, 2 and 1, in the consolation match.
Five of the top six seeds made the knockout rounds, one reason why no one was paying much attention to Burns. So sleepy was his season that finishing sixth at the Valspar Championship, which he’d won twice, counted as a highlight. He cited a driver change – his old one was deemed non-conforming – and his work with coach Pullin for his turnaround.
Playing for a newly designed trophy here, he fell behind early in the championship match when Young birdied the second hole. But Burns found another gear, making eight birdies in a stretch of 10 holes to close out the victory.
“There might not have been anyone beating him today,” said Young, last year’s PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, who notched his sixth runner-up finish and is still looking for his first win.
Added Burns, “I’ve been kind of fighting my golf swing a little bit at the start of this four-week stretch that I’ve been on. I put a lot of hard work in with my coach, Brad Pullin, and I’m just so thankful for him and the amount of work that he’s put in with me and been there by my side for all of it. There are so many people that have helped me along the way.”
It was the fifth PGA TOUR victory for Burns, who came into the week languishing at 52nd in the FedExCup but caught fire here with 48 birdies and only 10 bogeys and one double bogey.
Still, he looked iffy to reach the Championship match as he fell 2-down with six to go in his Sunday morning Semifinal against pal Scottie Scheffler. Burns fought back and took a 1-up lead to the 18th hole, but Scheffler birdied it to force a playoff. Again, Burns looked to be on his way out with Scheffler eying a 4-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole.
Surprisingly, Scheffler missed, and Burns birdied the third extra hole to win it.
“He gave me a gift there,” Burns said.
It was in that match, Burns admitted, that he needed a pep talk from his caddie, Travis Perkins.
“This week is as mentally exhausting as it is physically,” Burns said. “I think after 10 holes this morning, my caddie, Travis, kind of gave me a good kick in the butt and said, ‘Come on man, let’s go, you got this.’ And I really needed it at the time.
“Man, he was rock solid all week,” Burns continued. “I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Like Burns, Young briefly looked destined for the consolation match. He was 2-down to McIlroy with three to play, but birdied 16 and 18, then birdied the first playoff hole, the par-5 12th, to prevail.
The favorites were out, clearing the way for the Cam-and-Sam show. Just 43 people, or .11% of brackets, predicted a Burns-Young final. Amazingly, this was Burns’ tournament debut, and while the Match Play has historically taken some time for players to figure out – Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 was last to win it in his first try – Burns took to it quickly.
Now he moves to eighth in the FedExCup and 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He’ll come into his next start with little fanfare, same as always, but his clubs are starting to make some noise.
KNOCKOUT ROUND – SUNDAY
AUSTIN, Texas – Rory McIlroy won it in 2015.
Scottie Scheffler is the defending champion and was runner-up in 2021.
With those two on track to possibly meet for the trophy at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play – they’ll play Cameron Young and Sam Burns, respectively, in the semifinals – talk turned to just what it takes to win it all.
“I think winning the Match Play is always a massive accomplishment because of what you have to go through,” said McIlroy, who made a combined 17 birdies in beating Lucas Herbert, 2-up, and Xander Schauffele, 1-up, on a busy Saturday.
To win the tournament’s new trophy, McIlroy added, someone will have to survive seven rounds, as usual, and, in the case of all four semifinalists but especially McIlroy, at least a few close calls. He has played the most holes, 87, of any of the four remaining players – Burns 85, Scheffler 83, Young 81 – and continues to be on friendly terms with the par-4 18th.
McIlroy delivered the shot of the tournament when he drove the green at the last on Thursday. At the same hole Saturday afternoon, he and Schauffele each missed left off the tee, but McIlroy got the better bounce off a fan while Schauffele wound up behind a tree. McIlroy pitched to 12 feet past the pin, and he made the walk-off birdie putt.
“A lot of my matches have been really, really close,” he said, “so to be able to pull them out when I’ve needed to has been very gratifying. Yeah, maybe a higher sense of satisfaction when you get through on Sunday night and you’re able to win. I feel like it’s maybe just more of an achievement mentally to do it rather than just winning a four-round stroke-play event.”
Scheffler flipped his Round of 16 match, winning two of the last three holes to edge J.T. Poston, 1-up, then overcame an early 3-down deficit and beat Jason Day, 2 and 1, in the afternoon. Scheffler now gets a semifinal date with Burns, a close friend to whom he lost a sudden-death playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge last season.
“We have a lot of fun together,” Scheffler said. “Our wives are very close.”
Should Scheffler and McIlroy meet in the championship match, it would recall the TOUR Championship last summer, where McIlroy overcame a six-shot deficit in the final round to edge Scheffler and win his record third FedExCup title.
Scheffler is hard to beat on any course, but nearly invincible at Austin Country Club, where his record is 17-2-0 over the last three years. About the only thing that has gone wrong is his caddie, Ted Scott, falling on the fourth hole Friday and injuring his right ankle. Scott has been icing and receiving treatment but was still limping after carrying the bag for 35 holes Saturday.
“I’ll be OK,” he said.
Scheffler played for Texas and is the people’s choice here. Day shot out to an early 3-up lead with three birdies and an eagle in the first six holes, quieting the crowd, but his game tapered off as he struggled with allergies in the middle part of the round. If anyone other than McIlroy can beat Scheffler, it might be Burns, a 2-and-1 winner over Patrick Cantlay in the morning and the 3-and-2 victor over Mackenzie Hughes in the afternoon.
Young, who seems to be showing off for his new (veteran) caddie, Paul Tesori, has not only played the fewest holes of any of the semifinalists, but he’s also leading the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (13.571). He has racked up 31 birdies, four eagles, just three bogeys, and no double bogeys, and has seen the 18th hole just twice so far.
He seems to be having an easy time of it, but few would describe McIlroy as an easy opponent.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played competitively with him,” Young said, “but I’ve played a couple practice rounds, and he’s been great to me since I’ve been out here. I think obviously there are two different levels of names there kind of as far as fan familiarity, but I think I’ll be pretty comfortable, and I’m looking forward to getting to watch him play.”
So are we all – especially if he winds up going eye-to-eye with a certain Texas Longhorn on Sunday afternoon.
SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER ADVANCES
Scottie Scheffler (3-0-0) def. Tom Kim (1-2-0), 3 and 2
The world No. 1, current PLAYERS champion and defending WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play champion rolled through the group stage unblemished. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Kim needed a victory to get into a playoff with a chance to advance, and he came out guns blazing with birdies on the first two holes to take a 2-up lead. But Scheffler won three of the next four holes and took a lead that he’d never relinquish. Kim got a bad bounce on the par-4 13th when his ball ricocheted off the stands and into the water. Although he still tied the hole with a par, that’s a hole, at a crucial point of the match, that he easily could’ve won without the mishap. He later made bogey on the 15th to hand Scheffler the hole and a guaranteed tie at that point, which was all Scheffler needed to officially move on to the Round of 16.
Alex Noren (0-2-1) tied Davis Riley (1-1-1)
After mediocre play by both for the first two-thirds of the match, they both turned it on and started playing well down the stretch. The only problem was that by that point, Scottie Scheffler had already won his match over Tom Kim, meaning Riley had no shot to advance even with a victory. Noren was already eliminated. Still, Noren was 2-up with four holes remaining and Riley rattled off a birdie and an eagle to tie it all up. They tied the last two holes to end the match tied. Noren had a birdie putt from 13 feet on the last to win outright but it just slid left.
BILLY HORSCHEL ADVANCES
Billy Horschel (2-0-1) def. Jon Rahm (1-2-0), 5 and 4
Horschel entered Friday very much in control of this high-wattage group, and the Florida Gator chomped right along against the world’s second-ranked player, punching his ticket to the Round of 16. Horschel went 1-up with a winning par on the second hole and maintained a lead throughout, as Rahm struggled to find a rhythm and failed to record a single birdie on the day. Horschel made just one bogey – the par-5 sixth, which brought Rahm back within 1-down – but the spirited 36-year-old pulled away with winning birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, and a 21-foot birdie at the par-4 14th sealed the deal in emphatic fashion. Horschel will face Cameron Young on Saturday morning.
Rickie Fowler (2-1-0) def. Keith Mitchell (0-2-1), 1-up
This match ultimately proved of little consequence to the overall bracket, as Fowler needed help from Rahm that didn’t come, but it didn’t stop these two fun-loving pros from putting on a show for the Austin faithful that came down to the final hole, where Fowler got up-and-down with a 6-footer to match Mitchell’s par, tie the hole and win the match. Mitchell never led in the match but hung around to the final hole; a highlight came at the par-5 16th, when Fowler drained a winning 18-foot eagle and then playfully picked up Mitchell’s mark.
RORY MCILROY ADVANCES
Rory McIlroy (3-0-0) def. Keegan Bradley (1-1-1), 3 and 2
McIlroy electrified the golf world Thursday evening with a 375-yard drive to 3 feet at the finishing hole to secure a match win over Denny McCarthy, and the world No. 3 didn’t show any signs of a mental hangover in Friday’s face-off against a former Ryder Cup foe in Bradley. The Northern Irishman used birdies at Nos. 4 and 5 to build a 2-up advantage, and the New England native could draw no closer. McIlroy knew entering the day that winning this match would punch his ticket to the Round of 16, and he did just that, making birdie at No. 15 to build a 3-up advantage and closing the match by matching Bradley’s birdie at the par-5 16th. McIlroy proceeds to knockout play and will face Lucas Herbert on Saturday morning.
Scott Stallings (1-2-0) def. Denny McCarthy (0-2-1), 1-up
Both players had been eliminated from contention to advance prior to teeing it up Friday, but the duo put on a show regardless at Austin CC, particularly on the back nine. Stallings, who didn’t trail at any point in the match, matched McCarthy’s birdie at the par-5 12th to maintain a 2-up lead, and after McCarthy punched back with a winning birdie at No. 13, Stallings holed out for eagle from 129 yards at the par-4 14th to regain that 2-up edge. McCarthy drained a 7-foot birdie at the par-5 16th to win the hole, but after matching pars at the 17th, McCarthy’s wedge approach on 18 came up short in the greenside bunker, and he could not make the requisite birdie to win the hole and tie the match.
PATRICK CANTLAY ADVANCES
Patrick Cantlay (3-0-0) def. Brian Harman (2-1-0), 2 and 1
This time, a chance to win group play didn’t quite slip away for Cantlay. Harman’s feistiness was on full display, but it wasn’t enough to wrestle things away from Cantlay. Dodging danger when Harman missed putts at No. 15 (9 feet for birdie) and No. 16 (8 feet for eagle) that could have dramatically altered the match, Cantlay took command when he had the chance. He converted his 12-footer for birdie at 16 to apply pressure to Harman (who missed for eagle to remain 1-down), then he stuffed a wedge to 7 feet to birdie the 17th and seal his first win in group play in his fifth visit to this championship.
“We had three different weathers today,” said Cantlay. “It was windy and rainy. Then it was calm and perfect. Then it got windy and sunny.”
True, all of that. But there was just one level of play and it was terrific – spare for the bad bogey at the par-5 12th by Cantlay. It was match play, though, and only cost Cantlay one hole. He remained 1-up and matched Harman with birdies at the 13th and 16th to keep that lead. The missed birdie hurt Harman at 15, of course, but Cantlay didn’t make that same mistake at 17 and so he’ll move on to where he’s never been, despite playing nicely in this championship.
Nick Taylor (1-2-0) def. K.H. Lee (0-3-0), 3 and 2
Say this about the Canadian, his debut in this championship wasn’t hindered by power, but by lapses in precision at the wrong time. There were nine birdies in the first round; only three bogeys in the last 10 holes cost him against Patrick Cantlay. In a Thursday loss to Brian Harman, Taylor never really recovered from two bogeys and a double bogey on his front nine. But in the Friday finale, Taylor had it all working in an efficient thumping of another first-timer here. Both players had been eliminated, but Taylor at least left on a positive note with yet another fine offensive showing (six birdies in 16 holes, including four of the last five) and his tightest all-around effort (just one bogey).
MAX HOMA ADVANCES
Max Homa (3-0-0) def. Hideki Matsuyama (1-2-0), concession
Unable to compete Friday due to a neck injury, Matsuyama conceded his match to Homa, who entered the day unbeaten in group play and thereby advances to the Round of 16. Homa beat both Justin Suh and Kevin Kisner by 3-and-2 margins on the tournament’s first two days. Matsuyama beat Kisner, 1-up, on Wednesday but lost to Suh on Thursday. Matsuyama could have forced a playoff with Homa by defeating him in Friday’s match. “Yeah, I feel bad Hideki is hurt, obviously,” Homa said. “That stinks. It’s nice for me, bogey-free round, but yeah, it’s honestly pretty nice to get some rest and get ready for the weekend because it’s obviously quite a bit of golf. Would have rather played, but I’ll take it as a quasi-win.”
Kevin Kisner (1-2-0) def. Justin Suh (1-2-0), 2-up
Homa had already secured the group’s Round of 16 berth, but the Kisner-Suh duo battled it out to the final hole regardless. Kisner didn’t have his best stuff this week, but in the event’s farewell playing, it was fitting that the longtime Austin CC specialist bid adieu in style. With the match tied at the par-3 17th hole, Kisner drained a curling 28-foot birdie to win the hole, and when Suh couldn’t make birdie on 18, the spunky South Carolinian had authored one final match victory, improving his sterling WGC-Dell record to 23-9-1.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE ADVANCES
Xander Schauffele (3-0-0) def. Tom Hoge (0-3-0), 1-up
A topsy-turvy match that produced a little bit of everything saw Schauffele get the break of all breaks with two holes remaining. Hoge was 2-up after four holes, but then it went back and forth until the par-3 17th hole, where Hoge held a 1-up lead. Hoge hit his tee shot pin-high but it was a little left and his ball landed inside a red penalty area, although it was playable. Schauffele then stepped up and flew the green long and left; his ball took an enormous bounce off a rock that was inside a red penalty area. It flew high into the air, landed back in bounds behind the green and rolled toward the back of the green. Schauffele got up and down from there, Hoge did not from his position and they were tied heading to the home hole, where Schauffele converted a birdie from 13 feet to win and, surprisingly, advance to the Round of 16 for the first time in his career.
Cam Davis (2-1-0) def. Aaron Wise (1-2-0), 1-up
Both men entered the day at 1-1 and with a chance to advance out of the group stage, depending on how Xander Schauffele fared. It was a nervy match and neither played their best golf, which actually made for an entertaining match that was close the whole time. Davis birdied No. 13 to tie the match, where it would remain until the last hole, where the Australian drained a 12-footer for birdie to win. He only led after holes 1, 2 and 18. However, with four holes remaining, Schauffele had already defeated Tom Hoge to go undefeated and punch his ticket to the Round of 16, so both men played down the stretch knowing their weeks were over.
ANDREW PUTNAM ADVANCES
Andrew Putnam (3-0-0) def. Harris English (1-2-0), 4 and 3
With Ryan Fox waiting in the wings to see if his 2-1 mark would be enough for a playoff, Putnam shut the door on that scenario with a smooth performance against English, jumping out to a 3-up lead through five holes and not allowing the Georgia Bulldog to move closer than 2-down at any subsequent juncture. The Pepperdine alum Putnam made his hay around the turn with three consecutive birdies on Nos. 9-11, staving off English birdies on 9 and 10, and winning the par-3 11th with a 22-foot birdie to go 4-up. Putnam closed the match with a two-putt par at No. 15, as English made bogey.
Ryan Fox (2-1-0) def. Will Zalatoris (0-3-0), concession
Unable to compete Friday due to illness, Zalatoris conceded his match to the New Zealander Fox, who defeated Harris English in Wednesday’s opening round, 2 and 1, before falling to Andrew Putnam in Thursday’s second round, 2 and 1. Zalatoris had fallen to both English and Putnam. Fox, making his first Match Play appearance, remained in contention to advance to the Round of 16, awaiting the fate of the English-Putnam match; a victory by English would mean a three-way playoff. Putnam had a win-and-in scenario to advance.
MATT KUCHAR ADVANCES
Matt Kuchar (2-0-1) def. Si Woo Kim (2-1-0), 7 and 6
Want a stunning way to consider the breadth of Matt Kuchar’s elite level of golf? It was 25 years ago at the Masters when he finished T21 and easily was low amateur, his entrance to Augusta having been opened by the 1997 U.S. Amateur title. Want a stunning way to measure the way in which he has maintained his skills? How about this demolition of Si Woo Kim, who at 27 is 17 years younger? In sealing his group title and advancing to the Round of 16 for the ninth time in 12 appearances at the WGC-Dell Match Play, Kuchar played methodically solidly and kept building on his lead thanks to four consecutive bogeys by Kim (Nos. 5-8). Given that he has such a stellar record in this championship (Kuchar won in 2013 and at Austin CC has finished second in 2019 and third in 2021), the nine-time PGA TOUR winner knew he didn’t have to do anything extraordinary, but playing bogey-free with four birdies in 12 holes was quite a way to mark yet another forward march in a format he loves. Kuchar tied Tiger Woods for most match victories at the WGC-Dell (36) in the process.
Viktor Hovland (1-2-0) def. Chris Kirk (0-2-1), 4 and 3
When you own a U.S. Amateur trophy for match-play brilliance on a course as renowned as Pebble Beach, well, every failure in this format must sting. Chances are, Hovland might concede that he never recovered from the poor start against Matt Kuchar Wednesday and struggled to find any sort of rhythm. Hovland followed with a 3-and-1 loss to Si Woo Kim, meaning the Friday endeavor against Kirk was strictly for pride. On that note, consider it a positive day for the Norwegian as he played stress-free golf – four birdies, zero bogeys – and made fairly quick work of the American. While Kirk birdied the par-3 fourth for a 1-up lead, Hovland made his first birdie at the fifth, tying the match, then he went ahead for good when he won the seventh with a par. Kirk played his next eight holes in 3-under, Kirk was 1-over on that stretch, and it came to an end with matching par 4s at the 15th.
JASON DAY ADVANCES
Jason Day (3-0-0) def. Collin Morikawa (1-1-1), 4 and 3
One of Friday’s better matchups put a resurgent Day, a former world No. 1, against Morikawa, a two-time major champion and former world No. 2, competing to advance to the Round of 16. Day birdied three of his first four to move out to an early 2-up advantage. Morikawa stiffed an approach to 3 feet at the fifth (1-down), but he missed from 4 feet at No. 6 to tie the match. Day’s bonus 58-footer for birdie at the 10th forced Morikawa to make from 10 feet to stay 2-down. Day’s ball-striking was sharp. He won the par-3 11th with an approach to 6 feet and went 4-up with another birdie at 12, where Morikawa pitched across the green, into water, with his third. Day won the Match Play in 2016, but this is his first time advancing through his group since then. He improved his record to 26-16-0 overall.
Victor Perez (1-2-0) def. Adam Svensson (0-2-1), 5 and 4
Both players came in winless in their opening two matches and with no shot at advancing, and Perez was the guy off to a hot start. Four birdies in his first seven holes helped to build a 4-up lead over Svensson, a first-time TOUR winner last fall at The RSM Classic. Svensson made a couple of birdies early in the back nine to cut the deficit to 3-up, but Perez would answer with birdies at 13 (11 feet) and 14 (5 feet) to close out the match. Behind them, the Collin Morikawa-Jason Day match would decide who would move on from the group.
KURT KITAYAMA ADVANCES
PLAYOFF: Kurt Kitayama def. Adrian Meronk (second extra hole), Tony Finau (first extra hole)
Kurt Kitayama’s third-day, 4-and-3 victory over Tony Finau resulted in a three-way playoff (Kitayama, Finau, Adrian Meronk) to decide who would advance from the group. Finau drove it into the left fairway bunker at the first playoff hole (No. 1), and hit his second long of the green, into tall grass, leading to a double bogey that eliminated him. Meronk hit a great drive but poor wedge, leaving 28 feet; he made a 5-foot par putt to stay in the playoff. Kitayama had a 19-footer for birdie, but barely missed left. He and Meronk moved on to another hole, the par-4 second, where Kitayama rolled in a 21-footer for birdie. Meronk was closer, but his putt drifted left, and Kitayama, who earned his first TOUR victory earlier this month (Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard), advances to face Andrew Putnam on Saturday.
Kurt Kitayama (2-1-0) def. Tony Finau, (2-1-0)
At 2-0-0, Finau controlled his own fate, advancing with a win. But Kitayama jumped out fast, leading 3-up through four holes. He birdied Nos. 2 and 3 and won the fourth with a par. Finau made six birdies in each of his first two matches, but he struggled to make them on Friday. Kitayama rolled in a 20-foot birdie at the par-3 11th to push his lead to 4-up, and a 14-foot birdie at 15 secured the match, leaving Kitayama, Finau and Adrian Meronk headed for a playoff to decide a pool winner.
Adrian Meronk (2-1-0) def. Christiaan Bezuidenhout (0-3-0), 5 and 4
Meronk parlayed three birdies with two late bogeys by Bezuidenhout on the front nine to construct a 5-up lead through eight holes. Meronk was steady, making five birdies in his first 12 holes, and had the match in hand throughout. The victory earned Meronk a spot in a three-way playoff alongside Tony Finau and Kurt Kitayama. Bezuidenhout, who played nicely last fall in his two matches at the Presidents Cup, finished his week without a win.
J.J. SPAUN ADVANCES
J.J. Spaun (3-0-0) def. Min Woo Lee (1-2-0), 2 and 1
Spaun was one of the bigger surprises in group play, sweeping his three matches to advance. Seeded 61st, he needed only a tie against Lee to get through, but it was a tough match. A short birdie putt at 14 by Spaun sent the match to the 15th tee tied. Spaun then hit a nice approach below the hole at 15 and made the birdie to take a lead. At 16, the par-5, Spaun hit a beautiful approach but missed his 13-footer for eagle. He finished in style. Needing two putts to assure a match tie at 17, he made a 15-foot left-to-righter for birdie, ending the match with his fourth consecutive birdie. This week marked the first time Spaun has competed at the WGC-Dell Match Play. Lee went 1-1-1 a year ago.
Sahith Theegala (1-2-0) def. Matt Fitzpatrick (1-2-0), 2 and 1
Fitzpatrick, last summer’s U.S. Open champion, needed to win to have any chance of advancing, but he went 1-down after hitting his tee ball into the water at the short 14th. Theegala struggled throughout his first two matches, but he fought hard Friday, making four consecutive birdies starting at the 11th. Theegala came up big at the 527-yard 16th, where he ripped a long iron from 251 yards that landed softly and rolled to 4 feet to set up eagle. Fitzpatrick made birdie but slipped to 2-down. Fitzpatrick had a 14-footer to extend the match at 17, but he missed.
MACKENZIE HUGHES ADVANCES
PLAYOFF: Mackenzie Hughes def. Taylor Montgomery on first extra hole
After forcing a sudden-death playoff in convincing fashion, Hughes wasted no time in punching his ticket to the Round of 16, taking advantage of Montgomery’s pop-up drive at the par-4 first hole in overtime. The Canadian thumped a drive to flip-wedge distance, with the subequent approach to 5 feet. Montgomery’s third shot from behind the green skitted into a front greenside bunker, and when his fourth shot came up short, the group was conceded.
Mackenzie Hughes (2-1-0) def. Taylor Montgomery (2-1-0), 6 and 4
Montgomery had cruised to a perfect record the past two days and, while it’s not a surprise that he lost – because Hughes also has a chance to advance to the Round of 16 – the margin of the defeat is a surprise. Perhaps Montgomery, a PGA TOUR rookie, simply ran out of gas, as he made two bogeys and one lone birdie all day. While Hughes made two bogeys, he also made six birdies in just 14 holes. Oddly, Hughes was only 2-up after nine holes, but the match quickly got out of hand when he won the next three straight holes and four of the next five. The consolation? Both men now head into a playoff to determine who advances. Shane Lowry was already eliminated and Jordan Spieth needed an outright victory over Lowry to join them, which did not happen.
Shane Lowry (1-2-0) def. Jordan Spieth (1-2-0), 2 and 1
Hand it to Lowry, he had absolutely nothing to play for, other than pride, and he came out and took down Spieth, preventing him from advancing out of the group stage. Now, Spieth didn’t exactly put up a fight early either as he was 2 over par after nine holes and 5-down. It’s almost as if it wasn’t until then that he realized he needed to step it up, which he did. Spieth won Nos. 11, 12 and 13 to snatch momentum and feel like an epic comeback was possible, but holes 14 and 16 were tied with birdies and when Spieth found himself 2-down with two holes remaining, he officially was eliminated from advancing, which he has only done once in the last six years.
SAM BURNS ADVANCES
Sam Burns (3-0-0) def. Seamus Power (1-2-0), 2-up
When you have a great friend (Scottie Scheffler) who is doing wondrous things at the biggest tournaments, you don’t want to miss your opportunity to prove that you’re quite capable in your own right. Standing toe-to-toe with a very formidable foe (these lads combined for 11 birdies and made just one bogey each), Burns punched his way into the Round of 16 with an emphatic finish at Austin CC’s closing three holes. Locked in a tie and knowing Power had about a 5-footer for birdie at the par-5 16th, Burns made his 12-footer to remain deadlocked. He then made a 27-footer at the par-3 17th to go 1-up and finished things in style with another birdie at 18, this time from 6 feet. Power had used his explosiveness to birdie Nos. 5-6-7, but on this day, that was trumped by birdies at 16-17-18. Still, Burns cited the 13-footer he made for par to tie the eighth and stay just 1-down as the turning point, coupled with winning the ninth to square things.
“Other than one hole (a bogey at the par-3 11th that gave Power the lead), I felt like I didn’t really give him anything,” said Burns. “Other than that, I feel like I kept myself in it.”
Adam Hadwin (1-2-0) def. Adam Scott (1-2-0), 3 and 2
There are those times when you can never lead until you win the 18th hole of your match. Scott’s first-day triumph over Seamus Power is an example of that. But you cannot expect to make a steady recipe of that, as Scott discovered in his second-day loss to Sam Burns (who won the 18thto take the match, 1-up) and this third-day contest with the Canadian. Across three days and a total of 52 holes, Scott led for just one hole. Losing the first hole to Hadwin’s birdie, Scott fell 3-down and Hadwin went birdie, birdie at the fifth and sixth. Scott made his first birdies at 12 and 13, only they were matched each time by Hadwin. The Canadian’s lone win of the championship was sealed when he took the 15th with a par and matched Scott’s birdie at 16 to account for the final.
LUCAS HERBERT ADVANCES
Lucas Herbert (3-0-0) def. Ben Griffin (1-2-0), 3 and 1
Funny game, this golf. Two weeks ago, Lucas Herbert of Australia was slamming his trunk in Ponte Vedra Beach after shooting 82-85 at THE PLAYERS, and this season he has one finish inside the top 50. But he found something in Austin, sailing to a 3-0 record to sweep his group. In his first eight holes against Griffin, Herbert birdied half of them, moving on top, 4-up. Griffin did not go easily. With birdies at 9 and 12, Griffin cut the deficit in half, and the two staged a nice show on the way in. Griffin cut the lead to 1-down with his fourth straight birdie, converting a 9-footer at 15. But a 20-foot curling putt for eagle at 16 (2-up) ensured that Herbert would do no worse than a tie, and would be advancing to Saturday, where he will face Rory McIlroy. Herbert ended in style with a birdie at 17.
Russell Henley (2-1-0) def. Tyrrell Hatton (0-3-0), 3 and 2
Henley, one of eight Georgia Bulldogs in the starting field, played like a bulldog against Hatton. He trailed through six holes, but he slowly got things turned around and steadily kept increasing his lead once he got it. Henley hit approaches to 6 feet and 5 feet, respectively, at 14 and 15 to stretch his lead to 3-up. He would birdie his final three holes, in fact, winning on the 16th green. Hatton, who had played well in the Florida Swing, finished up a tough week with a record of 0-3. Henley kept his hopes alive before Lucas Herbert (2-0-0 into the day) made a curling eagle putt on 16 to win the hole in his match against Ben Griffin, securing a tied match at worst and hence winning the group.
CAMERON YOUNG ADVANCES
Cameron Young (3-0-0) def. Sepp Straka (0-3-0), 5 and 3
This match was as lopsided as it appears. Young put the finishing touches on a perfect week so far and advances out of the group stage after going 1-2 last year in his maiden Match Play appearance. On Friday he opened with four consecutive birdies and was 4-up in a flash. The lead was extended to 5-up after 11 and then when Straka couldn’t made birdie on 15 he conceded the hole and the match was over. Straka was winless on the week and is now 1-5 in the event over the last two years. Young made six birdies in 15 holes and has now collected 18 birdies in the three days along with two eagles. He’s quietly playing as well as anyone in Austin and now will face match-play maestro Billy Horschel.
Corey Conners (2-1-0) def. Davis Thompson (1-2-0), 2 and 1
The penultimate match remaining on the course Friday, and when Cameron Young won his match ahead a few holes earlier, Conners and Thompson knew they were not moving on to the weekend in Austin. Thompson was 4-down after five holes and made bogey on five of his first nine holes. He made two birdies and an eagle in a five-hole stretch late, but he had dug too deep of a hole to overcome. Conners only recorded four birdies and two bogeys, and somehow the match made it to the 17th hole even though it was not nearly as close as the result indicates.
J.T. POSTON ADVANCES
J.T. Poston (3-0-0) def. Maverick McNealy (0-2-1), 3 and 1
Ah, yes, through comfortable leads or dogged comebacks, the Postman surely is in delivery mode. Having put himself in position to control his own destiny with wins of contrasting degrees (never trailing in Round 1, needing to rally in Round 2), Poston finished undefeated in group play by throwing a crisp, bogey-free round with five birdies at McNealy. The 17th is as good a place to start with Poston’s surprising story this week, because not only is that where he stuffed a wedge to 7 feet to birdie and clinch against McNealy, but it is also where a stunning hiccup occurred Thursday to provide Poston with a chance to beat Sungjae Im. Poston had trailed against Im since the second hole when his rally kicked into high gear – a birdie at 15 to get within one, a birdie at 16 to tie, and Im’s three-putt bogey put Poston in the lead for the first time. By polishing off Im at the 18th, then taking care of business against McNealy, the unheralded kid from Hickory, North Carolina, and Western Carolina University was moving on.
Sungjae Im (2-1-0) def. Tommy Fleetwood (0-2-1), 4 and 3
Whatever hope he had for looking ahead was soured every time Im looked behind. The leader of his group, J.T. Poston, was taking care of business against Maverick McNealy, so Im’s hopes of a possible playoff faded with every hole. Yet the young man from South Korea went about things against Fleetwood in a manner that defines his personality – determinedly. Staked to a 2-up lead on a pair of early bogeys by Fleetwood, Im heated up with three birdies and led by 3-up at the turn. Im would maintain his comfortable lead, but unfortunately for him, so, too, would Poston.
Scottie Scheffler (1) def. Alex Noren (38), 5 and 4
The defending champion lost the first hole but nothing more in a rout of Noren on a windy afternoon on Lake Austin. Scheffler (2-0-0) made strings of three consecutive birdies on the front nine and four on the back to keep very much alive his hopes to win the final WGC-Dell Match Play. Scheffler drove the green on the downwind par-4 fifth hole and holed clutch putts on the sixth and seventh. He made the turn 1-up, birdied the par-4 10th and nearly aced on the 11th, which Noren conceded. A two-putt birdie on the par-5 12th and an old-fashioned two-shot birdie on the tempting, 312-yard par-4 13th essentially gave Noren little to no chance to catch the top-ranked player in the world. The match ended on the 14th with two pars.
Player records: Scheffler (2-0-0); Noren (0-2-0)
Davis Riley (54) def. Tom Kim (17), 1-up
Riley lost a 3-up advantage with four holes to play but survived to finish two rounds 1-1-0. With two birdies, a lone bogey and an eagle, Riley endured a late rally from Kim, who birdied the 15th and 16th to close the margin to one hole. The two then made pars on the 17th and 18th to end the match. Kim (1-1-0) played the third, fourth and fifth holes at a cumulative 4-over, then made five birdies coming in. One of those lost a hole, when Riley eagled the par-5 12th. It was, in the end, the most consequential hole of the afternoon for Riley, who needed every bit of that 3-up lead.
Player records: Riley (1-1-0); Kim (1-1-0)
Jon Rahm (2) def. Keith Mitchell, 4 and 3
Rahm did not appear sharp in his opening-match loss to Rickie Fowler, but Thursday he showed the form that carried him to three TOUR victories already in 2023. Starting at the par-4 ninth, Rahm, 1-up at the time, went birdie-par-birdie-eagle-birdie on his way to a 5-up lead through 13 holes. At the par-5 12th, he blistered a tee shot that traveled 400 yards down the right side of the hole, leaving 178 yards in, and hit his approach to 14 feet. Needing a response to his poor performance on Wednesday, Rahm provided it. He faces Billy Horschel on Friday.
Player records: Rahm (1-1-0); Mitchell (0-1-1)
Billy Horschel (22) def. Rickie Fowler (49), 3 and 2
This match between 2007 U.S. Walker Cup teammates came down to who made the fewest mistakes, and that gave Horschel a big edge. Fowler battled back from 3-down early on the back nine to cut Horschel’s advantage to 1-up through 14 – Fowler eagled 12 and birdied 13 – but he could not keep the pressure on late, handing away the 15th and 16th holes with bogeys. Horschel, the 2021 WGC-Dell Match Play champion, was steady, and he can advance from the group with a win against world No. 2 Jon Rahm on Friday.
Player records: Horschel (1-0-1); Fowler (1-1-0)
Rory McIlroy (3) def. Denny McCarthy (48), 2-up
It can take magic to defeat McIlroy in this type of setting. McCarthy did his best – making three birdies and an eagle in his first six holes, staking a 3-up lead – but no lead is safe against the world’s third-ranked player, which McIlroy proved down the stretch on a late Texas afternoon. McIlroy won three of the next four holes to tie the match, and things remained tied with three holes to play – not even a stuffed wedge to 3 feet on No. 15 was enough for McCarthy to gain an edge, as McIlroy did the exact same, leading to a good-good situation. McIlroy won the par-5 16th with two dynamite shots to 18 feet for a routine birdie, and after a pair of two-putt pars at No. 17, the Northern Irishman uncorked a shot befitting of his budding legacy at the 375-yard, par-4 finishing hole, launching his tee shot with 349 yards of carry, on a direct line toward the flag. The ball released and settled within 4 feet of the hole. McCarthy could not hole his short wedge for eagle, and the match was conceded. Just Rory doing Rory things. “Got a hundred yards up the fairway, and Smylie (Kaufman) was out commentating on the group, and he said, ‘Dude, you just flew it on the green,’” McIlroy said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ It was a great swing, and it was a great time to do it.” To say the least.
Player records:McIlroy (2-0-0); McCarthy (0-1-1)
Patrick Cantlay (4) def. K.H. Lee (35), 4 and 2
You’ll excuse Cantlay for being subdued and hardly celebrating the fact that he’s made 13 birdies and an eagle across 34 holes of competition the last two days at Austin Country Club. OK, it translates into 13-under and signifies that he’s very much on his game. But Cantlay does subdued very well and when it comes to Austin CC there’s good reason. In four previous trips to this match-play competition, Cantlay has not made it out of group play. Twice his 2-1 record got him into a playoff that he lost. At least he knows there’ll be no playoff this year; the winner of his match Friday against Brian Harman, also 2-0, will advance. There’s some history here, because Cantlay beat Harman in group play in 2021 only to lose a playoff to the feisty left-hander. To set up that 2-0 vs. 2-0 battle, Cantlay had to shake off Lee, which was a struggle early. But from tied through seven, Cantlay played his next nine holes in five birdies, an eagle, and three rock-solid pars to arrive at the sort of match play that he enjoys. None of that round-robin stuff for him; Cantlay professes a passion for the knockout stuff.
Player records: Cantlay (2-0-0); K.H. Lee (0-2-0)
Brian Harman (25) def. Nick Taylor (55), 3 and 2
You might not throw his name in there alongside Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner or Billy Horschel as one of those who seems to thrive and ignite the crowd in this match-play format at Austin Country Club, but Harman seems to have a spunk to him that surfaces whenever he comes here. Having shaken off Taylor, even after a mental lapse or two, Harman is now in a situation where his head-to-head match Friday with Patrick Cantlay will present him the chance to advance out of group play for the third time in four starts here. But after a day in which he made six birdies and a clinching eagle (at the 16th) against a bogey and double bogey, Harman seemed hard-pressed to explain how he’s in such a position. “I haven’t been striking the ball well at all,” said the gutty left-hander. “It’s been really frustrating.” He’ll have a chance against Patrick Cantlay to continue to rid himself of that frustration.
Player records:Harman (2-0-0); Taylor (0-2-0)
Max Homa (5) def. Kevin Kisner (42), 3 and 2
The past partners at the Presidents Cup and QBE Shootout were foes on this day. Kisner is the match-play maestro, a three-time finalist in this event (winner in 2019, runner-up in 2018 and last year), but few have played better in 2023 than Homa, winner of the Farmers Insurance Open and No. 2 in the FedExCup. This match was tight until Homa closed things out with a late birdie run. Neither player led by more than 1-up in the first 10 holes, and things were tied after Kisner’s bogey at No. 11. Homa then birdied four of the next five holes for a 3-and-2 win.
Player records: Homa (2-0-0); Kisner (0-2-0)
Justin Suh (63) def. Hideki Matsuyama (18), 3 and 1
Suh was competing on the Korn Ferry Tour this time last year. On Thursday, he took down a major champion in his first WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Suh never trailed, winning the first hole after Matsuyama made bogey on No. 1. Matsuyama tied the match with a birdie on the next hole, but Suh won Nos. 4 and 5 to go 2-up. He returned to 2-up with a birdie on 15. The match ended on 17 after Matsuyama made another bogey, his fourth of the day. Suh had two birdies and one bogey.
Player records: Suh (1-1-0); Matsuyama (1-1-0)
Xander Schauffele (6) def. Aaron Wise (40), 2 and 1
Golf is forever a difficult game to figure out. Things that appear to fit seamlessly sometimes have not proven to be that way. Schauffele making four trips to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play without making it out of group play is the perfect example. Schauffele shrugs, but he can’t explain it either, though he appreciates that his game is viewed as well-suited for match play.
In effectively controlling his match against Wise (he led from the fifth hole on), Schauffele has put together two quality days to put himself in the driver’s seat. (He beat Cam Davis, 4 and 3, in the opening round.) Scheduled to play Tom Hoge in Friday’s third round, Schauffele knows that he needs a win to avoid the dreaded 2-1 record that brings a playoff into the picture. “Just go 3-0,” said Schauffele.
In beating Wise, Schauffele used a pair of explosive bursts – birdies at Nos. 4, 5 and 6, then quick ones at 9, 11 and 12. A sloppy bogey at the 14th by Schauffele enabled Wise to get within one hole, but the match was essentially ended at the 16th with his seventh birdie of the match.
Player records:Schauffele (2-0-0); Wise (1-1-0)
Cam Davis (64) def. Tom Hoge (23), 3 and 1
Though he’s young and still finding his way through the PGA TOUR world, Davis has a firm grip on one thing, for sure. “Keeping the bogeys off the card and plenty of birdies on it is always a good way to go in this format,” said the Aussie. “It’s nice to see that.”
Not that it was a start-to-finish masterpiece or anything, because it wasn’t. Davis’ early birdies at the fifth and sixth holes were matched by Hoge. It wasn’t until the seventh – and on the gift of a Hoge bogey – that Davis seized his first lead in a match he desperately needed to win given his opening loss to Xander Schauffele.
Hoge did scratch back to tie the game at the par-4 eighth, but from the 10th hole onward, Davis was immense. He made four birdies over his last eight holes to breathe some life into his changes to win group play. He’ll need a Friday win over Aaron Wise, then hope that Hoge upsets Schauffele. It would create a tie between 2-1 records and Davis would relish the chance to go up against Schauffele again in a playoff.
Player records:Davis (1-1-1); Hoge (0-2-0)
Harris English (37) def. Will Zalatoris (7), 5 and 3
True, there are times when defense is needed in golf. But English discovered that this round-robin, sprint-to-the-finish WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play isn’t one of those times. “(I was) trying to be the aggressor,” said English after dismissing Zalatoris in very tidy fashion. Having scolded himself for playing too cautiously in Wednesday’s loss to Ryan Fox, English jumped on Zalatoris with a birdie at the first hole and never took his foot off the pedal. By the eighth hole, he had made four birdies to assume a 3-up lead.
Clearly, Zalatoris continues to search for the consistency that made him a force in 2021-22 and while English maintained his domination with five birdies in 15 bogey-free holes, he acknowledged “that Will wasn’t feeling his best today and didn’t have his best stuff today.” There was no way, however, that English was going to ease up. That would constitute a defensive mindset, and that’s been tossed out the window. “There are a lot of birdies that can be had out here,” said English, who made five of the six that were made in the match.
Player records: English (1-1-0); Zalatoris (0-2-0)
Andrew Putnam (56) def. Ryan Fox (29), 2 and 1
There’s no arguing with Putnam’s assessment that “you knew pars weren’t going to win; you had to make birdies.” The problem is, Fox would likely concede that one can’t make birdies if one doesn’t convert chances when the putter is in hand.
“He hit some great shots and didn’t capitalize,” acknowledged Putnam.
Unfortunately for the powerfully built Fox, the hiccups came late and changed the complexion of a match he seemed to be in control of. He had a 1-up lead standing on the 13th tee. That is where Fox delivered thunderous heroics Wednesday, a drive to 6 feet for eagle on the 308-yard hole, but he would miss a 10-footer for birdie on this day and the wayward birdie tries would continue at 15 (from 4 feet), 16 (10 feet) and 17 (15 feet).
Putnam, on the other hand, converted birdie tries at 15 and 17 to remain undefeated in group play.
Player records:Putnam (2-0-0); Fox (1-1-0)
Si Woo Kim (34) def. Viktor Hovland (8), 4 and 3
Kim, who rolled over Chris Kirk in his opening match, played a flawless match against Viktor Hovland, the No. 9 player in the world. Through 14 holes, Kim built a 4-up lead, making five birdies and not making a single bogey. Hovland, the group’s top-seeded player, started slowly and could not climb out of the hole Kim put him in with his steady play. When Hovland missed an 8-footer for birdie at 15, the match was over. Kim takes on 2013 WGC-Dell Match Play champion Matt Kuchar on Friday. Hovland is eliminated from contention to advance.
Player records: Kim (2-0-0); Hovland (0-2-0)
Matt Kuchar (58) tied Chris Kirk (28)
This was Georgia Tech vs. Georgia in a match of two veteran players getting their games back on track. Kuchar, at 44 the oldest player in the field, tied the match with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 12th (Kirk missed birdie from 7 feet.) It still was tied at 16, where Kirk took a lash at his third shot from tall grass and sent a shot over the green and out-of-bounds, losing the hole. It was Kuchar’s first lead. Kirk stuffed his tee shot at 17 but missed from 6 feet. At 18, both players hit approaches in tight. Kirk made from 7 feet, Kuchar missed from 5 feet. Tie. Kuchar was seeking his 36th victory at the Match Play, which would tie Tiger Woods’ all-time mark. Kuchar has to beat Si Woo Kim to advance.
Player records: Kuchar (1-0-1); Kirk (0-1-1)
Collin Morikawa (9) tied Adam Svensson (44)
Fans who picked up this match early in the back nine were privy to plenty of fireworks. After the match stood tied at the turn, Svensson made four consecutive birdies on Nos. 10-13, only to secure a 1-up advantage in the process. After Svensson’s winning birdie on 10, the two-time major winner Morikawa tied the par-3 11th with a 12-foot birdie, then holed out from 38 yards for eagle at the par-5 12th to essentially steal the hole – Svensson faced just 21 feet for eagle but could not convert. The Canadian drained a 16-foot birdie to win the 13th, but Morikawa had kept within striking distance, which came in crucial when he won the short par-4 18th with an up-and-down birdie to secure a tie. Morikawa remains alive and well into Friday’s decisive match against Jason Day.
Player records:Morikawa (1-0-1); Svensson (0-1-1)
Jason Day (32) def. Victor Perez (51), 2 and 1
Recent buzz, both statistically and anecdotally, suggests Day is recapturing some of the form that brought him atop the Official World Golf Ranking in the mid-2010s. Day’s early play Thursday was uneven – he surrendered a 2-up advantage with consecutive bogeys on 7 and 8 – but his finishing stretch indicated those aforementioned signs of sky-high potential. After Perez won the par-5 12th with a chip-in eagle to go 1-up, Day answered with back-to-back winning birdies at 13 and 14. Day drained an 11-foot birdie to win the par-5 16th, and a routine two-putt par at the par-3 17th sufficed to tie the hole and close the match. Day controls his destiny into Friday’s group finale against Collin Morikawa, where the Aussie can advance to the Round of 16 with a win or tie.
Player records:Day (2-0-0); Perez (0-2-0)
Tony Finau (10) def. Adrian Meronk (45), 4 and 3
Finau is a dangerous player in match play, which he showed on Thursday against first-timer Meronk. Finau was 1-up standing on the ninth tee, then reeled off five consecutive birdies. Included was a nice up-and-down from standing on a railroad tie at the 13th to go 3-up, and he added his seventh birdie of the day to end the match at 15. In four previous WGC-Dell Match Play starts, Finau never has made it out of his pool. He can advance with a win over Kurt Kitayama on Friday.
Player records: Finau (2-0-0); Meronk (1-1-0)
Kurt Kitayama (19) def. Christiaan Bezuidenhout (60), 2 and 1
Kitayama, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard champion, bounced back nicely from an opening loss by pulling away late against Bezuidenhout. Kitayama was 1-down as the match went to the par-4 13th, then rode back-to-back birdies to a 1-up lead and won the 15th when his opponent made bogey. Both players birdied the par-5 16th, and when Bezuidenhout failed to birdie 17 (he missed the green), Kitayama had two putts for the win.
Player records:Kitayama (1-1-0); Bezuidenhout (0-2-0)
J.J. Spaun (61) def. Sahith Theegala (26), 5 and 4
Theegala got off to a rough start, making bogeys at three of his first four holes, and Spaun took full advantage, winning three holes with pars. Spaun birdied Nos. 5 and 6 (Theegala matched him at 6) and was 4-up. When he knocked in a 17-footer at No. 10, Spaun had three birdies in the round and was 6-up. Theegala won 11 and 12, but Spaun put another birdie on him at 13 to return to 5-up. Spaun will face Min Woo Lee on Friday.
Player records: Spaun (2-0-0); Theegala (0-2-0)
Matt Fitzpatrick (11) def. Min Woo Lee (41), 2-up
This match pitted the reigning U.S. Open champion against the brother of the U.S. Women’s Open champion (Minjee Lee). Fitzpatrick has been trying to get something going in his game, and he finally started to see some putts go down, making five birdies over his first 13 holes to go 1-up. Lee missed a 10-footer for par at 15, and Fitzpatrick doubled his lead. Fitzpatrick made a clutch 17-foot birdie putt at 17 to match Lee and stay 2-up. Fitzpatrick then walked in a 16-foot birdie putt at 17 (his seventh birdie) for the win he needed.
Player records: Fitzpatrick (1-1-0); Lee (1-1-0)
Mackenzie Hughes (50) def. Shane Lowry (21), 4 and 3
There’s a good chance Hughes wasn’t thinking, “Hey, if I’m 2-up without making a birdie, imagine what will happen when I do start scoring?” But if he was, he would have discovered the answer early and emphatically. Staked to an early advantage on a pair of Lowry bogeys, Hughes put a bearhug on the proceedings when he went birdie-eagle-birdie at Nos. 5-6-7. From 5-up through seven, he would never be threatened, but to toss down an exclamation point, Hughes made three birdies on six back-nine holes to keep alive his chances to advance in group play. In Friday’s match, Hughes will take on Taylor Montgomery, who at 2-0 is leading Group 12. Lowry, who played just 28 holes in two losses, is eliminated.
Player records:Hughes (1-1-0); Lowry (0-2-0)
Taylor Montgomery (47) def. Jordan Spieth (12), 2 and 1
Fans loved it. But Montgomery fully expected it. “Jordan doing Jordan things,” laughed the PGA TOUR rookie about yet another highlight-reel Spieth escape. Long and right and mingling with rocks and trees at the par-3 seventh, Spieth merely ran a pitch some 30 feet past the hole, then ran his par-save dead center. “I knew it was coming,” shrugged Montgomery, who remained 1-down. Wild as that was, however, it was what no one saw coming that stole the spotlight in this match – Montgomery winning the 13th and 14th holes on Spieth bogeys, then the 15th with a 90-yard wedge stuffed to 4 feet for birdie. From 1-down to 2-up, it was enough for the unheralded 28-year-old to put himself in a position of control. Should he beat Mackenzie Hughes in Friday’s match, Montgomery will advance to the Round of 16.
Player records: Montgomery (2-0-0); Spieth (1-1-0)
Sam Burns (13) def. Adam Scott (33), 1-up
The two unbeatens from Group 13 had a scrappy day in the wind at times, which made for an odd, but close, match. In one five-hole stretch on the first nine, Burns made two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. He actually won the eighth hole with a bogey when Scott made double bogey. Scott was level par and tied going to 12; Burns went 1-up at 13, where he had a short look for birdie and Scott bladed a chip. Scott tied the match with an approach to 17 inches at the par-4 15th. The match was tied at 18, where Scott drove it left into a penalty area. He made bogey, leaving Burns two putts from 22 feet to move to 2-0.
Player records: Burns (2-0-0); Scott (1-1-0)
Seamus Power (30) def. Adam Hadwin (53), 1-up
Power, who lost a tough opening match to Adam Scott, pulled out the victory over Hadwin with birdies on two of his last three holes. This was a tight match throughout, with neither player ever enjoying anything bigger than a 1-up lead. In fact, Hadwin was 1-up as late as the 16th tee. But he made bogey on the par-5 16th (Power birdied), and both players had good birdie looks at the short 18th. Hadwin missed from 11 feet (similar to a putt he missed at 17), and Power earned the win when he converted his 4-footer for birdie. Power plays Sam Burns (2-0-0) on Friday.
Player records: Power (1-1-0); Hadwin (0-2-0)
Russell Henley (31) def. Ben Griffin (62), 5 and 4
As much as one can carry momentum from a match-play loss, Henley might have felt some into Thursday at Austin CC; the University of Georgia alum was 5-down to Lucas Herbert at the turn Wednesday but took the match to the 18th hole. Henley started steady in his match against the former mortgage loan officer Griffin – five straight pars, good for a 1-up advantage – and turned it up with six birdies in his next eight holes. Some were crafty, like a long iron to 11 feet for a winning birdie at the par-3 seventh to go 2-up, and others flashy like an 85-yard wedge to 15 inches at the par-4 13th to put him 5-up. Griffin did make three birdies on the day, but Henley’s tenacity was too much – it likely would have been for most anyone. Both remain in contention to advance to the Round of 16.
Player records: Henley (1-1-0); Griffin (1-1-0)
Lucas Herbert (46) def. Tyrrell Hatton (14), 2 and 1
Hatton played steady with three birdies against a bogey – and he didn’t trail until the 16th hole – but Herbert hung around and took advantage in crunch time to maintain control of his destiny into the final day of group play. Hatton was 1-up to the par-5 12th hole, but Australia’s Herbert uncorked a 412-yard drive, leading to a 166-yard approach to 9 feet and subsequent winning eagle to bring the match tied. The match remained tied to the par-5 16th, which Herbert won with a 6-foot birdie, and he closed the deal with a 5-foot birdie at the par-3 17th after Hatton couldn’t convert from 22 feet. The Englishman is eliminated from contention to advance.
Player records: Herbert (2-0-0); Hatton (0-2-0)
Davis Thompson (57) def. Sepp Straka (27), 4 and 3
Thompson played well in his Match Play debut Wednesday; he just drew the red-hot Cameron Young, who began their match with nine straight 3s en route to victory. In a Thursday matchup of Georgia alums, Thompson rallied from back-to-back opening bogeys – he was 2-down through four holes – with bogey-free golf the rest of the way. Thompson won holes 5, 7, 9 and 13 with pars, in addition to a winning birdie on hole 6, and he closed the match with a 6-foot birdie at the par-4 15th. The TOUR rookie stays alive into Friday, while Straka is eliminated from contention to advance to the Round of 16.
Player records: Thompson (1-1-0); Straka (0-2-0)
Cameron Young (15) def. Corey Conners (36), 1-up
Conners knew he’d have his hands full after Young’s prodigious showing in Wednesday’s match, making nine straight 3s en route to victory over Davis Thompson. The Canadian fared admirably with six birdies against one bogey Thursday, but in the end, the Demon Deacon’s firepower proved just enough to eke out victory on the final hole. The match was defined by symmetry throughout – fourteen of the first 15 holes were tied, the only exception being Conners’ winning birdie at the par-3 seventh. Standing 1-down on the par-5 16th, though, Young turned up the heat. He lasered a 252-yard approach from the left rough to 17 feet, then drained the eagle from the fringe as Conners faced 8 feet for birdie. Young made a winning 12-foot birdie at the par-3 17th, ultimately the deciding advantage as No. 18 was tied with pars. Young and Conners both remain alive into Friday; Young holds pole position in the group.
Player records: Young (2-0-0); Conners (1-1-0)
J.T. Poston (43) def. Sungjae Im (16), 1-up
Proving to be a competitor with a diversified gameplan for this match-play business, Poston might be the most unheralded name in position to march through group play. But few will match him for maintaining composure when the heart gets racing. One day after leading the entire way in his win over Tommy Fleetwood, Poston never had the edge against Im until the 17th hole. How he held onto it at the 18th hole, however, says a lot about this quiet man nicknamed “The Postman.” Without question, he delivered at the final green, first giving a nod to Im that his second shot to about a foot-and-a-half was a conceded birdie, then staring down a 7-footer of his own that he subsequently jammed into the back of the hole for a clutch birdie to nail down his win. “Tried not to get too ahead of myself or worry too much about what he’s doing,” said Poston of his strategy when he found himself 3-down through 12. Birdies at 13, 15 and 16 got him tied, and Im’s sloppy three-putt bogey put “The Postman” in delivery mode. He could deliver himself into the Round of 16 with a win Friday over Maverick McNealy.
Player records: Poston (2-0-0); Im (1-1-0)
Tommy Fleetwood (24) tied Maverick McNealy (58)
How can you lose when you tie? When in a unique round-robin match-play format, Fleetwood slams home a 12-footer from behind the hole to make birdie and tie his match against McNealy. Odds were enormously long, mind you, but had Fleetwood missed, McNealy would have won and been in position to beat J.T. Poston on Friday to get into a playoff to win group play. Fleetwood’s clutch putt, however, meant that he and McNealy were both 0-1-1 and eliminated. Likely, though, neither of these competitors could have felt to close to being in the hunt, given their Wednesdays. Fleetwood never had the lead in his loss to Poston; McNealy got trounced, 8 and 6, by Im. This match mirrored some of their woes – McNealy made two double bogeys, Fleetwood didn’t make a birdie till the 11th. They still delivered late drama, though, as McNealy birdied 15 and eagled 16 to go 1-up, then Fleetwood drew the curtain down with a gut-check birdie. Even eliminated, it had to feel good.
Player records:Fleetwood (0-1-1); McNealy (0-1-1)
Scottie Scheffler (1) def. Davis Riley (54), 1-up
As Wednesday afternoon turned to evening in Austin, the eyes of Texas turned to the defending WGC-Dell Match Play champion, current world No. 1 and alum of nearby University of Texas. Scheffler faced a 13-foot birdie at the last to defeat the second-year TOUR pro Riley, who interestingly fell to Scheffler in the final match of the 2013 U.S. Junior in California. As he often does, Scheffler delivered, his putt catching the edge of the hole and falling into the cup, much to the crowd’s delight. “I’m going to remember that putt on the last hole and take that energy with me tomorrow,” Scheffler said, having secured a full point on an eclectic day that included two eagles and a double bogey. Scheffler jumped 3-up with a 53-foot eagle at the par-4 fifth; Riley won two of the next four holes to give himself a fighting chance. But the local hero delivered at the final bell.
Player records: Scheffler (1-0-0); Riley (0-1-0)
Tom Kim (17) def. Alex Noren (38), 2 and 1
The Tom Kim train’s latest stop is Texas, and its conductor kept things on the tracks Wednesday, as the 20-year-old rising star made six birdies to withstand the steady Swede’s best efforts. The match was tied after Noren’s winning birdie at the par-5 12th; Kim then took command with three birdies in a four-hole stretch, two of which were hole-winners. Noren needed a 22-foot birdie at the par-3 17th to push the match to the final hole but it didn’t drop; Kim two-putted from 11 feet to take the match. Kim has already earned two TOUR titles before his 21st birthday, and his game has been regarded as an intriguing match for Austin CC. So far, so good.
Player records:Kim (1-0-0); Noren (0-1-0)
Rickie Fowler (49) def. Jon Rahm (2), 2 and 1
Upset special. Rahm was 2-up through eight holes, but Fowler, in the Match Play for the first time since 2016, hung in there. He would win three holes (Nos. 8, 11, 15) with pars to take control. Fowler was 1-up on the 15th, and he appeared to have missed a key opportunity when his 5-footer for birdie lipped out. But Rahm reciprocated with a short miss for par, and Fowler was 2-up. Fowler tied Rahm at 16 with a 7-footer for birdie, and when the two made pars at 17, victory belonged to Fowler.
Player records: Fowler (1-0-0); Rahm (0-1-0)
Billy Horschel (22) tied Keith Mitchell (39)
Trailing 2-down with only five holes left in his match against former WGC-Dell Match Play champion Billy Horschel, Keith Mitchell found three birdies, including one at the final hole, to pull off a hard-earned tie in his opening match. Mitchell, top-20 in birdie average and a tough out in Group 2, birdied the 12th, 14th, 16th and 18th holes. At the last hole, Mitchell hit a beautiful pitch over the front bunker to inside 3 feet (conceded birdie). Horschel, who was 3-up after 11 holes, drove it right at 18 and hit his second to 30 feet, but he was unable to convert the putt to win. Horschel played steadily (no bogeys) but managed only one birdie on the back nine, which kept Mitchell in it.
Player records: Horschel (0-0-1); Mitchell (0-0-1)
Rory McIlroy (3) def. Scott Stallings (52), 3 and 1
Armed with a shortened driver and new putter to put to the test, McIlroy mostly cruised. He birdied the fifth and sixth holes to build a nice cushion, going 3-up. Stallings wasn’t able to put much pressure on the world No. 3, making only one birdie in his opening 12 holes. McIlroy did not play in the event a year ago, but he has not advanced to the Round of 16 since 2016, and he had lost three of his last four opening matches. McIlroy won the Match Play in 2015.
Player records: McIlroy (1-0-0); Stallings (0-1-0)
Denny McCarthy (48) tied Keegan Bradley (52)
The record books will show a tie, but this had to feel like a victory for Bradley, who in 10 matches at Austin CC has yet to celebrate a win. McCarthy was 4-up through 10 holes when Bradley, who had taken every one of his previous nine matches to the 18th hole, went to work. Bradley birdied 15, eagled 16 and birdied the 18 to salvage a tie. Overall, Bradley is now 0-3-7 at Austin CC; his last match victory in this event came in the opening round in 2012 at Dove Mountain. McCarthy was 4-up through 10 and could have run away, but his opening birdie at 1 was his lone birdie of the match.
Player records: Bradley (0-0-1); McCarthy (0-0-1)
Brian Harman (29) def. K.H. Lee (36), 3 and 1
If he came to Austin CC to “find his game,” as Harman stated, he surely didn’t discover it at the opening hole. At least not when he missed the green from 89 yards and used two shots just to get it out of the rough and, well, he never truly finished the hole. “Bone-headed bogey,” he muttered. The good thing is, he apparently heard what he told himself and used it as motivation. How solidly did he respond? How about six birdies over the next 12 holes, by which time he was 3-up on the 31-year-old South Korean. Curiously, even though he’s made it out of group play in two of his three visits to this championship, it’s the first time Harman has won an opening match. Lee did nothing to lose – he had one bogey against four birdies – but Harman’s eight birdies provided plenty of strength.
Player records: Harman (1-0-0); Lee (0-1-0)
Patrick Cantlay (4) def. Nick Taylor (61)
That a guy who was bogey-free and 6 under had to make a 12-foot birdie putt to win his match on the 18th hole should tell you what sort of exhilarating game this was. Just understand that Cantlay isn’t the sort to express exhilaration. “Not that big,” answered Cantlay, when asked how big his birdie putt was at the 18th. “I mean, there are three matches (in group play).” He correctly pointed out that he’s yet to make it out of group play in four trips to this championship, but there was no denying Cantlay on this day, try as Taylor did. Five times these two tied holes with birdies, but the only three bogeys in the match (Nos. 9, 11, 15) belonged to the Canadian and on each occasion added to a Cantlay lead. With Taylor having a 3-footer for birdie at 18, Cantlay knew he had to make his 12-footer to tie the hole and maintain his 1-up lead. He did, too, his seventh birdie of the match.
Player records: Cantlay (1-0-0); Taylor (0-1-0)
Max Homa (5) def. Justin Suh (63), 3 and 2
Homa didn’t say whether he prefers match play to stroke play, but he did admit Wednesday that it’s easier to focus on just one man instead of 150-some others. This match got off to a bizarre start when Homa won the first hole with a bogey. After he bogeyed the third hole himself the match was tied, where it remained for nine consecutive holes, eight of which were tied with pars. Homa made his first birdie on the par-5 12th to move 1-up and then won the 15th hole with only par. A birdie on the 16th ended the match. Suh only made one birdie all day and still lasted until the 16th hole. It was a missed opportunity for him, playing in his first Match Play.
Player records:Homa (1-0-0); Suh (0-1-0)
Hideki Matsuyama (18) def. Kevin Kisner (42), 1-up
According to seeds, a Matsuyama victory is not an upset. But when you consider Kisner was 22-7-1 in his career in this championship, won in 2019 and was a finalist last year – losing to Scottie Scheffler – the Matsuyama win was, at the least, mildly surprising. Neither man played extremely well, leaving doors open for the other to take advantage. After it was over, eight holes were tied and Matsuyama was 1-up in the other 10, including each of the last five. Kisner will have to beat Max Homa on Day 2 to avoid going 0-2, which would mean no chance of advancing out of the group stage.
Player records: Matsuyama (1-0-0); Kisner (0-1-0)
Xander Schauffele (6) def. Cam Davis (64), 4 and 3
Davis was 3-down after seven holes and was 2 under par, having made an eagle on the par-4 fifth hole. Problem for the Aussie was that Schauffele made five birdies in the first seven holes to nearly put the match out of reach. After another birdie on the ninth, Schauffele was 4-up, leaving Davis to just try to extend the match as long as he could. Schauffele hit an approach inside 3 feet on the 15th hole to end it after making eight birdies on the day. It’s a solid start for the man who, surprisingly, has not advanced out of the group stage the past two years. “I played really solid,” Schauffele said. “I think I had one bad swing all day.”
Player records: Schauffele (1-0-0); Davis (0-1-0)
Aaron Wise (40) def. Tom Hoge (23), 1-up
A tightly contested match for the first half, but Wise birdied the 10th hole to get to 3-up. Hoge was 2-down with two holes remaining and birdied 17 to get to the final hole but Wise, who only hit three of 14 fairways on the day, made birdie from 16 feet to win. Hoge is still looking for his first victory in the Match Play, going 0-2-1 last year. This is Wise’s second appearance after going 1-2-0 in 2019, losing to Tiger Woods and Patrick Cantlay in quite the star-studded group.
Player records:Wise (1-0-0); Hoge (0-1-0)
Andrew Putnam (56) def. Will Zalatoris (26), 3 and 2
Nothing about the way in which he birdied Nos. 12 and 13 to hang tied in his match – on a day when he was already 3 under, thank you very much – prepared you for the manner in which Zalatoris squandered any chance to win. He pulled a drive into the water at the par-4 14th, then at the par-5 16thhe hit a second shot into high grass right and a third long and out-of-bounds. Sandwiched around Putnam’s 3-foot birdie putt to win the 15th, those two concessions capped a discouraging start for the world’s eighth-ranked player and a surprising victory for the unheralded 34-year-old making just his second appearance in this World Golf Championship. Never was anyone more than 1-up in this match – at least not until Zalatoris went wild, in a bad way.
Player records: Putnam (1-0-0); Zalatoris (0-1-0)
Ryan Fox (36) def. Harris English (33), 2 and 1
There’s a certain sense of satisfaction that comes when you demonstrate that you truly are as advertised. For Fox, that means you can flaunt the power on command. The burly New Zealander, still a bit of a novelty to American fans, never hesitated when he walked to the tee at the par-4 13th. He was 2-up, having birdied No. 12, but playing safe wasn’t in the equation. “I can hit driver hard and kind of know I’ve got everything covered,” said the hard-hitting Fox, flustered not one bit by the 308 yards to the flagstick, most of it water. He covered it handsomely and when he slipped in a 6-footer for eagle to go 3-up, he was firmly in control. Not a bad debut appearance for the New Zealander.
Player records: Fox (1-0-0); English (0-1-0)
Si Woo Kim (34) def. Chris Kirk (28), 4 and 3
In a matchup of two TOUR winners this season – Kim at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Kirk at The Honda Classic – it was the 27-year-old South Korean who started fast and steadily pulled away. Kim won Nos. 1 and 4 with birdies to go 2-up; that margin remained the same as the match reached No. 12. From there, Kim made his statement with a tap-in birdie followed by a chip-in eagle from 68 feet at the short par-4 13th hole; he won both holes. Two holes later, with Kirk in tight for birdie, Kim stuffed his approach to 8 feet and drained the birdie to close the match.
Player records: Kim (1-0-0); Kirk (0-1-0)
Matt Kuchar (59) def. Viktor Hovland (8), 3 and 1
Kuchar took a roller-coaster journey to his opening-match victory in Austin, as the nine-time TOUR winner assumed a 3-up lead through four holes, surrendered that margin to bring things tied with eight holes to play, then closed with four birdies in seven holes to secure one of the day’s more notable upsets by seed. Kuchar, though, has established himself as a lifelong force at the Match Play – he is fresh off a second and third in his last two starts at Austin CC; he also won in 2013 at Dove Mountain. “There are plenty of guys that have done it and done it well in their 40s,” said Kuchar, 44. “Now we’ve got Tom Brady to look up to and aspire to be like … so it’s doable.”
Player records: Kuchar (1-0-0); Hovland (0-1-0)
Jason Day (32) def. Adam Svensson (44), 4 and 2
Day continues his upward trend. Sure, this format is different than anything else they play on the PGA TOUR but the Aussie, who did not play here last year, has recorded five top-10 finishes in his last six events and is playing some of the best golf he’s played over the last five years. Wednesday was no different as the two-time Match Play champion (2014, 2016) made eight birdies, including six consecutive (Nos. 11-16) late in the match to overpower Svensson in his first Match Play appearance. The match was actually tied after 12 holes, but Day won the next four straight to close it out. He has now collected a career 24-16-0 record in this championship.
Player records: Day (1-0-0); Svensson (0-1-0)
Collin Morikawa (9) def. Victor Perez (51), 2 and 1
One of the stranger matches if you just purely look at the scorecard. First, don’t sleep on Perez. He played here only once, in 2021, but he advanced out of the group stage and ultimately lost to Billy Horschel in the semifinals. On Wednesday, the Frenchman made three birdies and three bogeys and somehow lasted until the 17th hole against Morikawa, who made six birdies. In fact, Perez was 2 over par after nine holes with two bogeys and was only down 1. He bogeyed No. 10 to go down 2, then birdied 13 to get one back, but Morikawa birdied 14 to go 2-up. This is Morikawa’s third trip to the Match Play and he’s now 3-3-2 overall. Last year he advanced out of his group but got smoked, 7 and 6, against Abraham Ancer in the Round of 16.
Player records:Morikawa (1-0-0); Perez (0-1-0)
Tony Finau (10) def. Christiaan Bezuidenhout (60), 2 and 1
A match between two men who have not fared as well in this championship as one might think. Finau has never advanced out of the group stage in four previous attempts and Bezuidenhout hasn’t won a match the last two years, going 0-5-1. Unfortunately for Bezuidenhout, he still remains without a victory, as Finau made five birdies in a six-hole stretch to take a 3-up lead after seven holes. Bezuidenhout whittled it down to 1 after 13, but Finau then won the next two holes, via consecutive Bezuidenhout bogeys, and the lead was insurmountable.
Player records: Finau (1-0-0); Bezuidenhout (0-1-0)
Adrian Meronk (45) def. Kurt Kitayama (19), 2 and 1
One of the better early matches on Day 1, between two Match Play rookies, that went under the radar. None of the first three holes were tied yet Meronk was 2-up after the fifth hole. Kitayama made three birdies in a five-hole stretch (Nos. 9-13) to tie the match but Meronk birdied Nos. 15, 16 and 17 to close it out on the 17th hole, making seven total birdies on the day. Kitayama made five birdies and a lone bogey in his first match, but the closing stretch by Meronk proved too strong.
Player records:Meronk (1-0-0); Kitayama (0-1-0)
J.J. Spaun (61) def. Matt Fitzpatrick (11), 5 and 3
The first match of the day also was the earliest to finish, as Spaun thumped the reigning U.S. Open champion. Spaun took control with birdies on 12 (13 feet) and 13 (chip-in) to go 2-up, then holed a wedge from 107 yards for eagle at the 309-yard 14th. Spaun made five birdies and an eagle in 15 holes. He also made a key par save at No. 10 after Fitzpatrick had cut a 3-up deficit to 1-down. Spaun said he had not played match play since college; Fitzpatrick never has advanced from pool play (this is his seventh WGC-Dell Match Play start).
Player records:Spaun (1-0-0); Fitzpatrick (0-1-0)
Min Woo Lee (41) def. Sahith Theegala (26), 1-up
Australia’s Lee was 1 down with two holes to play, then finished birdie-birdie to defeat Theegala, who is making his Match Play debut. Lee, who played deep into Sunday at the recent PLAYERS Championship (T6), rolled in a 12-footer at 17 to tie the match, then won with a sand-save birdie at the 18th hole, where his uphill blast from the front bunker finished 3 feet from the hole. Theegala missed his 17-foot putt for birdie, leaving the stage for Lee. Lee finished 1-1-1 at Austin Country Club a year ago.
Player records: Lee (1-0-0); Theegala (0-1-0)
Jordan Spieth (12) def. Mackenzie Hughes (50), 4 and 3
For a guy whose sloppy finishes of late had squandered chances to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and Valspar Championship, Spieth conceded he was a bit embarrassed by the way in which he dispatched Hughes. “I kind of apologized for the way it ended,” said Spieth after pulling off what is arguably his most uncanny skill – holing a 29-yard shot from a funky uphill lie in thick grass short of the 15th green. The birdie put an exclamation point on an adventurous back-nine stretch as Spieth won the par-4 11th with par, lost the par-5 12th with a sloppy bogey, then striped his drive to 8 feet at the 308-yard 13th to make eagle and go 3-up. Hughes handed Spieth the 14th when he missed the green with his approach and left his third shot in gnarly rough, then the kid who played his collegiate golf nearby at the University of Texas showed the Canadian yet another example of remarkable magic.
Player records: Spieth (1-0-0); Hughes (0-1-0)
Taylor Montgomery (47) def. Shane Lowry (21), 2 and 1
Kurt Kitayama isn’t the only surprise on the PGA TOUR in 2022-23. His former teammate at UNLV, Montgomery, is scripting a newcomer’s chapter of note, too. Part of the reason, perhaps, is being undaunted by the size of the arena and for proof, consider that the 28-year-old didn’t even know that he and Lowry tied each of the last 10 holes of their match. “So, it was more like a pillow fight,” chuckled Montgomery, who birdied four of five holes to get 2-up through seven. That is when the string of tied holes started, but don’t think Montgomery’s “pillow fight” answer suggests it’s been a soft season. On the contrary, with a third-place finish and three other top-10s, he’s gaining traction and opening eyes. So opening with a win here was yet further proof he belongs.
Player records: Montgomery (1-0-0); Lowry (0-1-0)
Sam Burns (13) def. Adam Hadwin (53), 3 and 2
Having picked up momentum by shooting 67 and surging into the top 10 at Valspar on Sunday, Burns stayed on a roll, pulling away late to capture his opening match. After giving away the par-3 11th with a bogey to fall 1-down, Burns then reeled off three consecutive birdies to go on top, 2-up. He added to the lead when Hadwin bogeyed 15, and the match ended when the players traded birdies at the par-5 16th. Burns made from 19 feet at 12, drove the par-4 13th (two-putt birdie) and poured in an 18-footer at 14.
Player records: Burns (1-0-0); Hadwin (0-1-0)
Adam Scott (33) def. Seamus Power (30), 1-up
A close match throughout, Scott stayed close but never did lead in the match – until he walked off the 18th green a winner. Power had the advantage on the final green, looking at an 11-foot putt for birdie. Scott’s approach carried longer than expected, and he had 26 feet down the hill, a difficult putt. Classic match play. Scott made his putt, Power’s putt stayed out on the left side, and the victory belonged to Scott. He played in his first Match Play in 2002, and he improved his record to 18-17-2.
Player records: Scott (1-0-0), Power (0-1-0) 1-0)
Ben Griffin (62) def. Tyrrell Hatton (14), 3 and 1
A newcomer onto the WGC-Dell Match Play scene, Griffin wasted no time in making his presence felt around Austin CC, as the former mortgage loan officer made three consecutive birdies early (Nos. 4-6) to build a 2-up lead on the veteran Englishman. Hatton won the short par-4 13th hole after Griffin’s tee shot found the water, moving within 1-down, but Griffin regained his 2-up edge with a 9-foot birdie at No. 15. The North Carolina native stuck his tee shot to 4 feet at the par-3 17th, and after Hatton’s birdie putt didn’t drop, the match was conceded.
Player records: Griffin (1-0-0); Hatton (0-1-0)
Lucas Herbert (46) def. Russell Henley (31), 1-up
Herbert stormed out to a 5-up advantage through nine holes Wednesday, on the strength of five birdies. The golf world, though, knows to never count out Henley, and the Georgia Bulldog responded with six birdies on the back nine, including a 17-footer at the par-3 17th to extend the match as Herbert also made birdie from 3 feet. Herbert had 20 feet for birdie at No. 18 to tie the match, but he couldn’t get it to drop. The Australian gets on the board early, as he pursues a spot in the Round of 16 after falling shy last year in his Match Play debut.
Player records: Herbert (1-0-0); Henley (0-1-0)
Corey Conners (36) def. Sepp Straka (27), 6 and 5
Steady golf was the name of the game for the veteran Canadian, who played bogey-free for 13 holes Wednesday and added five birdies, plenty enough to dispatch of the Austrian. Conners quickly built a 3-up lead with three birdies in his first four holes; after Straka cut into the deficit with a birdie at the fifth, Conners responded with a winning birdie at the next hole and didn’t allow the Georgia alum to pull any closer. Conners closed the match with a winning par at the short par-4 13th, as Straka missed his 5-foot par try.
Cameron Young (15) def. Davis Thompson (57), 3 and 2
Young has taken the golf world by storm since earning his first TOUR card in 2021, demonstrating a generational blend of strength and precision off the tee. The Wake Forest alum proved Wednesday that his game suits Austin CC’s shot-making demands as well, making six birdies and an eagle across the first nine holes and jumping to a 5-up lead at the turn – even with Thompson making three birdies against just one bogey in that span. The Georgia alum didn’t surrender without a fight, making two birdies and an eagle across Nos. 12-15, winning three of four holes to move within 2-down. Young didn’t miss a beat, though, two-putting for birdie at the par-5 16th to close out the match.
Player records: Young (1-0-0); Thompson (0-1-0)
Sungjae Im (16) def. Maverick McNealy (49), 8 and 6
Need a way to measure the level of this romp? Consider that Im didn’t make his first birdie until the sixth hole – and that put him 5-up. Looking for a way to further confirm that sometimes golf is simply inexplicable? Only a year ago, McNealy was on the good side of an 8-and-6 triumph in the opening round. Crazy game, even crazier set of circumstances in this match as Im had a double bogey (No. 8) and only two birdies, yet he made the turn 5-up. When McNealy bogeyed both the 10th and 11th and Im made just his third birdie, at the par-5 12th, the thrashing was officially in the books.
Player records: Im (1-0-0); McNealy (0-1-0)
J.T. Poston (48) def. Tommy Fleetwood (17), 3 and 2
It’s not as if Poston should be asked for his credentials when big tournaments such as this WGC at Austin CC are held. After all, it was only two years ago when Billy Horschel took down Scottie Scheffler and walked away with the top prize here. Quite a week for Horschel, who won $1.82 million and only lost once in seven matches. The man who beat him? None other than Poston, by 4 and 2 in the second game of group play. The man who took Horschel to the 19th hole in the quarterfinals that year? Fleetwood. So if you connect the dots and digest Poston’s methodical dismantling of Fleetwood – he was 2-up through five and never lost his grip – one would have to say some respect is owed. Yet Poston is quite OK with staying humble. “If I can just give myself a putt, I feel like I’m always in it,” he said after playing his last 13 holes in a bogey-free 4 under to pull the upset. “I’m just trying to hit fairways and greens and let the putter get hot.”
Player records: Poston (1-0-0); Fleetwood (0-1-0)