March 24, 2017: Søren Kjeldsen secured his place in the knockout phase and eliminated 2015 champion Rory McIlroy in the process after earning an impressive second victory of the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.
The Dane – who defeated the World Number Two in the Group 2 opener – only needed a half to advance to the last 16 but maintained his momentum with a dominant 4 and 3 win over Emiliano Grillo.
McIlroy was powerless to prevent Kjeldsen from advancing after he had the day off following the withdrawal of Gary Woodland for family reasons and with the 40 year old set to take a point from the American on Friday, the Northern Irishman needed a win from Grillo to remain in the hunt.
The match started in McIlroy’s favour as Grillo raced into a two up lead after a birdie at the first and a Kjeldsen bogey at the second before he rectified that by going birdie-birdie at the third and fourth to level the scores back up.
The duo traded birdies at the next two holes before Kjeldsen sank a 33-foot putt at the tenth to go in front for the first time in the round. There was no holding back at that point, with successive gains at the 11th and 12th to go three up before Grillo found water at the 13th to nudge him even further ahead.
Despite a bogey at the 14th, the World Number 68 sealed his place in the next round with a birdie at the 15th and has the luxury of a rest day before Saturday’s last 16 match.
“Right now, I’m very pleased to make it through,” Kjeldsen said. “Obviously I was in a very, very, very tough group and I got through that. I’m happy with that.”
Garcia raced into a four up lead after four holes despite not hitting a birdie after some out of sorts iron play from Chappell played into the Spaniard’s hands.
“Obviously I was in a very, very, very tough group and I got through that. I’m happy with that” – Søren Kjeldsen
Bogeys from Garcia at the seventh and eighth reduced the arrears to two up but the American gave a hole back with a blemish of his own at the ninth to put the World Number Ten in control.
Chappell closed the gap back to two at the 12th with a birdie but Garcia replied with successive gains on the 13th and 14th to restore a four up lead and see off the victory.
“It wasn’t easy. It was so gusty, the wind was blowing so hard,” Garcia said. “Normally you need to hit a good putt, but you have to get lucky with catching the gust at the right time. I felt like I played really well today.
“That’s what I wanted at the beginning of the week, for both of us on Friday to play to get through so at least one of us Spaniards goes through. I am excited.”
In the other Group 7 tie, Rahm maintained his 100 per cent record in this year’s tournament with a 2 and 1 success over Shane Lowry.
Rahm edged in front at the fourth when Lowry hit a ragged tee-shot but he levelled on the sixth after a bogey from the Spaniard before the 22 year old redeemed his one up lead at the seventh.
The scores returned to all square after Rahm hit a wayward iron off the course before a monster 436-yard drive on the 12th helped the World Number 25 regain a slight advantage.
Rahm conceded the next to level the scores but Lowry bogeyed at the 15th to restore his opponent’s lead before Rahm sank his first birdie of the round at the par five 16th following a crushing 250-yard second shot reached the green to seal successive wins.
“We really want to play each other. We wish it was in the final. But we’re going to pretend like it’s a final,” Rahm said.
“We’re both very excited. Mathematically whoever wins tomorrow is going to go through. I think that is good thing for us that at least we will have the showdown tomorrow.”
Tyrrell Hatton gave himself a great chance of reaching the knockout phase after edging past Jeunghun Wang with a two up win in his Group 10 match-up.
Opening bogeys at the first two holes from Hatton put Wang two up and despite a blemish of his own at the third, the South Korean regained the two-hole advantage with a first birdie at the fourth.
A dropped shot for Wang at the sixth followed by bogeys at the seventh and eighth handed Hatton the lead for the first time before the World Number 14 extended the gap with his first birdie on the ninth before the 21 year old pulled a shot back with a gain on the 12th.
A birdie at the 13th restored Hatton’s two up lead and although he dropped the 15th, the Englishman sealed back-to-back wins with a birdie at the last, needing just half a point in the final group match against Rafa Cabrera Bello to advance to the last 16.
“I’m not used to playing match play now as a professional. It’s tough, because you’re playing the best guys in the world. I’m just happy to get the win. It’s just one of those days you’ve just got to grind it out”, said Hatton.
Cabrera Bello could not support his first day win over Wang as Charles Howell III beat the World Number 26 by a two up margin in the other Group 10 contest.
In Group 15, it was not a good day for the European Tour Members as Branden Grace fell to a 2 and 1 defeat at the hands of William McGirt, while Andy Sullivan was eliminated after Brandt Snedeker won 2 and 1.
European Tour Release