March 30, 2019: Francesco Molinari will take on 2018 Ryder Cup team-mate Paul Casey in the last 16 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play following another wonderful day for European Tour members in Austin.
Molinari, who registered a perfect 5-0 record during last year’s victorious European Team at Le Golf National, extended his match play winning run to eight matches following a 2&1 victory over Webb Simpson in their final Group Seven contest.
After coasting past Satoshi Kodaira and Ryder Cup team-mate Thorbjørn Olesen in the first two days, the Italian only needed to halve his match with Simpson to advance to the last 16 at Austin Country Club.
And Molinari led after every hole, except the 12th when the American pulled back to all square, before he stamped his authority by winning the 13th, 14th and 16th holes to maintain his 100 per cent record.
Casey fell behind at the opening hole of his Group Ten finale with Cameron Smith, but moved into the lead at the third and did not look back as he cruised to a 4&3 victory to earn a blockbuster clash with the Italian.
Justin Rose added his name to the last 16 match ups after overcoming Gary Woodland in a 1up win in their final Group Two encounter.
Rose had his fate in his own hands, knowing he had to beat his American opponent who won his first two pool matches to secure his passage to the knockout stages, but found himself one behind after six holes.
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The World Number Two moved in front by the eighth after two pars proved enough, before Woodland birdied the ninth to make it all square. Another par moved the Englishman back in front and he improved to 2up at the 13th with a birdie.
Woodland cut the gap to one with a gain of his own at the 15th, before Rose rolled in a crucial birdie at the 16th, marked by a fist pump from the 2013 U.S. Open Champion, before holding onto victory to set up a clash with Kevin Na on Saturday.
Speaking after his win, Rose said: “That was a dogfight today. Actually, it was a pillow fight that turned into a bit of a dogfight a little towards the end. Gary played beautifully, especially off the tee.
“He kind of let me stay in the match early, I felt I could have easily been two or three down through six or seven holes and I was somehow all square with him. I think he will look back at that part of the match and rue that. I made the key putts when I needed too.”
Li Haotong booked his place in the knockout stages after seeing off Swede Alex Noren in a Group Three play-off.
Li only needed a halve with Tom Lewis in his final pool match to progress to the last 16 but he missed a birdie putt from seven foot for just that on the last as the Englishman snatched a 1up win, with Noren forcing a sudden-death play-off following a 3&2 triumph over Brooks Koepka.
However, the Chinese golfer dialled in his approach to three feet for victory and secure a last 16 clash with Kevin Kisner, who was taken to a third extra hole by Ian Poulter in their Group 14 play-off.
Henrik Stenson and Lucas Bjerregaard will meet in an all-European last 16 clash after Swede Stenson recorded a comfortable 5&4 victory over Jim Furyk in their winner-takes-all clash and Dane Bjerregaard won 1up against Matt Wallace early on day three.
Louis Oosthuizen reached the knockout stages for the fourth time in five years following a fine performance against Tommy Fleetwood in Group 11.
Fleetwood looked set for a place in Saturday’s last 16 when he moved into a 2up lead after five holes but the South African hit back in emphatic style to win seven of the next eight holes, courtesy of six birdies and an eagle at the 12th to close out a brilliant 4&3 victory for Oosthuizen, who faces Australia’s Marc Leishman in the last 16.
Speaking of his clash with Leishman, Oosthuizen said: “That will be a good match. Marc is playing some good golf. I know it will be a good match. We’re good mates, so it’s always tougher when you play someone that you really like.”
Branden Grace maintained his 100 per cent record with a 2&1 win against Chez Reavie to top Group One. The South African will face Spain’s Sergio Garcia on Saturday.
England’s Tyrrell Hatton will take on Matt Kuchar in the knockout stages after he beat countryman Lee Westwood 3&1 and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello produced a late comeback to overcome Xander Schauffele in the pool’s other game.
Rory McIlroy has a round of 16 date with 14 time Major Champion Tiger Woods after they topped their groups.