Stunning closing eagle lifts Rory McIlroy to victory over Denny McCarthy in WGC Match Play

World number three bashed drive onto par 4 in one shot, leaving himself a four-foot eagle putt

Rory McIlroy follows his shot from the 17th tee during day two of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club. Photograph: Tom Pennington/Getty

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy eagled the 18th hole to earn a 2-up win over Denny McCarthy in the second round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play on Thursday in Austin, Texas.

With McIlroy 1-up in the Group 3 match through 17 holes at Austin Country Club, he bashed a drive on to the green on the par-4, 375-yard closing hole, leaving himself a four-foot eagle putt. McCarthy couldn’t keep up, as his 59-yard approach shot landed seven feet from the hole, giving him a birdie that wasn’t enough.

“I certainly didn't expect to fly it on the green,” McIlroy said. “It's almost one of those, when it's that far much downwind, it's almost like I could have hit a 3-wood to get the down slope to get the skid. I was imagining the driver was going to land into the upslope and sort of stay 10, 20 yards short. But as I said, I didn't imagine I could fly it on the green.”

The result left McIlroy with a 2-0 record heading into the final day of group play on Friday.

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McIlroy logged five birdies, the one eagle and no bogeys on Thursday. He rallied after McCarthy held a 3-up lead following an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole.

“It wasn’t easy out there,” said McIlroy, who is seeded third in the event. “It’s windy and blustery and tricky. It was good. I’m really proud of myself that I hung in there after being three down early and clawing it back and producing the shots that I did over the last few holes to ultimately get the job done.”

Earlier that day, having lost his opening-round match to Taylor Montgomery, Shane Lowry went into his match against Mackenzie Hughes needing a win to keep any hopes alive. It was not to be. Lowry was outplayed by the Canadian to the extent that it was all over on the 15th green, as Hughes claimed a comfortable 4&3 win.

While Lowry exited ahead of planned, Séamus Power fought the good fight to keep his hopes of escaping the group alive. Power – who lost on the 18th hole to Adam Scott in his first-round match – enjoyed a ding-dong battle with Canada’s Adam Hadwin before making a great up and down on the 18th for a birdie to win by one hole.

Also improving to 2-0 through two rounds were top-seeded Scottie Scheffler in Group 1, Patrick Cantlay and Brian Harman in Group 4, Max Homa in Group 5, Xander Schauffele in Group 6, Andrew Putnam in Group 7, Si Woo Kim of South Korea in Group 8, Jason Day of Australia in Group 9, Tony Finau in Group 10, J.J. Spaun in Group 11, Taylor Montgomery in Group 12, Sam Burns in Group 13, Lucas Herbert of Australia in Group 14, Cameron Young in Group 15 and JT Poston in Group 16.

The group winners advance to the single-elimination Round of 16.

World number one Scheffler cruised to a 5&4 victory over Sweden’s Alex Noren, with the American winning three consecutive holes on the front nine and four in a row on the back nine.

Cantlay registered a 4&2 win over South Korea’s KH Lee, sealing the result with an eagle on the par-5 16th hole.

Collin Morikawa halved his match with Adam Svensson of Canada by birdieing the 18th hole. Morikawa has a 1-0-1 mark in Group 9, leaving him in second place behind Day.

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