Justin Thomas remains on course to take world number one slot

American needs to win Match Play to take over on top from Dustin Johnson

America’s Justin Thomas  chips on to the  12th green  during his round of 16 match against South Korea’s Si Woo Kim at the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club. Photograph: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

America’s Justin Thomas chips on to the 12th green during his round of 16 match against South Korea’s Si Woo Kim at the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club. Photograph: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

 

Justin Thomas remains on course to become world number one as he coasted past Si Woo Kim to move into the quarter-finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin.

The American needs to win the tournament to replace Dustin Johnson at the top of the world rankings.

Number two seed Thomas followed on from his 7&5 demolition of Francesco Molinari in the round-robin matches to record an equally impressive 6&5 victory over South Korean Kim in Saturday’s last-16 showdown.

Thomas quickly went two up after winning both the second and third holes, while Kim’s hopes were all but ended as he fell five down at the turn.

Kim sank a birdie on the par-three 11th, only for Thomas to match it before taking the next hole and then closing out victory with a half at the 13th.

Thomas will be back out at the Austin Country Club later on Saturday to meet Kyle Stanley for a place in the semi-finals.

American Stanley had earlier pulled off a 3&1 win over Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion.

Elsewhere, Ian Poulter took another step towards qualifying for Augusta after beating South African Louis Oosthuizen 2&1.

Poulter, though, is likely to need to reach at least the semi-finals to have a chance of climbing into the world’s top 50 by Monday’s deadline.

Kevin Kisner will be his opponent in the last eight, after the American beat compatriot Matt Kuchar on the final hole.

Fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, however, is out after a 2&1 defeat to Cameron Smith.

The Australian will next play Sweden’s Alex Noren, who beat Patrick Reed 5&3.

In Saturday’s opening last-16 match, Bubba Watson progressed through 2&1 against fellow American Brian Harman.

Watson, a two-time Masters champion, will next play Kiradech Aphibarnrat after the Thailand golfer came from behind to defeat Charles Howell on the last hole.

ROUND OF 16 RESULTS

Brian Harman (USA) lost to Bubba Watson (USA) 2&1

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) bt Charles Howell III (USA) 1up

Sergio Garcia (Esp) lost to Kyle Stanley (USA) 3&1

Justin Thomas (USA) bt Si Woo Kim (Kor) 6&5

Cameron Smith (Aus) bt Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 2&1

Patrick Reed (USA) lost to Alex Noren (Swe) 5&3

Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) lost to Ian Poulter (Eng) 2&1

Kevin Kisner (USA) bt Matt Kuchar (USA) 1up

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