Rory McIlroy signs off with a half in Texas
Shane Lowry loses again while Tyrrell Hatton disqualified from WGC-Dell Match Play
Rory McIlroy lines up a putt during his match on Friday. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy came from behind to halve his dead rubber with Emiliano Grillo in their final round-robin match at the WGC-Dell Match Play in Texas. With both players already eliminated following Thursday’s results, McIlroy found himself two down with four to play but won the 15th (with a birdie) and the 16th (with a par) to earn a half point.
“It is odd whenever you have nothing to play for,” McIlroy said afterwards. “I guess that’s both of our faults. We didn’t win our matches on the first day.” Shane Lowry, another who could not advance to the knockout stages regardless of today’s outcome, bogeyed the last to lose out by one hole to Kevin Chappell.
Tyrrell Hatton, meanwhile, consoled himself with the prospect of his Masters debut after his campaign came to a highly unfortunate end. Hatton’s defeat to Rafa Cabrera Bello in the final round of group matches meant the pair went into a play-off with Charles Howell to determine who would advance to the last 16 at Austin Country Club.
But after missing a birdie putt on the first play-off hole, Hatton accidentally touched his ball as he prepared to tap in for par and failed to replace it before holing out. That meant a two-shot penalty and saw the world number 14 eliminated, while Howell went on to secure victory at the fifth extra hole and set up a clash with Spain’s Jon Rahm, who had earlier thrashed compatriot Sergio Garcia 6&4.
Hatton explained: “I missed the putt that I had with the chance to go through and I’ve stood up to knock the (par) putt in. As I’ve gone to put the putter down behind the ball I’ve clipped it and knocked it a centimetre forward. Straight away you have to call it on yourself. Obviously it’s a disappointing day for me to lose this morning and have a great chance to go through to the last 16.
“Maybe it’s karma for me how I behaved the previous two days on the golf course. All I know it’s a tough pill to swallow at the moment. It’s probably the worst way it could have ended. The referee said ‘Did I replace the ball?’ because if I’d replaced it then I wouldn’t have gotten the penalty, but obviously by then it was too late and I’d knocked the putt in.”
Rahm had earlier made it three wins out of three with a comprehensive victory over Garcia, who suffered the embarrassment of topping his drive on the 13th into the water during a heavy downpour. There were no such problems for five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who remained on course for his first win since the 2013 Open by beating Ryder Cup teammate JB Holmes 6&5.
Mickelson had previously beaten Si Woo Kim 5&3 and Daniel Berger 5&4, meaning he has yet to play any of the last three holes in competition this week. “There’s a good and a bad,” the 46-year-old admitted. “I’m nervous that I haven’t been in a match that has gone the last hole or two and feel that clutch pressure, but also the good is that I have been able to conserve energy heading into this weekend.
“That is going to be a real key with four potential matches. If you keep playing well, energy could be an issue.”
Mickelson will face Marc Leishman in the last 16 after the Australian, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, came out on top in a three-man play-off in group three. Leishman, Lee Westwood and Pat Perez all finished with a 2-1 record after Westwood’s victory over Perez on Friday, with Leishman then making a birdie on the second extra hole to advance.
Two-time major winner Jordan Spieth was another who made an early exit after Japan’s Hideto Tanihara defeated compatriot Yuta Ikeda to finish top of group five, with Paul Casey next in line for Tanihara after victory over Charl Schwartzel.