Tiger Woods’s comeback win sets up last 16 showdown with Rory McIlroy
Shane Lowry wins final group game to secure Masters invite
Rory McIlroy shares a laugh with his caddie Harry Diamond on the seventh tee during the third round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images
Rory v Tiger! The dream showdown in the WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay at Austin Country Club in Texas is on – if a little early – with Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods set to go head-to-head in a last-16 duel after the two topped their respective round-robin groups.
McIlroy made it three wins from three with a comprehensive 4 and 2 win over his Ryder Cup team-mate Matthew Fitzpatrick to top Group 4, but Woods needed a helping hand from Aaron Wise to ensure his progress. Woods did his part with a 4 and 2 win over the big-hitting Patrick Cantlay and only progressed as winner of Group 13 after Wise did him the favour of out-dueling Brandt Snedeker.
For McIlroy – winner of The Players on his last competitive outing, and building up to his quest to complete the career Grand Slam at the Masters in just a fortnight’s time – there was never any doubt of his progress as he dominated his encounter over Fitzpatrick.
McIlroy rolled in a 10-footer for birdie at the second to move ahead, a lead he never relinquished. The Co Down man turned three-up and, although Fitzpatrick offered some resistance on the journey home, McIlroy closed out the match without needing to do too much on the Par-5 16th where his opponent’s tee shot found the hazard.
Although McIlroy and Woods have been paired together no fewer than 18 times on the PGA Tour, this will be their first ever matchplay encounter. “We’ve played tournaments together, battled each other down the stretch at events, but never in a matchplay situation,” said Woods, who felt the match-up would be “fun”.
Although the most recent time they shared the same fairways was at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles earlier this season, the fresher memory for McIlroy was last year’s Tour Championship in Atlanta where Woods beat him to the title.
“Hopefully I put up a better fight than I did in Atlanta,” quipped McIlroy. “It’s exciting for both of us. I’m definitely excited. I’m sure he is, as well.”
Woods trailed Cantlay by one hole at the turn – “ I just said, ‘keep plugging along, it’s going to turn’ and eventually it did turn, it turned pretty nicely” – and he won four of five holes on the homeward stretch to take control, the icing on the cake coming on the Par-4 13th where he holed his approach for an eagle two.
“I thought three was going to be the number to halve the hole . . . I just tried to get up there close and at least try and make a birdie and, next thing you know, it falls in. So, I’ll take it!” said Woods.
And although Shane Lowry failed to advance from his group, there was strong consolation as his 3 and 2 win over American Andrew Putnam ensured the Offaly man will remain in the world’s top-50 for Monday’s cut-off for qualification into the Masters at Augusta National.
Lowry – who lost to Sergio Garcia on day one, and halved with Masters champion Patrick Reed on day two – trailed Putnam through five holes but went all-square with a winning birdie four on the Par-5 sixth. Lowry rolled in a 10-footer for birdie on the 11th to move ahead and, although brought back to all-square at the 12th, he won the 13th, 15th and 16th to finish strongly and claim the all-important win that ensured he stayed inside the world’s top-50 and got that ticket to Augusta.
Garcia lost out to Reed in the final group match but – with Lowry defeating Putnam – still progressed, as he put it, “thanks to Shane”. Garcia will meet South African Branden Grace in the last-16.
Louis Oosthuizen, who earlier this week confirmed his place in the field for this year’s DDF Irish Open at Lahinch, defeated Tommy Fleetwood to ensure his progress into the knockout phase as winner of Group 11, while Tyrrell Hatton confirmed his matchplay pedigree with a win over fellow Englishman Lee Westwood to top Group 9.
(US unless stated)
Group 1: Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) bt Dustin Johnson 4 and 2; Branden Grace (RSA) bt Chez Reavie 2 and 1. Group winner: Grace.
Group 2: Emiliano Grillo (Arg) bt Eddie Pepperell (Eng) 4 and 3; Justin Rose (Eng) bt Gary Woodland 1up. Group winner: Rose
Group 3: Alex Noren (Swe) bt Brooks Koepka 3 and 2; Tom Lewis (Eng) bt HaoTong Li (Chn) 1up. Group winner: Li after playoff with Noren
Group 4: Rory McIlroy (N Irl) bt Matthew Fitzpatrick 4 and 2; Justin Harding (RSA) bt Luke List 2 holes. Group winner: McIlroy
Group 5: Justin Thomas halved with Keegan Bradley; Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) bt Matt Wallace (Eng) 1 hole. Group winner: Bjerregaard.
Group 6: Marc Leishman (Aus) bt Bryson DeChambeau 5 and 4; Russell Knox (Sco) bt Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thai) 2up. Group winner: Leishman
Group 7: Francesco Molinari (Ita) bt Webb Simpson 2 and 1; Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn) bt Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 3 and 1. Group winner: Molinari
Group 8: JB Holmes bt Si Woo Kim (Kor) 6 and 4; Matt Kuchar halved with Jon Rahm (Esp). Group winner: Kuchar.
Group 9: Rafa Cabrera Bello (Esp) bt Xander Schauffele 1 hole; Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) bt Lee Westwood (Eng) 3 and 1. Group winner: Hatton.
Group 10: Paul Casey (Eng) bt Cameron Smith (Aus) 4 and 3; Abrahan Ancer (Mex) bt Charles Howell III 5 and 3. Group winner: Casey
Group 11: Ben An (Kor) bt Kyle Stanley 6 and 5; Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) bt Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 4 and 3. Group winner: Oosthuizen.
Group 13: Tiger Woods bt Patrick Cantlay 4 and 2; Aaron Wise bt Brandt Snedeker 6 and 4. Group winner: Woods.
Group 14: Ian Poulter (Eng) bt Tpny Finau 1up; Kevin Kisner bt Keith Mitchell 2 and 1. Group winner: Kisner after playoff with Poulter
Group 15: Bubba Watson bt Jordan Spieth 1up; Kevin Na bt Billy Horschel 3 and 1. Group winner: Na
Group 16: Shane Lowry (Irl) bt Andrew Putnam 3 and 2; Patrick Reed bt Sergio Garcia (Esp) 2 and 1. Group winner: Garcia.
Last 16 tee-off times (Irish)
12.35pm: Leishman v Oosthuizen
12.46pm: Li v Kisner
12.57pm:Molinari v Casey
1.08pm: Rose v Na
1.19pm: Bjerregaard v Stenson
1.30pm: McIlroy v Woods
1.41pm: Kuchar v Hatton
1.52pm: Grace v Garcia