Dell Match Play 2016
Round 5 - Jason Day claims win and World No.1
March 28, 2016
Everyone around him was telling Jason Day to withdraw from the Dell Match Play and not risk further injury to his back.
Day knew he was playing well enough to win and wanted to stick it out.
The decision paid off in more ways than he could imagine.
Day returned to No. 1 in the world by making it to Sunday. It felt even sweeter when he beat Rory McIlroy in an epic semifinal, and then beat Louis Oosthuizen in a championship match so one-sided that it might as well have been a victory lap around Austin Country Club.
''I'm glad I didn't listen,'' Day said. ''I wanted to win. I wanted to win so bad that I felt with how I was playing, if I kept playing the way I was going, I would be holding the trophy at the end of the week. And that's what kept me going.''
He's taking that confidence to Augusta National next week to start preparations for the Masters, which starts April 7. Coming off a victory last week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the 28-year-old Australian has won six times in his last 13 starts dating to the PGA Championship.
''It's been a memorable week, not only to win the Dell Match Play but to get back to No. 1 in the world,'' Day said.
Day pulled ahead with a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth hole, stretched his lead to 3 up at the turn and was relentless with his power and short game the rest of the way. He closed out Oosthuizen with a wedge to 3 feet for a conceded birdie on the 14th hole and a 5-and-4 victory. It was the largest margin for the championship match since it changed to 18 holes in 2011. Tiger Woods beat Stewart Cink, 8 and 7, in 2008 at Dove Mountain in a 36-hole match.
Oosthuizen, who knocked out Jordan Spieth in the fourth round to pave the way for Day's return to No. 1, won the opening hole with a par in the championship match and that was it. His only birdie was an 8-foot putt on No. 5 after Day had stuffed his wedge from the rough into 2 feet.
''A top player these days, he always makes that crucial putt when he needs to,'' Oosthuizen said. ''We've seen a thousand times through Tiger doing it. Jordan does it all the time. And Jason, whenever he needs to make a crucial putt, he makes it. You see him this morning against Rory when he made that putt on 18.
''He's always been a great iron player,'' he said. ''He's always been a great long iron player, and the way he's putting now there's a reason why he's No. 1 in the world.''
Day joined Woods and Geoff Ogilvy as the only multiple winners of the Match Play.
None of this looked possible when he winced and grabbed his back on the final hole he played in his 3-and-2 victory over Graeme McDowell on Wednesday. His caddie and coach, Colin Swatton, was standing near the tunnel leading to the first tee about 10 minutes before the match.
''I'm not sure we're going yet,'' Swatton said.
Day had therapy for an hour before and after each match. His back got progressively better, and so did his game. He played only 101 holes over seven matches - one match was six holes when Paul Casey withdrew Friday with a stomach ailment - and only had one match go the distance.
Rafa Cabrera Bello of Spain, who lost to Oosthuizen in the other semifinal, won the last three holes to beat McIlroy in the consolation match. The real consolation for the Spaniard was moving into the top 50 in the world ranking to earn a trip to the Masters for the first time.
Day might have won this tournament in the morning.
His semifinal match with McIlroy lived up to the hype. The lead changed seven times. They combined for 11 birdies in chilly, blustery conditions.
''I think the morning's round was probably one of the hardest rounds I've had to go through in match play format to try and get through,'' Day said.
The match turned on the 11th hole when Day got up-and-down for par with a 12-foot putt, while McIlroy missed a 6-foot birdie. Day got up-and-down eight times in his match against McIlroy. On the par-5 12th, McIlroy was first to hit and played well right of the green, away from the water. Day took on the hazard with a 2-iron that cleared the water by a foot and set up a two-putt birdie that gave him the lead for good.
He was 1 up going to the 18th, with thousands of fans rushing ahead to get a view. Day chipped away from the flag to ride the slope, hit it too hard and had a 12-foot putt for par. McIlroy was 6 feet away for par, hopeful of extra hole, until Day poured it in right in the middle.
''I knew if I could give myself a putt, I'd hole it,'' Day said.
He got up-and-down all eight times against McIlroy, and four out of five times in the afternoon against Oosthuizen. Because that's what No. 1 players do.
Round 4 - Rory McIlroy books semi-final spot
March 27, 2016
Defending champion Rory McIlroy birdied four of the last six holes in a 4 and 3 win over Chris Kirk on Saturday to book a semi-final showdown with Jason Day at the WGC Match Play in Texas.
Day advanced with a 3 and 2 victory over Brooks Koepka.
The victory means the Australian will regain the world number one ranking from American Jordan Spieth, who was ousted Saturday morning in the round of 16 by South African Louis Oosthuizen.
McIlroy, seeded third, reached the semi-finals of the elite event for the third time in his career.
He took a quick lead over Kirk with an 11-foot birdie putt at the opening hole, but his three-putt bogey at the ninth let Kirk square the match.
McIlroy responded emphatically, with birdies to win the 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th -- all with putts from within 10 feet.
"I was a little annoyed going from the ninth green to the 10th -- letting Chris get back into it with a three-putt on nine," McIlroy said.
"But after that I was four-under for my next six holes and that was enough to get the job done."
McIlroy, who edged Zach Johnson 1 up to reach the quarters, admitted he has more than a title repeat on his mind.
"It's great for my confidence, especially with the Masters only a couple of weeks away," he said. "To get a good run in this tournament, which is my last competitive start before Augusta is really pleasing."
Day, the 2014 winner, had three birdies and an eagle against Koepka. He took the lead with a seven-footer at the third, but Koepka birdied the next two to grab the lead.
The American couldn't find another birdie, however, and Day regained the lead with a seven-foot birdie at the 10th and added an eagle at the 12th before winning the 15th with a par.
Day, who had downed Brandt Snedeker 3 and 2 on Saturday morning, said he expected the clash with McIlroy to be "a lot of fun" although he's hoping the weather will be warm for the benefit of his injured back.
"It's been a bit of an up and down week, especially emotionally," said Day, whose back was so bad after his first-round win on Wednesday he thought he might have to withdraw.
"It's been quite amazing to be able to start the week and not really thinking I'm going to be able to play with what happened Wednesday. And turn around I'm number one in the world on Saturday.
"It's a strange feeling," he said. "I'm glad I stuck it out."
The other semi-final pits Spain's' Rafael Cabrera Bello against Oosthuizen.
Oosthuizen, seeded 16th, followed up his 4 and 2 win over Spieth with a 2 and 1 triumph over eighth-seeded American Dustin Johnson.
Cabrera Bello, who advanced to the quarters when South Korea's An Byeong-Hun retired with a sore neck while 4 down through 11, beat Ryan Moore 2 and 1 to reach the final four.
The Spaniard, ranked 54th in the world and seeded 52nd, never trailed against Moore, who had just one birdie after producing four on the front nine in a 4 and 3 victory over Patton Kizzire in the morning.
Oosthuizen reached the semi-finals after losing in the quarters the last two years. He trailed Johnson much of their match, but sealed it with a 21-foot birdie putt at 17.
But it was Oosthuizen's morning match that made headlines.
Spieth hadn't trailed in three round-robin matches.
"I got to the range this morning and I was hitting some slices with my irons, which is bizarre," Spieth said. "I just tried to compensate somehow on the golf course. I got away with it on the first couple of holes and then it got the best of me."
Spieth, who hadn't made bogey at the first six holes in his first three matches, bogeyed the fourth to fall 1 down.
Oosthuizen held onto the lead as Spieth scrambled through a stretch that included two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey, with the South African nabbing three birdies in the last five holes to seal it.
Round 3 - Top seeds progress
March 25, 2016
Jordan Spieth had water on his left and a solid wall of fans on his right on his way to another comfortable victory in the Dell Match Play.
The former Longhorn gave the Texas fans what they wanted.
And when the wild round-robin session ended Friday, they got much more than that.
For the first time in 10 years, the top three players in the world made it to the round of 16. The only difference is how they got there.
Jason Day only had to play six holes. The No. 2 player in the world, just two days removed from his back seizing up on him, was all square through six holes when Paul Casey withdrew because of a stomach illness. Day was in good shape to win his group, anyway, but a short day was just what he needed.
Rory McIlroy, No. 3 in the world and the defending champion, had to work overtime. He struggled to the end with Kevin Na, and when their match ended in a halve, both were 2-0-1 and went to a sudden-death playoff to see who advanced. McIlroy outlasted him with a par on the second extra hole.
Spieth had no trouble at all.
For the third straight round, he was 3 up early in the match and never gave Justin Thomas much of a chance. He hit a few loose shots along the back nine, though he never lost control. That's what made the walk along the Colorado River so enjoyable.
''It's awesome,'' Spieth said. ''I'd really like to play into the weekend, into Sunday afternoon, and keep feeding off this crowd.''
But it didn't take long for reality to set in.
Spieth returns Saturday morning to face Louis Oosthuizen, the only player to reach the round of 16 each of the last three years. Oosthuizen won all three of his matches, beating Andy Sullivan of England on Friday, to win his group. And then he was asked about going against Spieth, No. 1 in the world.
''I think it's going to be about 10-15,000 people,'' Oosthuizen said with that gap-tooth smile.
Oosthuizen and Spieth were among six players who went 3-0 in group play.
The most impressive was Zach Johnson, who finally played the last three holes at Austin Country Club, but only for practice. None of his matches went beyond No. 15. Spieth and Patrick Reed are the only players who have never trailed in any match.
Reed had an easy time with Phil Mickelson, and when he holed out from the 10th fairway, he was 7 up through eight holes to play. Mickelson did well to make the match last until the 14th hole. Reed moves on to play Dustin Johnson, who had to go extra holes to get by Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
McIlroy and Johnson were among four players who had to go extra holes to win the group and advance to the knockout stage. McIlroy, however, was the only player who went into a playoff against the player he faced at the start of the day.
Johnson won his match against Jimmy Walker, and Aphibarnrat beat Robert Streb.
Byeong-Hun An missed an opportunity to win his group when he lost the 18th hole to Rickie Fowler. That sent him into a playoff with Scott Piercy, who won the 18th hole to beat Jason Dufner. The fortunes turned quickly. An won the playoff on the first hole with a 4-foot birdie.
The most peculiar was Chris Kirk and Branden Grace, who each easily won their matches to finish group play at 2-1-0. There were no tie-breakers this year, which was good for Grace because he lost to Kirk in the opening round. Instead of going back out for the playoff after their matches ended, they had to wait nearly three hours to play one hole. Grace went from a fairway bunker over the green, made bogey and was out.
Nine players who went 2-1-0 in group play were out. Two players who won just one match - An and Patton Kizzire - are still alive.
Kizzire is the most intriguing. Just two weeks ago, he was on edge about whether he would qualify for the 64-man field. In his opening match, he made a 10-foot birdie putt to earn a half-point against Bubba Watson. The next day, he was 4 down with six holes to play and birdied the last hole to halve with J.B. Holmes. Those two halves proved crucial, for when Holmes beat Watson on the 18th hole, that meant Kizzire only had to beat Emiliano Grillo to advance.
He went eagle-birdie-birdie for a 2-up win.
''I've been feeling like I've won those matches,'' Kizzire said. ''Today was huge.''
He now faces Ryan Moore in a round of 16 loaded with familiar faces for Kizzire, a PGA Tour rookie. The 11 Americans who reached the round of 16 are the most since 12 in 2002 at La Costa. Then again, the names of the players or the flags under which they play are becoming irrelevant.
''It only gets harder from here,'' Reed said. ''The guys who make it to the weekend are the guys playing the best right now.''
Round 2 - No drama for Jordan Spieth
March 25, 2016
Jordan Spieth had another stress-free day in the Dell Match Play, avoiding some of the drama the 18th hole provided Thursday.
So did Jason Day, whose back felt strong enough to drive the first green at 381 yards with a helping wind.
Fifteen matches went the distance at Austin Country Club, and there was no shortage of surprises. Daniel Berger never finished against Phil Mickelson when his club hit a rock structure on the way down. Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler escaped with half-points.
It all set the stage for Friday when all but 16 players from the 64-man field leave town. Already, 22 players have been mathematically eliminated.
Spieth again built a big lead and lost only one hole in a 5-and-4 victory over Victor Dubuisson of France. He has played 30 holes in his two victories, and needs only to halve his match Friday against Justin Thomas to reach the round of 16.
''When you're 3 up and you're striking the ball well on a windy day with a difficult golf course, it's difficult to come from behind,'' Spieth said.
Day ended any suspense about his back injury - first by showing up, then by hitting his opening drive to 12 feet on the 381-yard first hole. He was headed to a 5-and-3 victory over Thongchai Jaidee, which put him in the same position as Spieth.
''If I didn't play today, I was going to pull out of the tournament totally,'' Day said. ''I wasn't going to come back on Friday. I may as well get the rest and recovery and try to get ready for Augusta. I was playing against Thongchai. I felt like if I went there and played some golf, I could get him.
''Fortunately for me, I played some good golf,'' he said. ''There wasn't one shot where I felt it today, which was good.''
Rory McIlroy also got through in a wild match with Smylie Kaufman in which they didn't halve a hole until No. 7. McIlroy won on the 17th hole.
For others, the 18th hole was pivotal.
Mickelson was all square on the last hole when Berger drove left next to a rock structure that forms the 10th tee box. Berger struck the rocks before his club reached the ball. He dropped the club, grabbed his left wrist and looked over to Mickelson to concede the match.
''That's happened to me before, not the injury, but swinging over the top of it or misjudging where the obstacle is,'' Mickelson said. ''It happens. So I was just watching if the ball was struck and it wasn't. He hit the rock on the downswing. And hopefully his wrist is OK.''
Mickelson moves on to a winner-take-all match against Patrick Reed. Berger was among those eliminated and contemplated whether to play Friday, especially with his first Masters appearance only two weeks away.
Sergio Garcia was poised to win his second straight match until Ryan Moore knocked in a 25-foot putt from behind the 17th green to square the match, and then hit wedge to a foot on the final hole for a 1-up victory.
''Match play is just crazy,'' Moore said. ''You just never know what's going to happen.''
Patton Kizzire, one of three PGA Tour rookies in the 64-man field, was 1 down to J.B. Holmes playing the 18th hole when he hit his approach to 5 feet and made it to halve the match. If he missed, he would have been eliminated. Now he can win the group if he beats Emiliano Grillo on Friday and Holmes beats Bubba Watson.
Scott Piercy stayed in the match with Fowler with a remarkable up-and-down from birdie by bouncing a putt across the cart path and rough and onto the green, and winning the 17th when Fowler hit into a hazard. Piercy missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole that would have eliminated Fowler.
Now, there's a mathematical chance for a four-way playoff on Friday to determine who wins the group.
Spieth knows the course better than anyone from his three semesters at Texas - the Longhorns used to stage qualifying on the course. He also faces more attention as the local favorite, not to mention the No. 1 player in the world.
So far, he has played some of his best golf since he won at Kapalua to start the year.
''My swing has been coming around,'' he said. ''I've been working hard on it for the last month or so. Really started showing signs of that work this week.''
Round 1 - Jordan Spieth off to excellent start
March 24, 2016
The top-ranked player in the world and No. 1 seed in the Dell Match Play, Jordan Spieth still needed a boost after a recent dip in form.
He got a good one Wednesday with a 3-and-2 victory over Jamie Donaldson in their round-robin opener at Austin Country Club.
Navigating the windy, undulating Texas Hill Country course he frequently played during his year and a half at the University of Texas, Spieth heard plenty of ''Hook'em Horns!'' cheers and high-fived a toddler in the home crowd excited to the see the 22-year-old return to familiar ground.
''It's fantastic,'' Spieth said about his return to his college town. ''I'm in love with Austin. It's maybe my favorite city in the world.''
Like the rest of the field, Spieth is trying to fine-tune his game for the Masters in two weeks. He won there last year with a four-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. And he'll stay another week in Texas for the Houston Open before heading to Augusta.
Despite his world ranking and one victory already this season, Spieth hasn't finished better than a tie for 17th in his last four tournaments and missed the cut last month at the Northern Trust Open.
Spieth's win Wednesday was decisive, even if it wasn't always crisp. He charged into the round, winning four of the first seven holes against his Welsh opponent who was one of the stars in the Europeans' 2014 Ryder Cup victory.
''I played the first seven holes or so perfectly. That's pretty commanding. I was very pleased with that,'' Spieth said. ''I didn't back down, I kept hitting driver. I kept on going for stuff, almost too much.
Donaldson reeled him in by winning two of the next five holes, but missed a chance to really tighten things up when Spieth earned a critical halve on No. 12 after hitting his second shot into the water.
''I just made some really poor decisions to let him back into the match. Fortunately stuck through it,'' Spieth said. ''H's a very tough match-play player ... knew there wasn't going to be give-up after four down.''
A missed read on a midrange birdie putt on the first hole sent him into an animated discussion with caddie Michael Greller while Donaldson putted. On No. 5, Spieth stopped in the backswing of his putt, resettled and made a 3-footer to win the hole and go 3-up.
Spieth closed out the match with a birdie on the par-5 16th. Donaldson's tee shot ballooned in the wind and his aggressive play into the green flew into a backside bunker.
Donaldson had to play with almost all of the cheers going to Spieth, even when he hit his best shots.
When Donaldson birdied the par-3 fourth hole, the gallery, which couldn't see the ball drop on the elevated green, didn't utter a sound. Donaldson's caddie, Mick Donaghy, cupped his right ear with his hand as if to ask for a response, but got nothing in response as the crowd and the players headed to the next tee.
''It almost like a home Ryder Cup match,'' Spieth said. ''They weren't cheering when putts were missed, everyone was very respectful, but every step I took, somebody was yelling or cheering 'Hook'em Horns' or 'Go Jordan,' which is really, really cool.''
After the round, Spieth went straight to the practice green. He will face Victor Dubuisson on Thursday and finish group play Friday against Justin Thomas. Dubuisson beat Thomas 3 and 2 on Wednesday.
Jordan Spieth beat Jamie Donaldson 3&2
Jason Day beat Graeme McDowell 3&2
Rory McIlroy beat Thorbjorn Olesen 1up
Bubba Watson A/S Patton Kizzire
Jason Dufner beat Rickie Fowler 2&1
Adam Scott A/S Thomas Pieters
Adam Scott beat Chris Wood 3&2
Bill Haas beat Adam Scott 1 up
Justin Rose beat Fabian Gomez 2 up
Robert Streb beat Dustin Johnson 3&2
Patrick Reed beat Daniel Berger 1up
Danny Willett A/S Jaco Van Zyl
Chris Kirk beat Branden Grace 3&1
Rafael Cabrera-Bello beat Hideki Matsuyama 1up
Sergio Garcia beat Lee Westwood 1up
Zach Johnson beat Marcus Fraser 4&3
Brandt Snedeker beat Charley Hoffman 2&1
Louis Oosthuizen beat Matt Jones 2&1
Louis Oosthuizen (16) beat Jordan Spieth (1) 4&2
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (12) beat Byeong-Hun An (5) (concession)
Jason Day (2) beat Brandt Snedeker (15) 3&2
Chris Kirk (11) beat Bill Haas (6) 2&1
Louis Oosthuizen beat Dustin Johnson 2&1
Jason Day beat Brooks Koepka 3&2
Louis Oosthuizen beat Rafa Cabrera-Bello 4&3
Jason Day beat Rory McIlroy 1 up
Jason Day beat Louis Oosthuizen 5&4