Former champion Rory McIlroy made it two wins out of two with a 3&2 victory over South Africa’s Justin Harding on day two of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last night.
McIlroy will reach the last 16 by avoiding defeat to Matt Fitzpatrick today in his final group match. The Holywood golfer told Sky Sports:
“I feel good. If anything I played a little bit better today than I did yesterday.
“Justin put up a really good fight. I had to make a few birdies just to hang in there on the front nine and to finish with two birdies on 15 and 16 was very nice.”
Shane Lowry rescued a tie with Patrick Reed on the 18th but Sergio Garcia’s win over Andrew Putnam ended his hopes of progressing.
Defending champion Bubba Watson crashed out with a game to spare after losing to Billy Horschel.
It is the second year in succession the defending champion has failed to reach the knockout stages after 2017 winner Dustin Johnson lost all three of his matches in 2018.
Tiger Woods will need other results to go his way to advance from his group after losing 2&1 to Brandt Snedeker, who halved his opening match with Patrick Cantlay on Wednesday.
Woods will need to beat Cantlay on today and hope that Snedeker loses to Aaron Wise, whose defeat to Cantlay ended his hopes of progressing.
Woods conjured up a miraculous escape from under a bush on the 10th with a left-handed shot played on his knees, but pulled his tee shot into the water on the 13th and crucially failed to match Snedeker’s birdie on the par-five 16th.
Justin Rose sympathised with opponent Eddie Pepperell after snatching an unlikely half from the jaws of defeat.
Rose was three down with four holes to play at Austin Country Club, but birdied the 15th, 17th and 18th to halve his match with Pepperell and will advance to the last 16 with victory over Gary Woodland on Friday.
“I had a great match with Eddie, he’s such a class individual and player to the point where you almost feel sorry for doing that to him over the last few holes,” said Rose, who was the tournament host of the British Masters won by Pepperell last year, told Sky Sports.
Woodland was four up on Emiliano Grillo with seven holes to play before eventually securing his second victory of the week on the 18th, leaving Grillo and Pepperell to contest a dead rubber.
Open champion Francesco Molinari had earlier enjoyed a magnificent seventh match-play victory in succession to move closer to a place in the knockout stages.
Molinari was thrashed 7&5 by Justin Thomas in his final group game 12 months ago, but has since become the first European player to compile a perfect 5-0 record in the Ryder Cup and the Italian followed his opening win over Satoshi Kodaira with a 4&3 victory over team-mate Thorbjorn Olesen.
With Webb Simpson and Kodaira halving the other match in group seven, Molinari needs to avoid defeat to Simpson on Friday to reach the last 16.