Kjeldsen takes down McIlroy in WGC – Dell Match-play thriller
Søren Kjeldsen prevailed from a classic encounter to beat World Number Two Rory McIlroy 2 and 1 on day one of the WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club at Austin, Texas.
McIlroy - the 2015 champion - was one of the favourites coming into the week but will now face an uphill battle to get out of Group Two after Kjeldsen produced a stunning performance.
The Dane finished with four birdies to win a roller coaster of a contest where the lead changed hands five times.
That match was certainly among the best of the 32 encounters on what was an enthralling first day. Other highlights included Race to Dubai Number One Tommy Fleetwood birdeing the 18th to win one up over Zach Johnson, while Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry halved an intriguing match on the 18th when Lowry made a bogey to allow the Spaniard to win the hole and halve the match.
Englishman Tyrrell Hatton continued his incredible run of form with a 2 and 1 win over Charles Howell III.
Belgium’s Thomas Pieters – the man who became Europe’s most successful Ryder Cup Rookie last year – continued to forge a fine match play reputation with a 3 and 2 win over Scott Piercy
At the other end of the scoring spectrum there were convincing victories for World Number One Dustin Johnson (5 and 3 over Webb Simpson); Phil Mickelson (5 and 3 over Si Woo Kim), Daniel Berger (7 and 5 over JB Holmes) and Charl Schwartzel (6 and 5 over Ben An).
Soren Kjeldsen: “I felt good coming into today. And spoke to my caddie Alistair yesterday and he said, you know, go and shoot five under and see if it's enough. Don't worry about him (Rory McIlroy).
"Obviously he's pretty spectacular player so you don't want to be watching too much! I knew that I had to play well to have any kind of a chance, therefore, I didn't look too much at what Rory was doing. I played really, really well.
“Coming in as the 64th player this week, I am technically the underdog in every match. It's nice. I haven't had the best start to this season this year in America, but the last few weeks have been getting a little bit better.
"So I felt good and I think you can talk a lot about match play, but at the end of the day you need to shoot good scores that's what I managed to do today.
“I think I did a good job of not worrying about what Rory was doing. A few times he hit it about 100 yards past me. I was trying not to look at that too much. I knew I had to play well to have a chance. To be honest with you, that's case in every match this week.
"The players are so good that you need to be on your game. I got into my little zone. Alistair and I work really well and I managed to hit a lot of good shots and make some putts.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “I missed a couple of chances to sort of break away early on. And then the more the round went on, Zach was more in control of the game. I was hanging in there and obviously managed to get the win in the end.
“It's great to get off to a good start. The last time I played in this, I actually lost my first game and then qualified. You've got to be winning your match and try to build momentum. You take one match at a time, but to win the first one is great.”
Thomas Pieters: “The front nine was really good. The back nine we didn't play very well. We gave each other some holes. He gave me a couple more than I gave him, so it worked out for me. But I've got to work on putting for tomorrow. Getting off to a good start is nice. I just need to win my next two now.
“I've always loved match play. I was good at match play in college. I can't remember losing a lot of matches. You get on that tee and you need to beat that one guy. Even if you have a bad day and he has a worse day than you, so be it. You don't need to shoot 7- or 8-under each time, you just need to shoot one better.”
See attached pdf for full first round results:
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