Saturday, March 26, 2016


Dell Match-Play provides the expected, the surprising and the bizarre

Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth ( Getty Images ) 
AUSTIN, Texas — You want perfect, you’ve come to the wrong sport and surely the wrong format.
You think it’s nuts that nine guys who went 2-1 have been eliminated, but two guys who went 1-0-2 are still alive?
You find it curious that the world No. 1, Jordan Spieth, goes 3-0 and has to play the formidable Louis Oosthuizen, also 3-0, in Saturday’s Round of 16, while guys ranked 47th (Ryan Moore) and 65th (Patton Kizzire) have a game of similar stature?
You shake your head at a guy, Brooks Koepka, who gets whipped, 4 and 3, by Danny Willett, but advances, while a guy who makes five birdies and plays 19 bogey-free holes against Rory McIlroy is sent packing?
There’s probably more, and more, and more, but yet there is always this: It’s not only match-play golf, it’s round-robin, match-play golf, so forget the inequities and accept the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club for what it has been for three days.
A whole lot of golf — 96 head-to-head matches, to be exact — that was whittled down to the expected (3-0 records for Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy), the surprising (63rd-seeded Patton Kizzire), and the bizarre (Chris Kirk and Branden Grace waiting more than two hours to have a one-hole playoff).
On the third and final day of group play, Phil Mickelson’s rejuvenation was dealt a serious roadblock by Patrick Reed, who went birdie, birdie, eagle to get to 5 up through six and coasted to a 5 and 4 win; Spieth outplayed his good friend, Justin Thomas, 3 and 2; Brandt Snedeker impressively dismantled Charl Schwartzel, 5 and 3; and Bill Haas won y one hole over Adam Scott in a match neither man will be proud of.
Three play-offs were required. Two ended at the par-4 first (Dustin Johnson beating Kiradech Aphibarnrat, and Kirk ousting Grace), while in the best game of the day, McIlroy was 2 down when he birdied six times in 10 holes and went 20 holes to oust Na, whose only bogey came on that second playoff hole.
True, Rickie Fowler (0-1-2) never found a rhythm and it was a day with a healthy dose of meaningless matches — another curious aspect to round-robin match play. But the purists can rest easy from here on. We are old-school knock-out from here on, eight games Saturday morning followed by four quarterfinals in the afternoon.
Not only are Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the world order still alive this far into the Match Play for the first time since 2006, but there are five top-10 names in all, nine of the top 20, and three former champions — McIlroy, the defender, Day and Kuchar — are all on the right side of the bracket.
There is still the potential of a Day vs. McIlroy semi-final and a championship match between either of those two and Spieth. True, the bottom half of the left side of the bracket is a quartet of surprises (Byeong-Hun An, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ryan Moore and Kizzire), but what’s not to like about the top half in Saturday’s games: Spieth vs. Oosthuizen and Reed vs. Johnson.
• • •
A look at Saturday’s Round of 16 matches Saturday (in order of tee times, with world ranking, holes played this week, career record in match play, and times they’ve qualified for the round of 16, where applicable):
Bill Haas (3-0) vs. Chris Kirk (2-1)
World Ranking: Haas 32nd, Kirk 56th
Holes played: Haas 51, Kirk 51
Career in Match Play: Haas 6-5, Kirk 4-2-1
• • •
Rory McIlroy (3-0) vs. Zach Johnson (3-0)
WR: McIlroy 3rd, Johnson 42nd
Holes played: McIlroy 55, Johnson 42
Career in MP: 21-6, Johnson 12-11
Round of 16 history: McIlroy 3, Johnson 0
• • •
Matt Kuchar (2-0-1) vs. Brooks Koepka (2-1-0)
WR: Kuchar 30th, Koepka 20th
Holes played: Kuchar 47, Koepka 45
Career in MP: 20-6-1, Koepka 4-2-0
Round of 16 history: Kuchar 4, Koepka 0
• • •
Jason Day (3-0) vs. Brandt Snedeker (2-0-1)
WR: Day 2nd, Snedeker 17th
Holes played: Day 37, Snedeker 50
Career in MP: Day 16-6, Snedeker 5-6-1
Round of 16 history: Day 3, Snedeker 1
• • •
Byeong-Hun An (1-0-2) vs. Rafa Cabrera Bello (2-0-1)
WR: An 29th, Bello 54th
Holes played: An 55, Bello 51
Career in MP: An 1-0-2, Bello 3-2-1
• • •
Patton Kizzire (1-0-2) vs. Ryan Moore (2-0-1)
WR: Kizzire 65th, Moore 47th
Holes played: Kizzire 54, Moore 53rd
Career in MP: Kizzire 1-0-2, Moore 6-7-1
• • •
Dustin Johnson (2-1) vs. Patrick Reed (3-0)
WR: Johnson 9th, Reed 10th
Holes played: Johnson 48, Reed 47
Career in MP: Johnson 6-8, Reed 6-2
• • •
Jordan Spieth (3-0) vs. Louis Oosthuizen (3-0)
WR: Spieth 1st, Oosthuizen 18th
Holes played: Spieth 46, Oosthuizen 50
Career in MP: Spieth 8-2, Oosthuizen 12-6
Round of 16 history: Spieth 1, Oosthuizen 2
• • •
What will follow in the afternoon are four quarter-final games:
Haas-Kirk winner vs. Zach Johnson-McIlroy winner.
Kuchar-Koepka winner vs. Day-Snedeker winner.
An-Bello winner vs. Moore-Kizzire winner.
Dustin Johnson-Reed winner vs. Spieth-Oosthuizen winner.



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