Top-seeded Jon Rahm of Spain, No. 3 Viktor Hovland of Norway, No. 8 Dustin Johnson, No. 12 Billy Horschel, the defending champion, No. 13 Tyrrell Hatton of England, No. 16 Brooks Koepka, and No. 29 Kevin Kisner, who won this event in 2019, are 2-0 after two rounds of Group Play in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.
No surprises there.
Somewhat surprising are No. 20 Matt Fitzpatrick of England (pictured), No. 36 Corey Conners of Canada, No. 39 Lucas Herbert of Australia, No. 42 Seamus Power of Ireland and No. 50 Alex Noren of Sweden, who all also are 2-0.
It must be mentioned that Noren and Conners each had a match conceded to them because Paul Casey of England has a back injury, but they will play for the Group 10 title on Friday because both defeated No. 10 Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, the top-seeded player in the group.
“It was a hard-fought battle,” Conners said of his 2-and-1 victory in round two over Oosthuizen, who won the Open Championship at St. Andrews by seven strokes. “I felt like I played really well on the front nine. Got myself into the lead making the turn, kind of struggled in the first few holes on the back nine and was able to escape by not losing too many holes and then won a couple at the end.”
Conners will play Noren, who beat Oosthuizen in the first round, 1 up, in round three for the right to move on to single elimination in the round of 16 from Group 1.
Power knocked off No. 4-seeded Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA (0-1-1), by a score of 5 and 4, building a 2-up lead after five holes and winning three of the first five holes on the back nine to put the match away.
“I ran a 35-, 40-footer maybe 6, 7 feet past, going up the hill (on No. 11) and I made it coming back down for the half (tie),” said Power, who will play Keith Mitchell (0-1-1) in round three and need only a halve to move on. “It was one of those, I had won 10 and it didn’t give him the momentum straight back. Sometimes like that, you need to make those sometimes in a match, and I was able to get that one in.”
Fitzpatrick took control of Group Five with a 4-and-2 victory over Ian Poulter, also of England and his Ryder Cup teammate, by making four birdies in the first seven holes, including a 47-foot putt on the seventh hole to build a 2-up lead.
The lead eventually became 4-up and it was over early.
“I played great today and it’s always nice to get off to a good start in match play because things often go back-and-forth,” said Fitzpatrick, who has won seven times on what is now the DP World Tour, but never on the PGA Tour.
“There’s always good and bad in match play, but on the whole, I played very well and was glad to win. Now I just have to win tomorrow, get on from group play and go on with a chance to win the championship.”
Herbert, whose only victory on the PGA Tour came in the 2021 Bermuda Championship, sank an eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole to upset Schauffele, who either held the lead or was tied most of the way to the final hole.
Schauffele had a chance to take the lead when then had a 51-foot putt for eagle on the 16th hole, but he three-putted for a par.
“I wanted to keep pushing him the whole way,” Herbert said. “Just had to try and at least if I was going to lose, make it a contest. Fortunately, I got myself back into the match and gave myself a chance down 18 and played quite nicely.”
Group play wind up on Friday and there figures to be a few playoffs to see who moves on to the round of 16.
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