Rickie Fowler hadn’t played in the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play since 2016, but he pulled off the biggest surprise in a round of upsets on the first day of pool play.
The 49th-seeded Fowler (pictured, right), from Murrieta, rallied from a 2-down deficit after eight holes to upset second-seeded Jon Rahm of Spain, 2 and 1, at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas, in what the PGA Tour claims is the final year of this popular event.
“Jon struggled a little today,” said Fowler, who now has a 13-8-5 career record in match play singles including the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. “I know him quite well and we always have fun playing together. That wasn’t the normal Jon Rahm and what I was exactly expecting to face. “We both struggled a little bit on the greens. I just happened to hit it a little bit better than him today. That’s match play. Never know what you’re going to get.
“In golf, just about anyone can beat anyone, especially this week with the guys that are out here. Yeah, I was fortunate to come out on top. I know Jon will be tough for the boys in next couple matches, but I’ve got to take care of business on my end.
“So my short-term goal is to obviously get myself back into Augusta (for the Masters in two weeks). If that doesn’t happen, we’re going to continue to move forward and be in a good position.”
Top-seeded Scottie Scheffler, the defending champion, built 3-up lead over No. 54 Davis Riley with an eagle on the fifth hole, but struggled with his putter the rest of the day before claiming a 1-up victory.
Scheffler finally got his putter in order, lipping in a 14-foot birdie putt to win on the last hole.
“I got off to a great start, but then struggled a bit the rest of the way, especially with the putter,” said Scheffler, who lost in the final of the WGC-Dell Match Play to Billy Horschel two years ago. “I just made too many mistakes, especially on the greens, after that and simply was fortunate to still be in the match.
“Fortunately, I was able to make that birdie putt on the last hole and will take some of that mental energy with me into my match tomorrow.”
Rahm was one of five top-seeded players in the 16 pools to lose in the first round.
No. 56 Andrew Putnam of Pepperdine knocked off No. 7 Will Zalatoris, 3and 2; No. 59 Matt Kuchar, the 2013 WGC-Match Play champion, took down No. 8 Viktor Hovland of Norway, 3 and 1; No. 61 J.J. Spaun of Los Angeles and San Diego State surprised No. 11 Matt Fitzpatrick of England, 5 and 3, and No. 62 Ben Griffin upset No. 14 Tyrrell Hatton of England, 3 and 1.
In other noteworthy matches, No. 12 Jordan Spieth made an eagle at No. 12 and chipped in from 50 yards three holes later to finish off No. 59 Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, 4 and 3; No. 15 Cameron Young, the 2021-22 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, carded nine straight 3s on the front nine and was eight-par in 3-up victory over No. 17 Davis Thompson; No. 33 Adam Scott holed a 17-foot birdie putt on the last hole to defeat No. 30 Seamus Power of Ireland, 1 up, and No. 16 Sungjae Im of South Korea routed No. 58 Maverick McNealy of Portola Valley and Stanford, 8 and 6.
Other top-seeded players in their brackets who claimed victories in the first round were third-seeded Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who got past No/ 52 Scott Stallings, 3 and 1; No. 4 Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, who birdied two of the last three holes to down No. 55 Nick Taylor of Canada, 1 up; No. 5 Max Homa of Valencia and Cal, who defeated No. 63 Justin Suh of San Jose and USC, 3 up; No. 6 Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, who dominated No. 64 Cam Davis of Australia, 4 and 3; No. 9 Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who beat No. 51 Victor Perez of France, 2 up; No. 10 Tony Finau, who defeated No. 60 Christiaan Bezuidenhout, 2 and 1, and No. 13 Sam Burns, who beat No. 53 Adam Hadwin of Canada, 3 and 2.
No. 22 Billy Horschel, the 2021 WGC-Match Play champion, halved with No. 39 Keith Mitchell, No. 32 Jason Day of Australia, the 2014 and 2016 winner of this tournament, defeated No. 44 Adam Svensson of Canada, and No. 18 Hideki Matsuyama of Japan beat No. 42 Kevin Kisner, the 2019 WGC-Match Play winner, 1 up.
For complete results and second-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard