Scottie Scheffler seems to be on top of things, as usual.
No. 1-seeded Scheffler, the defending champion, defeated No. 43 J.T. Poston, 1 up, in the Round of 16, and nearly made a hole in one to finish off No. 32 Jason Day of Australia, 2 and 1, in the quarterfinals on Saturday in the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.
Scheffler, who has won 10 consecutive matches and has an overall record of 15-2-2 in this tournament over the last four years, will play his good friend, No. 13 Sam Burns, in the semifinals on Sunday morning.
The final and the consolation match (third place) will be held in the afternoon.
“There’s not much you can do,” said Scheffler, who rode out a hot start by Day, who won the WGC-Dell Match Play in 2014 and 2016 and took a 3-up lead after seven holes before Scheffler won five holes the rest of the day. “I think he birdied Nos. 1, 4 and 5, and then eagled 6. So it’s, like, hey, man, if you’re going to do that, then I tip my cap to you. That’s just good golf and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. If he was to keep up that pace for the whole round, I would just say the same thing; just take my hat off, shake hands and tell him, ‘Great job.’
“You just ride out the heater. I had to stay patient. Yeah, I’m just glad to be moving on. Both the guys I played with today got off to really good starts. It’s not like I was playing badly, but I think I was playing pretty solid. I would say probably the most important shot I hit was my wedge into 15. Jason had just made a mistake on No. 14 and then he hit it in there about four feet, pretty much another one where it was just like a straight four-footer and he was going to knock it in for birdie because he’s such a good putter. I knew I had to make birdie there to keep my lead, and then I hit my iron shots on 15, 16 and 17 really good to close out the match.
“(The near ace on No. 17) was just a stock wedge. I probably barely pulled it over there by the pin and it turned out in a good spot.”
Burns upset No. 4 Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA , 2 up, in the Round of 16 by rallying from a 1-down after nine holes with four birdies on the last five holes, and turned back No. 50 Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, 3 up, in the quarterfinals by bouncing back rom a 2-down deficit after two holes by winning three of the next four holes with birdies.
Like Scheffler, Burns is 5-0 this week.
“We want to beat each other as bad as anybody, if not more,” Burns said of his pal, Scheffler. “Obviously, when we tee it up, it’ll be business, and afterward we’ll give a hug to each other and congratulate whoever wins.
“Yeah, I knew going into the day Patrick is a great competitor. I knew he was going to play really hard, and that’s what he did. Overall we had a great match. I think it ultimately came down to who could hole a putt. Fortunately I was able to make that one there at 17. But yeah, overall it was a great match. I felt good going into the afternoon.
“Mackenzie made a long putt on No. 1 and chipped in on No. 2, and all of a sudden you’re 2-down. I think we knew, we just kept playing our game and stuck to our strategy and I was able to birdie Nos. 4 and 5 and get myself back in it, and eventually win. I’m pretty tired right now, so I’m looking forward to getting some sleep tonight.”
No. 3 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland birdied the first hole and led almost all the way in beating No. 46. Lucas Herbert of Australia, 1 up, in the Round of 16 by making birdies on the last three holes, and outlasted No. 6 Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, 1 up.
McIlroy sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole to win.
“It was a great match,” said Schauffele, who had a 2-up lead after seven holes thanks to four early birdies. “I felt like I definitely had the better of him. I had looks and while he made some putts the rest of the way, I was just kind of waiting around.”
Said McIlroy: “It felt great to make that putt at the end. Hopefully, if I can play a little bit better, I don’t need to play 18 tomorrow. But we shall see.”
Schauffele reached the quarterfinals by leading almost the way in turning back No. 61 J.J. Spaun of Los Angeles and San Diego State, 3-up.
In the semifinals, McIlroy will face No. 15 Cameron Young, the 2021-22 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, who downed No. 22 Billy Horschel, the 2021 WGC-Del Match Play champion, 5 and 4 in the Round of 16, and edged Kurt Kitayama of Chico, 1 up, in the quarterfinals.
For complete results, brackets and tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard