J.J. Spaun pf Los Angeles and San Diego State has been the surprise of the final World Golf Championships tournament thus far.
Spaun (pictured), seeded 61st among the 64 players in the WGC-Dell Match Play, routed No. 26 Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills, 5 and 4, in second-round pool play and is one of only 15 golfers with a 2-0 record in the tournament at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.
“I’ve just been playing solid lately,” said Spaun, who upset No. 11 Matt Fitzpatrick of England, 5 and 3, in the first round and can win Group 11 and advance to the round of 16 with a win or tie against No. 41 Min Woo Lee (1-1) in round three. “(Theegala) didn’t have his best stuff today either, so that kind of gave me the opportunity to take advantage. That’s what I did, so it was an overall good day.
“Good, yeah, bring it on (against Lee). I know he’s a good player. I’ve played some practice rounds with him. He’s a good guy. So it should be a good battle tomorrow.”
One day after No. 49 Rickie Fowler of Murrieta pulled off what so far has been the upset of the tournament by beating No. 2 Jon Rahm of Spain, 2 and 1, No. 48 Denny McCarthy (1-1) jumped to a 3-up lead over No. 3 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland by making an eagle on the seventh hole.
However, McIlroy (2-0) rallied by winning the last two holes for a 2-up victory, hitting a 380-yard drive on the par-4 18th and being conceded the winning five-foot eagle putt by McCarthy to make control of Group three with a match coming against Keegan Bradley (1-1-1).
“Yeah, that was a great shot on No. 18,” said McIlroy, who beat No. 52 Scott Stallings, 3 and 1, in the first round. “I knew it was a good shot, but I didn’t realize it was on the green and that close to the hole until I got all the way up there.
“Denny got off to a great start to go 3-up, but I played well and didn’t make a bogey all day, and then I made some birdies in bunches. Then I hit some good shots to get a cushion by winning the 16th and 17th holes, so that last hole was just kind of a bonus.
“I’m looking forward to playing Keegan tomorrow, because he’s always tough.”
Rahm bounced back from his defeat in the first round by winning the first two holes and leading all the way in a 4-and-2 victory over No. 39 Keith Mitchell. The Spaniard still has a chance to win Group 2 if he can beat No. 22 Billy Horschel (1-0-1) in the third round.
Among those with 2-0 records are top-seeded Scottie Scheffler, defending champion, who rebounded from a lackluster first-round victory by trouncing No. 38 Alex Noren, 5 and 4, with seven birdies in nine holes through No. 13; No. 4 Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, who won three of the last four holes and eagled No. 16 in a 4-and-2 victory over No. 35 K.H. Lee (0-2) of South Korea; No. 5 Max Homa of Valencia and Cal, who birdied four of the last five holes in a 3-and-2 win over No. 42 Kevin Kisner (0-2), and No. 6 Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, who made seven birdies on his way to beating No. 40 Aaron Wise of Lake Elsinore, 2 and 1.
No. 10 Tony Finau is 2-0 after beating No. 45 Adria Meronk of Poland, 4 and 3; No. 13 Sam Burns won his second straight match by beating No. 33 Adam Scott of Australia with a par on the last hole, and No. 15 Cameron Young, the 2021-22 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, used a late eagle and birdie to turn back No. 36 Corey Conners of Canada, 1 up.
Also undefeated and untied are No. 56 Andrew Putnam of Pepperdine, who upset No. 7 Will Zalatoris in the first round, 3and 2; No. 25 Brian Harman, who will play Cantlay in round three; and No. 47 Taylor Montgomery, who knocked off No. 12 Jordan Spieth in round two, 2 and 1, and No. 32 Jason Day, a two-time winner of this tournament who will play No. 9 Collin Morikawa (1-0-1) on the final day to determine the winner of the group.
“This match play tournament is like playing on Sunday every day because there is so much pressure there in each round,” said Day, who won this event in 2014 and 2016.
Horschel, who captured the WGC-Match Play in 2021, No. 59 Matt Kuchar, who won it in 2013, and Bradley (1-0-1) still are very much in the hunt at 1-0-1.
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