SUPER SHOW BY DUO
Johnson, Mickelson reach last 16 at WGC Match Play
WORLD No 1 Dustin Johnson and fivetime major winner Phil Mickelson advanced to the knockout rounds of the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship with impressive triumphs on Friday.
Johnson, the reigning US Open champion, won six of the first seven holes and completed an unbeaten run through the group stage by downing fellow American Jimmy Walker 5 and 3 at Austin Country Club.
Johnson had two birdies and an eagle on his way to leading 6-up after seven holes and even a birdie-eagle run by Walker to win 11 and 12 only delayed the end, which came when Johnson parred 15 to close out the triumph.
“I like match play. It’s fun and it’s exciting to watch,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’ve got a little bit of an advantage just because I’m playing really well.”
In late yesterday’s round of 16, Johnson faced compatriot Zach Johnson, who edged American Brendan Steele 1-up in the day’s final match to advance.
Steele, who only needed to halve to go through, birdied the par-five 16th and par-3 17th to square his match but Johnson pitched his third shot three feet from the cup and parred at 18 while Steele missed a 12-footer for par to fall.
Mickelson finished group play unbeaten after a 6-and-5 rout of fellow American J.B. Holmes. It’s the first time since 2004 that the 46-year-old US left-hander Mickelson advanced past the third round of the event.
Mickelson dominated from the outset, opening with back-toback birdies before going 3-up after three holes. He won the eighth with a birdie before taking the 10th and 11th and then closing out the win with a halve at 13.
“To win the first three matches is a great start,” said Mickelson. “This weekend will be difficult. I’m looking forward to it. I haven’t been to the weekend in match play in a long time.”
England’s Paul Casey downed South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel 4 and 3 in the only match-up of 20 players while Jon Rahm downed fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia 6 and 4.
“I didn’t take the chances I had,” Garcia said. “I made a couple stupid mistakes and got too far behind and Jon is not the kind of player that is going to give away holes.”
Schwartzel birdied the first hole to seize the lead over Casey, but the Englishman squared the match with a par at the fourth and never trailed again.
“We’re only three victories from getting into a final. I’ve been there a couple of times before. I would dearly love to win this thing,” said Casey, who lost the 2009 final to Aussie Geoff Ogilvy and the 2010 final to England’s Ian Poulter.
In round of 16, Mickelson faced Australia’s Marc Leishman while Casey met Japan’s Hideto Tanihara and Rahm played American Charles Howell, who survived a three-man playoff to advance.
Several sudden-death playoffs were needed to decide who advanced after deadlocks in group play.
American Kevin Na birdied the first playoff hole to down England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and book a last-16 date with compatriot Bill Haas, who birdied the sixth playoff hole to defeat South Korea’s K.T. Kim.
Leishman, last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational winner, birdied the second playoff hole to advance over England’s Lee Westwood and American Pat Perez.
Howell birdied the fifth playoff hole to beat Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello. England’s Tyrell Hatton had dropped out after the first extra hole with a double bogey after calling a two-stroke penalty on himself.
World No 2 Rory McIlroy, already eliminated by Dane Soren Kjeldsen, rallied to halve with Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.
Kjeldsen faced American William McGirt yesterday while other knockout openers matched Sweden’s Alex Noren and American Brooks Koepka plus two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and England’s Ross Fisher. AFP
Phil Mickelson tees off on the sixth hole at the Match Play Championship in Texas on Friday.