John­son, Mick­el­son reach last 16 at WGC Match Play

New Straits Times - - Sport -

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.

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