Long shot McGirt finishes group sweep
If you had scanned the 64-golfer bracket for the WGCDell Technologies Match Play event, William McGirt was not an entrant who stood out as a super sleeper. After three preliminary-round matches, though, the 37-year-old from Lumberton, N.C., has said good night to his four-man group, posting an unexpected sweep.
McGirt, the 48th seed in this tournament, brushed aside No. 15 Branden Grace and No. 19 Brant Snedeker while advancing to Saturday’s round of 16.
“I’ve always been one that’s had to work for everything,” said McGirt, whose lone PGA Tour win was the 2016 Memorial. “I’m not the most talented guy out here. I make up for it with hard work. I’ve put in a lot of time the last few years and just stick to my game.
“If I were playing Rory (McIlroy) tomorrow, I’m not going to stand up and swing any harder. I’m not going to sniff hitting it where he’s hitting it. I’ve got to beat him with precision instead of power.”
McGirt doesn’t have to deal with McIlroy. He’ll be facing a fellow long shot, No. 52 Soren Kjeldsen, who posted a 3-0 mark to win McIlroy’s group, partially benefiting from Gary Woodland’s withdrawal.
Breakthrough: After going 0-7 in Dell Match Play competition, young Brit Chris Wood finally won a match. He knocked off Kevin Na 2 and 1 Friday for his first victory of the week.
“Last year, I played really nicely for three games and lost every one,” Wood said. “I’ve been struggling this week.”
Wood’s excused because he’s had a distraction or two of late. His wife just had a baby a month ago.
“I’ve been changing more nappies than hitting balls,” he said.
Off to Augusta: Danny Willett will have some extra time to prepare for a defense of his Masters title.
The Englishman beat Russell Knox 4 and 2 Friday, but that was his lone victory in pool play this week, and that sends him packing.
“But there are positives we’re taking from it,” Willett said. “We’ve got a week off now to work on the little things we need to get ready for, driving being one of the main things. We haven’t driven the ball well for a couple of months now.”
Willett doesn’t mind heading into Augusta under the radar, as much as any champion can.
“It’s going to be awesome,” he said. “If you take it as anything else, as added pressure, I don’t. I think me playing poorly over the last few months has actually helped in the fact that nobody is really looking at what we’re doing.
“The guys at the top of the world rankings are playing some good golf. And understandably we’ve played some poor golf.”
Brighter Day: In a text message delivered by his agent Friday, Jason Day said his mother’s surgery to remove a cancerous mass from her lung went well. She was resting comfortably and doctors were optimistic about her recovery, Day wrote.
Day, the defending Dell Match Play champion, pulled out of the event after six holes Wednesday to be with his mother, Dening Day, in Columbus, Ohio. His father, Alvin, died of stomach cancer when Day was 12.
Head shots: Sergio Garcia didn’t advance, but he had some of the most colorful supporters at Austin Country Club. Angela Akins, the former Texas Longhorn golfer who is his fiancée, and her friends followed the Spaniard around the course while holding huge cutouts showing Sergio’s face. Garcia and Akins plan a private Hill Country wedding this summer.
Fleeting moment: For about 15 minutes, Texas ex Jhonattan Vegas was in position to advance after closing out Scott Piercy 3 and 1 for a 2-1 record in his Dell Match Play debut. But then Bubba Watson finished up a draw with Thomas Pieters, allowing Watson to win the group at 2-0-1.
Watery grave: No word on whether Pieters is a soccer fan, but the Belgian showed fine form with his foot on the 13th hole. After sinking a 3½-foot par to halve the hole with Watson, Pieters flipped the ball up with his putter and then neatly dropkicked it into Lake Austin.