Keegan Bradley's latest tie in the Match Play feels more like a win
Keegan Bradley extended his dubious streak to 16 matches over 11 years without winning in the Dell Technologies Match Play. He sure felt like a winner Wednesday.
Bradley was 4 down with five holes to play when he rallied to scratch out a halve against Denny McCarthy in the opening round at Austin Country Club.
"Gosh, that felt good," Bradley said. "That was a grind. That has the possibility of going a long way, so I'm excited about it."
Defending champion and top seed Scottie Scheffler missed two putts inside 5 feet over the last five holes before making a 12-footer for birdie on the 18th to beat Davis Riley in a rematch of their U.S. Junior Amateur title match 10 years ago that Scheffler won.
Jon Rahm, the No. 2 seed, was the only player from the top four seeds to lose. Rickie Fowler took him down on the 17th hole, the first time Rahm has lost in the opening round.
Matt Kuchar, at 44 the oldest player in the field, outlasted Viktor Hovland and won his 35th match, one short of the career tournament record held by Tiger Woods.
Rory McIlroy had a shorter shaft in his driver and a new putter, and both worked just fine in his 3-and-1 victory over Scott Stallings.
Nothing was decided Wednesday in the first of three rounds of group play. One player from each of the 16 groups will move on for the knockout stage on the weekend.
But every point helps, and even a halfpoint felt big for Bradley.
He made his Match Play debut in 2012 by beating Geoff Ogilvy, who has the highest winning percentage (80%) in tournament history. That was Bradley's last win.
He has lost nine and halved seven matches since then, and it wasn't without a fight. This was his 11th consecutive match dating to 2015 that it was decided on the 18th hole, lose or draw.
"Man, it was looking pretty bleak there for a while, but I just put my head down," said Bradley, who drove into the water on the reachable par-4 13th to make bogey, going 4 down and running out of holes.
"I finally started hitting some good shots coming in, and it definitely paid off," he said.