The Dell Match Play has produced a semifinal that is almost bigger than Texas, even without Jordan Spieth.
Jason Day powered his way to two victories Saturday at Austin, Texas, to assure that he will return to No. 1 in the world.
His reward is a semifinal showdown against defending champion Rory McIlroy, who ran his unbeaten streak to 12 matches and needs two more to join Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners. This is only the second time the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds have met in the semifinals since the Match Play began in 1999. They are the last two winners of this event.
“I expect it to be very, very tough and very stressful out there,” Day said. “And that’s the stuff I enjoy.”
Day and McIlroy have never met in match play.
“I’ve love to play Jason,” McIlroy said. “I’d really relish it. He’s playing really well at the minute, coming off a win last week. I’d be really up for it. It’s a big match.”
Spieth, who led the Texas Longhorns to an NCAA title in 2012 and had the gallery on his side all week, won’t be around for all the excitement.
He dropped his fourth-round match to Louis Oosthuizen, 4 and 2, and then he lost the No. 1 ranking when Day advanced to the semifinal. Spieth was more concerned about how his swing got out of sorts than losing the No. 1 ranking.
“To be honest, it could be a good thing for me going into the Masters,” he said.
Oosthuizen took advantage of Dustin Johnson’s blunders in the quarterfinals to win, 2 and 1. Rafael Cabrera Bello of Spain also advanced to the semifinals by beating Ryan Moore, 2 and 1.
Oosthuizen and Day are the only semifinalists who have yet to play the 18th hole in competition at Austin Country Club.
“I didn’t make it very hard on Louis today, which is unfortunate,” said Spieth, who lost holes with three bogeys and a double bogey. “I was off from when I hit my first 10 shots on the range. I’ve had incredible control of the ball this week and of my wedges. I’m not exactly sure what happened.”
Spieth led a trail of Americans to the airport. There were 11 Americans in the round of 16 at the start of the day; none at the end of it. This is the first time since 2010 that no Americans advanced to the semifinals.
Poulter leads in Puerto Rico
Ian Poulter shot a four-under-par 68 at windy Coco Beach to take the third-round lead in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open.
Playing the event for the first time after failing to qualify for the Match Play tournament, England’s Poulter had an 11-under 205 total. Tony Finau, Jonathan Byrd and Steve Marino were a stroke back. Finau shot 67, Byrd 68, and Marino 69.
Puerto Rico’s Rafael Campos, the leader after each of the first two rounds, had a 72 to drop into a tie for fifth at nine under with Scott Brown (67) and Aaron Baddeley (69).