Rory McIlroy kept some star power in the Match Play Championship on Friday by winning the last two holes with birdies to force overtime and then beating old foe Billy Horschel on the second extra hole to make it to the weekend at San Francisco
“I dug deep when I needed to,” McIlroy said.
Masters champion Jordan Spieth wasn’t so fortunate. All square in a back-and-forth match with Lee Westwood that featured chip-ins for halves on consecutive holes, Westwood delivered the clutch shot with a six-iron to 12 feet for birdie on the 17th, and Spieth failed to birdie the 18th.
“Lee played well and pulled off the shots when he needed to at the end,” Spieth said. “And I didn’t.”
With a new format, one element didn’t change about this fickle tournament. The top players didn’t make it to the weekend.
McIlroy (No. 1) and Jim Furyk (No. 5) were the only players in the top 10 who advanced to the round of 16 that starts a long weekend at TPC Harding Park.
Furyk had to go 20 holes to beat Martin Kaymer, and then he went one extra hole as a spectator with plenty at stake. Furyk was assured of winning his four-man group only if George Coetzee beat Thongchai Jaidee. The South African won in 21 holes, and Furyk advanced because he beat Coetzee on Wednesday.
“Kind of an awkward feeling,” Furyk said.
Friday was all about elimination, and it came in all shapes and sizes — a battle of undefeated players, a three-way playoff and some head-to-head tiebreakers.
Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez went nose-to-nose during a dispute about a drop Bradley took. It was a misunderstanding until Bradley’s caddie got involved, the Spaniard effectively told him to butt out and Bradley came to his caddie’s defense.
That was only a sideshow on a day filled with far more interesting developments.
— Twelve players who won their groups went 3-0.
— Four players who advanced were the lowest seed in their group, with John Senden (No. 60) easily advancing with a perfect record.
— Tommy Fleetwood of England had to play 58 holes to reach the round of 16 in his first Match Play Championship. Hunter Mahan also was 3-0 and still hasn’t seen the final three holes in any of his matches. Mahan, a past champion of this event, has played only 41 holes.
It’s single elimination the rest of the way, with the quarterfinals set for Saturday afternoon, the semifinals Sunday morning and then the championship match.
Brooke Henderson shot a six-under-par 65 in the North Texas Shootout, giving the 17-year-old Canadian the lead going into the weekend for the second straight week on the LPGA Tour. Henderson had a bogey-free round to reach eight-under 134, a stroke ahead of 2013 winner Inbee Park and 54-year-old Juli Inkster. ... Marco Dawson and Michael Allen each shot six-under 66 to share the first-round lead in the Champions Tour’s Insperity Invitational at The Woodlands, Texas