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Scottie Scheffler mows down European stalwarts in Match Play

Scottie Scheffler, right, bumps fists with Ian Poulter after Scheffler won their match at the Dell Technologies Match Play.
Scottie Scheffler, right, bumps fists with Ian Poulter after Scheffler won their round-of-16 match Saturday at the Dell Technologies Match Play tournament. Scheffler later beat Jon Rahm.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)

Scottie Scheffler delivered all the right shots Saturday and moved into the semifinals of the Dell Technologies Match Play by taking down Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm.

Scheffler was the highest seed remaining at No. 30, which is just a number the way he handled Austin Country Club against two of Europe’s best in this format

The 24-year-old Texan made 15 birdies in the 31 holes required to get through his two matches.

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“I was excited to play these guys today,” Scheffler said. “I’ve watched Ian way too many times on TV just beat the crap out of us in the Ryder Cup. I just have memories of me and my dad sitting on the couch and watching this guy make putt after putt. So it was nice to get one on him, at least for me.”

He advances to a final day that features three Americans and one European — Victor Perez of France, who made short work of Sergio Garcia in their quarterfinal match.

USC basketball coach Andy Enfield has used the lessons from his late father to help guide the Trojans to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Matt Kuchar, the only player to win every match he has played in this most unpredictable event, pulled out a 1-up victory over Jordan Spieth in the morning and then kept Brian Harman from another amazing rally by rolling in a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole of their quarterfinal match.

Kuchar and Scheffler will meet in one semifinal match. Perez will face Billy Horschel, who never led in his quarterfinal match until Tommy Fleetwood sent his tee shot out of bounds on their 19th hole, the par-five 12th.

Kuchar won the Match Play in 2013 and lost in the championship match two years ago to Kevin Kisner. With his five wins this week, he now has 33 in this tournament, second only to the 36 matches won by Tiger Woods.

Scheffler knows Austin Country Club as well as anyone from his four years he spent playing for the Texas Longhorns, but this was more about the quality of his golf in the face of two intense competitors.

He never gave Poulter, a Ryder Cup stalwart and past winner of the Match Play, much of a chance. Poulter didn’t win a hole as Scheffler made seven birdies in a match that ended on the 14th hole. Poulter holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the 11th hole and looked to cut the deficit to 2 down, only for Scheffler to hole a chip from behind the green.

Strong defense has carried the UCLA men’s basketball team to a surprising run in the NCAA tournament. The Bruins hope it will help them upset Alabama.

In the quarterfinal match, Rahm fell 3 down when his approach to the par-five 12th found the water. As usual, the Spaniard who reached the championship match in his 2017 debut mounted a charge. Rahm ran off four straight birdies — and he only picked up one hole. Scheffler matched him on the 13th and made a 10-foot birdie after Rahm chipped in on the 14th.

“That was a big one,“ Scheffler said. “I was standing there greenside, and that was kind of the moment. It was kind of his do-or-die moment for the round, and I had a feeling he was going to hit a really good shot and it happened to go in. And I knew I had to roll that one in to keep things in check.”

They matched birdies on the 16th, and Rahm conceded after failing to birdie the 17th.

Horschel had never made it to the weekend in his four previous appearances, and this one looked doubtful too until he beat Max Homa on the third playoff hole to win his group. He dispatched Kevin Streelman in the fourth round Saturday morning and never led against Fleetwood in the quarterfinals until they went extra holes.

Inbee Park leads Kia Classic by five

Inbee Park hits a chip shot on the first hole in the third round of the Kia Classic on March 27, 2021, in Carlsbad, Calif.
Inbee Park hits a chip shot during the third round of the Kia Classic. She shot a three-under 69 to reach 12-under 204 at Aviara Golf Club.
( Donald Miralle / Getty Images)

CARLSBAD — Inbee Park opened a five-stroke lead in a bid to finally win the Kia Classic.

Second in the event in 2010, 2016 and 2019, the Hall of Famer shot a three-under 69 to reach 12-under 204 at Aviara Golf Club — the scenic course that was set up some 300 yards shorter for the third round.

“It was actually a big surprise,” Park said. “I didn’t know the LPGA was going to move four tees up in one day. I never seen this kind of setup before. So they tried something new. I mean, it took a long time on the golf course today waiting to go for the greens, but it was fun at the same time.”

Park is making her first LPGA Tour start of the season. The 32-year-old South Korean star, ranked fourth in the world, has 20 tour victories — seven of them majors.

Playing partner Mel Reid lipped out a birdie try from off the green on No. 18 in a 71 that left her tied for second with Mi Jung Hur (67) and Minjee Lee (68).

“She’s got a five-shot lead, so I’m going to have to do something special to get it done tomorrow,” Reid said. “I think tomorrow the game plan is to play aggressive and there is nothing to lose.”

Top-ranked Jin Young Ko, Lexi Thompson and Madelene Sagstrom were at six under in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week in Rancho Mirage. Ko, the ANA winner in April 2019, shot a 68. Thompson had a bogy-free 66, and Sagstrom had the round of the day, overcoming an opening double bogey for a 64.


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