Scheffler, McIlroy survive scares to advance in Match Play
AUSTIN, Texas — Defending champion Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy survived matches that went the distance Saturday morning and advanced to the quarterfinals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Scheffler, who has reached the championship match in both appearances at Austin Country Club, looked to be headed home when J.T. Poston built a 3-up lead on him through 14 holes.
Poston botched the 15th and conceded the hole, Scheffler squared the match with a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th, and he won with a par on the 18th.
Poston's approach to the 18th came up just short, and the gallery cheered when it began to roll off the false front into the rough. The cheer was even louder when Poston's 5-foot par putt lipped out and kept the match from going extra holes.
Scheffler played four years at Texas, so the gallery on his side was to be expected. He also is the No. 1 player in the world who defends his title in the Masters in two weeks. For now, he is three wins away from joining Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners in Match Play.
McIlroy won in 2015, the first year the format went away from single elimination. This is the fifth time he has reached the quarterfinals in any format, and it wasn't easy, even though he never trailed.
McIlroy was 1 up and had 7 feet for birdie on the 17th, presumably to close out the match, only for Herbert's 30-foot birdie putt to swirl more than 360 degrees around the cup and drop. That meant McIlroy had to make his putt to stay in the lead, and he poured it in.
On the final hole, McIlroy took the aggressive play with driver that set up a simple pitch to 3 feet, a putt that was conceded for a 2-up victory.
Mackenzie Hughes of Canada won three straight holes on the front nine and never let Max Homa back into the match in a 3-and-2 win. He advanced to play Sam Burns, who took advantage of two Patrick Cantlay mistakes to start the back nine and won, 2 and 1.
Past champion Jason Day, whose game is slowly rounding into form, ended Matt Kuchar's bid to break Woods' record for more career matches won. Day made a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th hole for a 1 up lead, and held on to win in 18 holes.
This is the final edition of Match Play, and the 44-year-old Kuchar leaves with 36 matches won. Woods also won 36 matches and is the only player to win the event three times.
Day, who can match Woods with a third victory next week, faced Scheffler in the quarter finals. Scheffler has won nine consecutive matches.
Xander Schauffele quietly worked his way into the quarter finals with a 3-and-2 win over J.J. Spaun at No. 61 the lowest seed to win his group. Schauffele faced McIlroy in the quarterfinals.
Cameron Young made six birdies in 14 holes to oust Billy Horschel and moved on to play Kurt Kitayama, who had the shortest match in the morning with his 6-and-5 win over Andrew Putnam. Young is trying to join Kevin Sutherland in 2002 as the only players to capture their first title on a major tour at the Match Play.