Rory McIlroy wins opener at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play; Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick beaten | Golf News
Rory McIlroy beats Scott Stallings 3&1 on opening day of WCG-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas; Jon Rahm plus England’s Matt Fitzpatrick and Tyrrell Hatton lose first matches in Austin; watch the tournament live on Sky Sports through until Sunday’s final
Last Updated: 22/03/23 9:42pm
Rory McIlroy made a winning start to his bid for a second WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play title with a 3&1 victory over Scott Stallings in Texas.
McIlroy, who won this event in 2015, was three up thru six holes in Austin on Wednesday before being pegged back to one up thru nine by the world No 62.
However, the Northern Irishman birdied the par-three 11th – a hole his opponent bogeyed – to extend his lead and then secured victory at the par-three 17th with another birdie.
Sky Sports Golf’s Nick Dougherty explains the rules of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
World No 3 McIlroy – making his first appearance since missing the cut at The Players two weeks ago – will play Denny McCarthy on Thursday and Keegan Bradley on Friday as he looks to finish top of his four-man group and make the knockout stages this weekend.
Each of the pool winners will advance to Saturday’s round of 16, with the quarter-finals held later the same day before the semi-finals and final take place on Sunday.
McIlroy, who had a new putter in his bag, said: “Obviously this part of the season you’ve got one eye on what you’re doing now and one eye on Augusta [for The Masters].
“I had to respond a couple times to what Scott did on the back nine, so it was nice to sort of feel that little bit of pressure and have to hit a shot or have to make a putt.”
Rahm and Fitzpatrick suffer opening defeats
World No 2 Jon Rahm opened up with a 2&1 defeat to Rickie Fowler.
Rahm – who withdrew ahead of his second round at The Players due to a stomach virus – was two up after three holes and remained that way until the eighth hole when a bogey from the Spaniard allowed Fowler to halve his lead.
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Fowler – who needs to reach the quarter-finals in Austin to move back inside the world’s top 50 and qualify for The Masters next month – levelled proceedings on the 11th as Rahm registered another bogey and then birdied the 12th to go one up.
The Californian went two up on the 15th as Rahm recorded a final bogey before matching Rahm’s birdie at 16 and par at 17 to close out victory.
Elsewhere, Players runner-up Tyrrell Hatton lost 3&1 to Ben Griffin and could be doubtful for the the rest of the event after suffering pain in his right hand and arm hitting a shot on the range during his warm-up.
A look through the historical moments from the WGC Match Play after the PGA Tour announced this year’s event would be the last edition
Reigning US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick’s struggles continued, meanwhile, with a 5&3 defeat to JJ Spaun.
Fitzpatrick has missed the cut in three of his last four starts, around finishing 14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Jordan Spieth was among the winners, though, defeating Mackenzie Hughes 4&3.
How does the Match Play work?
The first three days are dedicated to round-robin match play, with the 64-player field split into 16 groups of four and only the winner of each group then progressing to the knockout stages.
If there is a tie at the top of the group, then a sudden-death play-off between those involved will determine who progresses through to the weekend.
The last 16 and the quarter-finals take place on Saturday, with the semi-finals scheduled for early on Sunday ahead of the final later that day. That means the winner will have played seven rounds over the five days to lift the trophy.
Watch the 2023 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play live on Sky Sports across the week.
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