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McIlroy marches on in Austin

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the first tee during day three of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 24, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the first tee during day three of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 24, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy will meet Lucas Herbert in the last 16 of the 2023 WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play after both players maintained their 100 per cent records with impressive victories on Friday.

World Number Three McIlroy beat Keegan Bradley in a repeat of their 2012 Ryder Cup singles clash, winning 3&2 at Austin Country Club.

The Northern Irishman got off to a lightning-quick start in Friday’s final group match, going 3UP in the first seven holes to pile the pressure on American Bradley.

The four-time Major Champion produced a great escape after finding the water on the par-five 12th, getting up and down to tie the hole and remain three clear.

Bradley reduced the deficit to two with a birdie on the 13th before McIlroy was denied the chance to bounce straight back by a horseshoe on the 14th. But a delightful approach into the 15th saw him go 3UP once more to guarantee his progress.

Australian Herbert, meanwhile, held off a fightback from Ben Griffin to win 3&1 and secure his third successive victory.

Max Homa became the first player to reach the last 16 on day three after his opponent – 2021 Masters Champion Hideki Matsuyama – withdrew before their meeting with a neck injury.

Defending champion Scottie Scheffler maintained his phenomenal record at this event – where he has finished second and first in the last two editions – with a three-hole victory over Tom Kim.

World Number One Scheffler will face fellow American J.T. Poston after he beat Maverick McNealy 3&1 to preserve his own perfect record this week.

Billy Horschel also made it through to the weekend after storming to a 5&4 win over Jon Rahm with his birdie at the 14th to go 5UP with four to play, setting up a last-16 meeting with countryman Cameron Young.

Kurt Kitayama holed a lengthy birdie putt to win a three-man play-off and will meet American Andrew Putnam in the round of 16 after he recorded three successive victories.

The two-time DP World Tour champion went into his match with Tony Finau knowing he would have to do things the hard way, with a victory required to force a play-off. And he made the first part of the equation look easy, inflicting upon Finau his first defeat of the week as he won 4&3 to meet Finau and Adrian Meronk in the sudden-death play-off.

J.J. Spaun overcame Min Woo Lee in a close match to set up a last-16 clash with Xander Schauffele, Jason Day advanced after beating Collin Morikawa 4&3, and Sam Burns secured his third successive win with a two-hole victory over Séamus Power.

Matt Kuchar equalled Tiger Woods’ record of 36 wins at this event with a convincing 7&6 victory over Si Woo Kim, booking his place in the last 16 in the process. Patrick Cantlay came out on top in his winner-takes-all clash against fellow American Brian Harman, securing a 2&1 victory to progress.

The winner of Pool 12 was decided by a play-off, with Mackenzie Hughes beating Taylor Montgomery at the first extra hole to go through, having also beaten Montgomery in their final group match earlier in the day.

Player quotes

Rory McIlroy: “Another great day where I struck the ball well and got up early, kept the pressure on Keegan.

“It was nice to get through to the weekend. I missed a couple of short ones out there later on in the day, but I was really pleased with how I putted at the start of the match. I holed some nice putts.

“That’s the only thing, I would say, is just sort of tidying up there and trying to feel a little more solid with the putting. The rest of the game feels in really good shape.

“It’s getting there. It’s very solid. I didn’t make a bogey the last couple of days. I think I only made one in the last three. It’s good. It’s probably as good as it’s felt all year, which is nice going into obviously the next couple of weeks.”

Lucas Herbert: “That secured at least a half-point. That was the biggest thing there. When you’re 4UP through eight and the lead is slowly just being eaten and you’re 1UP, you want to get yourself in a position where you can’t lose.

“Just to turn the momentum like that with that putt, yeah, I think maybe winning in Dubai I yelled pretty hard, but that was probably the second loudest yell I’ve ever made after holing a putt!”

“I’m sure that won’t be an easy match. Look, it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve only played with Rory once. I played with him on Saturday in Phoenix. He’s a great player. If he turns up with his A game, I think I’m in a lot of trouble. But if he doesn’t, I’m looking for the fight.

“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun challenge all the way.”

Scottie Scheffler: “J.T is very talented. I think he’s had a couple of tournaments on Tour where he’s made no bogeys for 72 holes. So he’s a player that can get hot. It should be a fun match tomorrow morning.

“I would say I’m just very competitive. The simplicity of it is what I like. Even if the guy is playing great golf, I know what I need to do. Sometimes you’re under the buzz saw, which happens. I ran into a few buzz saws at the Presidents Cup last year, and that happens.

“Overall, I feel like if I’m playing my best, then I should win the match. That’s what I’m focused on doing is trying to go out and play my best and go from there.”

Billy Horschel: “Yeah, every day is that challenge of, hey, can I go out there and build from the day before. Can I go out there and commit to what we’ve done in practice and commit to making that same golf swing and having that same mentality on the golf course in a real, in a more tense, more pressure situation.

“So to be able to succeed on a hole-by-hole basis, on a swing-by-swing basis and just add those good swings up one after another, sort of just puts a lot of confidence in that tank that I have needed for a little bit of time now.

“I don’t know what would have happened if this was stroke-play event. Hopefully I would have seen some of the same stuff I’ve seen this week. But like I said, knowing that this was a match play that could really dial in my focus, and not worrying about making a score and just trying to beat my opponent on that hole was a key.”

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