Mar
23
2016
WGC-Match Play Championship Day 1: McIlroy outlasts Oleson
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play - Round One
Well, it was a pretty exciting first day of the Match Play Championship at Austin Country Club (which looks like a cool course and makes it more annoying that I had to cancel my trip at the last minute). I have to say that it seems like the new round robin format is a significant improvement from the previous straight-up bracket.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide the intensive coverage that I would like to, but PGATour.com has a good round-up of all the matches.

Here’s a summary of some of the European players’ matches, courtesy of EuropeanTour.com:

Rory McIlroy admitted he was fortunate to be one of the 13 European Tour Members who made winning starts to the WGC- Dell Match Play Championship at Austin Country Club.

The defending champion and World Number Three was one down with four to play against Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen, but birdied the 15th to get back to all square and then won the match with a par on the 18th after Olesen miscued his chip from the back of the green.

Martin Kaymer was another player who turned his match around at the death, winning the 17th and 18th to finish one up against Shane Lowry, while Sergio Garcia holed a 12-foot putt on the last to beat Lee Westwood by the same margin.

There were relatively straightforward wins for Andy Sullivan over Bernd Wiesberger (3&2), Justin Rose over Fabian Gomez (2 up) and Louis Oosthuizen against Matt Jones (2&1), and young Belgian Thomas Pieters was hugely impressive in the way he put Tuesday’s events in Brussels to the back of his mind to halve his match with Adam Scott.

This is the second year of the new group format, where the field is divided into 16 groups of four and a round-robin takes place over the first three days. The player who tops the group then progresses through to the last-16 matches on Saturday morning, with the quarter-finals on Saturday afternoon and the semi-finals and final taking place on Sunday.

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QUOTES
Rory McIlroy

“I didn’t have my best stuff today, but I hung in there and hit good shots when I needed to. You feel bad because he’s up the whole match. If I’d birdied 18 and he parred it, I would feel like I won the match and he probably would feel the same way, whereas he’s definitely going away like he lost it.

“It was a day when you just had to hang in there. With the wind it’s tricky – it swirls around here. It drops, it gusts. It’s tough to pick a club. I really struggled with that today. I hit some good shots, but I just had to grind out pars and ultimately that was good enough.

“Match play is all about just getting through. You don’t have to play your best golf in these rounds; you just have to get through and get into the weekend. I’m one step towards doing that after today, but I know I’m going to have to play a bit better if I want to win my next matches.”
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Martin Kaymer

“It was a sensational finish, but the rest was very average. I didn’t hit many fairways today. I couldn’t really get the driver going, but I stayed in the game. We gave each other way too many chances. Both of us had chances to close the match on 14 and 15. Shane had a huge putt on 15 to go two up, then I made a great birdie on 16 so I’m very pleased with the finish.”

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Sergio Garcia

“It was a big up and down match, but I’m happy to come through with the win. We only had three holes that were halved. There were a lot of good things in the match, but it wasn’t the prettiest. It was nice to play with Lee and we were in great spirits all the way round.”

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Thomas Pieters

“I was two down with three to play, and I was thinking a half or a win would be a very nice finish. We both played some good golf and I think a half is a fair result. It was nice that people were shouting stuff like they’re thinking of us – it gives me goosebumps right now. I was definitely thinking about it on the course. You can’t put that out of your mind, something like that. It does affect you.”

(Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)