McIlroy, Johnson lose Match Play openers

Days after capturing the Arnold Palmer Invitational to end his victory drought, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy lost his opening match at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play on Wednesday in Austin, Texas.

Dustin Johnson, ranked No. 1 in the world and the defending champion, also dropped his first match in round-robin play at Austin Country Club. The 64-player field is divided into 16 four-player groups, which each player opposing the other three in the group for the right to advance to the round of 16.

Johnson, the top seed, took a 3-and-1 loss to Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, who is seeded 52nd. American Peter Uihlein, the 57th seed, knocked off sixth-seeded McIlroy 2 and 1.

Wiesberger said, “I still didn’t play great but somehow managed to get it done, and I’m just happy with that. I thought it was the easiest game I could have; I’m the underdog playing with the defending champion.”

McIlroy did his best to rally after Uihlein led 5 up after 10 holes. Five consecutive birdies by McIlroy got him within two holes of Uihlein, but the American held on.

“It’s very difficult — he turned it on late,” Uihlein said. “I felt that if I kept trying to give myself a chance I could get it done. You can’t really control what he’s going to do.

“It was like a boxing match — if you land a couple of jabs, you assume he’s going to land one eventually. But I was able to hold him off, which was nice.”

McIlroy said, “I didn’t really necessarily play badly. He played pretty well. He was a few under through nine and he didn’t make a bogey all day, so it was hard to claw my way back.

“It was gusty out there, the conditions were a little tricky. I made a run at him at the end, but it was a little too late.”

In other matches involving top players, second-seeded Justin Thomas earned a 2-up win over fellow American Luke List, third-seeded Jon Rahm of Spain halved with Keegan Bradley, and fourth-seeded Jordan Spieth defeated South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel 2 and 1.

Thomas was returning to action after recently having wisdom teeth pulled and then getting strep throat last week.

“My strength is back,” Thomas said, according to USA Today Sports. “It doesn’t hurt terribly to drink water or do anything like that. I’m just hoping it keeps getting better every day.”

–Field Level Media

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