Tiger Woods will need a win and some help on Friday to advance to the weekend at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas.
Woods never led in Thursday’s Group 13 match against Brandt Snedeker, who went on to a 2&1 victory. Snedeker and Patrick Cantlay lead the group with 1 1/2 points, followed by Woods with one point and Aaron Wise, who has been eliminated.
Woods must beat Cantlay on Friday and have Wise win or tie Snedeker to have a chance to advance to the knockout rounds.
“I need to go out and win, not to root against Patrick in any, way, shape or form,” Snedeker told the Golf Channel. “It’s the fun thing about this format, but it’s the tough thing about it sometimes also. All I can do is go out there and try to play as good as I can again tomorrow.”
The 13th-seeded Woods entered Thursday’s match favored over Snedeker (44), but coming off a shaky win over Wise the previous day. Woods halved one hole after chipping left-handed from his knees to save par and won another by knocking a 166-yard approach from a fairway bunker to within gimmie range. However, his putter routinely let him down.
“(The fans) were all obviously pulling for Tiger, which I don’t blame ’em,” Snedeker said. “I am 100 percent of the time, too, except for today. It was a lot of fun out there.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 28, 2019
Stage set for dramatic Friday
Group 13 is one of several with compelling showdowns set for Friday.
Second-seeded Justin Rose birdied three of his final four holes to scratch out a tie against fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperrell (34). Rose, who has failed to advance in two previous tries since the Match Play moved to a round-robin format, will place a winner-advances match against Gary Woodland, the No. 22 seed who is 2-0 after beating Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo (53).
“I’m excited about where I’m at,” Woodland, who finished second to Rory McIlroy in the event in 2015, told the Golf Channel. “Obviously, if I go out and play well I think I can beat anybody. So hopefully I come out and play like I did early in the round today and put a good round together.”
No. 52 Jim Furyk also continued to slay giants in the “group of death,” taking out No. 20 Phil Mickelson a day after upsetting Australia’s Jason Day (12). With Day and Mickelson eliminated, Furyk and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson will play an elimination match Friday.
“I think playing my own game,” Furyk said of what the key will be for him. “I’m playing against three guys who hit it a lot farther than I do. They play a different style of game than I do. This golf course lends itself to anyone, so I need to really just go out there and play my style.”
While defending champion Bubba Watson was eliminated with his second consecutive loss, he’ll play a key role in another group with multiple potential winners. Jordan Spieth (1-0-1) led by as many as six holes in beat Kevin Na (1-1-0) 3&2, with Billy Horschel (1-0-1) still alive.
Watson will play Spieth on Friday while Na takes on Horschel.
“When you have that kind of lead, it’s nice on a windy golf course to just be able to hit greens and just wear the guy out hitting greens,” said Spieth. “It’s tough, it’s difficult to get it close to the hole locations. And then tomorrow we have this same wind again, same conditions. I have to stay patient and play my game.”
Meanwhile, No. 4 Rory McIlroy continued his dominant form, beating South Africa’s Justin Harding (47) 3&2 to move to 2-0-0 in Group 4. The Northern Irishman can’t do any worse than a playoff against Harding or Luke List (64) even if he loses to England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick on Friday.
“I felt like over the last couple of days… I made the shot when I needed to. I made the putt when I needed to,” said McIlroy. “Once I get into that situation where I smell a little bit of blood, I’m taking advantage of my opportunities.
Other group notes
Group 5: No. 5 Justin Thomas (1-1-0) stayed alive with a win over England’s No. 33 Matt Wallace (1-1-0). All four players are still alive with No. 31 Keegan Bradley (0-1-1) halving with Denmark’s No. 50 Lucas Bjerregaard (1-0-1). Thomas will play Bradley and Wallace will face Bjerregaard on Friday.
Group 7: No. 7 Francesco Molinari (2-0-0) can advance with a victory over No. 21 Webb Simpson (0-1-1), who was eliminated with a halve against Japan’s No. 63 Satoshi Kodaira (0-1-1). At worst, Molinari can go to a playoff with a loss and a win by No. 45 Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark over Kodaira.
Group 10: England’s Paul Casey and Charles Howell III are both 1-1-0 after halving their match Thursday. Casey will play Australia’s No. 25 Cameron Smith (0-2-0) while Howell III plays Mexico’s No. 58 Abraham Ancer (1-1-0).
–Derek Harper (@DerekAHarper), Field Level Media