Golf: Day tweaks his back in WGC Match Play win

Jason Day of Australia reacts to his tee shot on the third hole during the first round.
Jason Day of Australia reacts to his tee shot on the third hole during the first round. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - World number two Jason Day's 3 and 2 victory over Graeme McDowell at the World Golf Championships Match Play in Austin, Texas, came at a price on Wednesday with the Aussie seeking treatment on his sore lower back.

Day, who headed for treatment after signing his scorecard, was limping slightly coming off the 15th green at Austin Country Club and was clearly in pain when he dropped his driver after teeing off at the next hole.

He slid gingerly down the side of a fairway bunker to play his second shot at the par-five 16th, and was down on his knees alongside the green when Northern Ireland's McDowell missed a birdie putt that would have extended the match.

McDowell was 2 up through four holes after a birdie and a hole conceded by Day. But Day birdied four of the next five to seize control.

Wednesday's matches were the first of three days of round-robin group play, with the winner of each of the 16 groups advancing after Friday to the knock-out stage of the $9.5 million tournament.

In other early matches, Jason Dufner defeated fifth-seeded American Rickie Fowler 2 and 1, Dufner rolling in a 28-foot birdie putt at the 17th for the victory.

Dufner led most of the way, taking a 3 up lead through 11 after his fourth birdie of the day.

Fowler bounced back to square the match after Dufner three-putted 15, but Dufner birdied the next two to seal it.

"I played a lot of good holes today," Dufner said. "I feel like I played maybe a little bit better than Rickie. I had control of the match maybe a little bit more than he did today." Fowler said it came down to the action on the greens.

"He made more putts than I did today, and that was probably the little bit of difference," Fowler said.

Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello defeated 12th-seeded Hideki Matsuyama of Japan 1 up, building a 3 up lead through nine and holding on after Matsuyama rallied to level the match. Cabrera Bello drained six-foot birdie putts at 16 and 17 to secure the win.

"I had a little bit of a messy start of the back nine," the Spaniard said. "Hideki also played really good those holes. I told myself that these type of things happen in match play ... I really played good coming the last three holes." The tournament features the top 64 players from the world golf rankings as of March 14, although Jim Furyk and Henrik Stenson opted out.

World number one and top seed Jordan Spieth opened his week against Jamie Donaldson of Wales, while world number three Rory McIlroy was taking on Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen.

Brandt Snedeker nabbed the first match win of the event, beating fellow American Charley Hoffman 2 and 1.

Hoffman took a 1 up lead with a birdie on the 10th hole, but Snedeker rallied with a par on the 14th and hole-winning birdies on 15 and 16 before ending the match with a par at the 17th.

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