WASHINGTON – World No. 2 Jon Rahm was eliminated after Friday’s group-stage finales at the World Golf Championship (WGC) Matchplay event, while defending champion Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy advanced.
Rahm, a three-time PGA Tour winner in 2023, lost to 2021 tournament champion Billy Horschel 5 and 4 at Austin Country Club in Texas, where the 16 group winners, 12 of them Americans, advanced to the knockout rounds.
He did not make a birdie and became the only top-six seed ousted in group play, as Horschel never trailed in delivering the Spaniard’s second defeat.
“To succeed on a hole-by-hole basis, on a swing-by-swing basis and just add those good swings up one after another, puts a lot of confidence in that tank that I’ve needed for a little bit of time now,” said Horschel, who will take on fellow American Cameron Young in the last 16.
Scheffler beat South Korean 17th seed Tom Kim 3&2 to win his group with a perfect 3-0.
The reigning Masters champion, who won the Players Championship earlier in March, booked a last-16 berth against US 43rd seed J.T. Poston.
“I’m just trying to go out and hit good shots, keep doing what I’m doing and executing,” world No. 1 Scheffler said.
“I’ve seen some good results recently and I’m hoping to keep that going moving forward.”
McIlroy, the 2015 Matchplay winner, never fell behind in beating US 20th seed Keegan Bradley 3 and 2 to reach the last 16.
The four-time Major winner from Northern Ireland won the fourth and fifth holes with birdies and the seventh on a Bradley bogey, then played level from there for his third win.
“As every day goes by... the more and more confidence I’m getting with it, which is great,” he said.
“I struck the ball well and sort of got up early, kept pressure on Keegan. It was nice to get through to the weekend.”
Next up for McIlroy is Australian 46th seed Lucas Herbert, who never trailed in beating US 62nd seed Ben Griffin 3 and 1 to also finish 3-0.
American 59th seed Matt Kuchar, the oldest entrant at 44, routed South Korea’s Kim Si-woo 7 and 6 to advance. The 2013 Matchplay champion equalled the event record set by Tiger Woods with his 36th match win.
“To tie Tiger’s mark, I don’t know if I have words to put that into perspective,” he said.
“I’m hugely proud, grateful, kind of shell-shocked to be in the same sentence with him.”
Kuchar, into the round of 16 for a record ninth time, will next face Australian 32nd seed Jason Day, the 2014 and 2016 winner who beat US two-time Major champion Collin Morikawa 4 and 3 to stay perfect. AFP