Johnson breezes through

Dustin Johnson lining up a putt during the WGC-Dell Matchplay at the Austin Country Club in Texas on Thursday. The US golfer is aiming to become the first man since 2014 to win three successive events on Tour.
Dustin Johnson lining up a putt during the WGC-Dell Matchplay at the Austin Country Club in Texas on Thursday. The US golfer is aiming to become the first man since 2014 to win three successive events on Tour.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Gusty conditions no problem for world No. 1 in Matchplay, as Kjeldsen eliminates McIlroy

AUSTIN (Texas) • Top-ranked Dustin Johnson continued his perfect record at the WGC-Dell Matchplay while world No. 2 Rory McIlroy was eliminated without even setting foot on the course on Thursday.

On an extremely windy afternoon at Austin Country Club with gusts of up to 56kmh, Johnson coped manfully with the elements to beat German Martin Kaymer 3&2 .

"Putting is the hardest part," the American told Golf Channel after improving to 2-0-0 overall with his second straight win over a Major champion, having steamrolled Webb Simpson 5 and 3 on Wednesday. "It's very breezy and then really gusty at times."

Despite two wins from two matches, there was no guarantee he would advance out of the group stage.

He needed to win or halve his match against compatriot Jimmy Walker yesterday to be certain of advancing to the final 16. The format divides the 64 players into 16 four-man groups, with the winner of each group entering the knockout stage today.

After losing to Soren Kjeldsen on Wednesday, McIlroy got a win on Thursday when his scheduled opponent Gary Woodland withdrew, citing personal family reasons. Even with that walkover, however, the Northern Irishman still needed Kjeldsen to lose his second match to have any chance of advancing out of the round-robin group stage.

  • 56kmh

    Speed of the winds around Austin Country Club that wreaked havoc on the WGC-Dell Matchplay tournament.

However, the Dane duly shut the door on McIlroy, beating Argentinian Emiliano Grillo 4 and 3.

American star Jordan Spieth beat Japan's Yuta Ikeda 4 and 2 to sustain his hopes of reaching the knockout stage.

But McIlroy was not the only highly ranked player eliminated from the final 16, with world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama also making an early exit after losing to Englishman Ross Fisher 2 and 1.

The wind caused all sorts of problems and a watery grave for many a ball, even a shank by American Charles Howell, who had no problem blaming the conditions.

"(It was) difficult enough to cause a shank," he said after escaping with a 1-up win over Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello.

Phil Mickelson, who improved to 2-0-0 thanks to a 5 and 4 thumping of fellow American Daniel Berger, said it was fortunate that the matchplay format was being used.

"Given the severity of the greens and so forth, certainly there are holes we're going to look ridiculous on," he said after chipping clean across a green into a water hazard.

"I think it's fun and it's great for matchplay because you don't worry about the stroke. It's just relative to your opponent."

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2017, with the headline 'Johnson breezes through'. Print Edition | Subscribe