Woods advances at Match Play after McIlroy meltdown

Doug Ferguson
Associated Press
Tiger Woods, left, and Rory McIlroy, right, embrace after their match during fourth round play at the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament, Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Austin, Texas. Woods won the match. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas — Tiger Woods moved into the quarterfinals Saturday at the Dell Technologies Match Play by beating Rory McIlroy in a match that turned on one bad shot.

Their first match against each other ended on the 17th hole, when Woods holed a 12-foot par putt for a 2-and-1 victory.

It felt as though it ended one hole earlier.

McIlroy, who fell behind on the fifth hole and never caught up, was poised to tie the match with a 395-yard drive with the wind at his back on the par-5 16th, leaving him a short iron to the green. Woods drove into a half-buried lie near the lip of the bunker, and could only advance 60 yards. He was hitting his third before McIlroy hit his second.

But the shot was so shockingly bad that it landed just over a bunker and came out of its pitch mark, but without going into the sand.

From there, McIlroy had nothing. He played the shot with both feet in the sand, and it flew over the green, through the parted gallery and against wooden posts. With no shot, McIlroy’s only option was to return to the previous spot and try to make that for a par. That went into another bunker.

Woods, who looked certain to lose the hole, never had to attempt his 20-footer. Instead of all square, he was 2 up.

McIlroy was so angry that he jogged up the steps toward the 18th tee, got into a cart and drove to the locker room. He turned down repeated media requests and looked straight ahead when asked for comment as he strode to his car.

“It was a difficult day for both of us,” Woods said.

Woods advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2008, the last of his three victories in this World Golf Championship. Next up after a draining match was Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark, who disposed of past champion Henrik Stenson in 16 holes.

In other matches:

— Kevin Na, close to withdrawing on Thursday with a sore neck, twice rallied from 2-down deficits and won four straight holes to beat Justin Rose, preventing Rose to returning to No. 1 in the world. He faced Francesco Molinari, who kept the only perfect record this week with a 5-and-4 win over Paul Casey.

— Kevin Kisner won the opening three holes in a 6-and-5 victory over Li Haotong. He moved on to face Louis Oosthuizen, who beat Marc Leishman. Kisner and Oosthuizen are the only quarterfinalists who lost their opening match on Wednesday.

— Sergio Garcia won two late holes in an up-and-down match against Branden Grace that went the distance before Garcia escaped with par to win 1 up. He next faced Matt Kuchar, a 4-and-3 winner over Tyrrell Hatton.

Europe started the day with eight players in the round of 16. Only three were left in the quarterfinals.

McIlroy led 37 of the 42 holes he had played going into the fourth-round match Saturday morning, which lasted until the fifth hole. In what amounted to a chipping contest, Woods outplayed him on the reachable par-4 fifth and the par-5 sixth, going 2 up. McIlroy let opportunities slip away by missing a 7-foot putt to win the ninth and by three-putting the 10th to fall 3 down.

And then the front moved in, changing conditions dramatically.

McIlroy, after winning his first hole at the par-5 12th, hit 3-wood just over the back of the green at the par-4 13th over water. Woods opted to lay up, but by the time he reached his ball, it was starting to rain and the wind was straight downwind to a front pin. Woods had no chance to get close, his wedge went over the green and McIlroy won the hole with a birdie to close the gap to one hole.

That was as close as it got.

Woods holed a 7-foot par putt on the 15th, and McIlroy threw it away on the 16th.

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