Jason Day entered this week’s WGC Dell Match Play as an unquestionable favorite, but visible back pain in Wednesday’s first round put the star’s status in question for the week.
Day was able to survive the remainder of pool play with a victory over Thaichong Jaidee and a timely Paul Casey withdrawal to advance to the knockout stage where Day pummeled top-20 ranked Americans Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka on his way to a dream matchup with defending champion Rory McIlroy. The matchup of golf’s two most explosive players didn’t disappoint with each at the top of their games. The match saw McIlroy hold a 1-up lead at the turn, but birdies by Day at 10, 12, and 13 turned the tides in the match to Day. McIlroy was able to cut the deficit to 1-down as the pair reached 18, and both found trouble off the tee and missed the green. Day left McIlroy with hope as his pitch left a tough 12-foot putt for par, while Rory had 6 feet for his. Day calmly knocked in the right to left sliding putt to knock off McIlroy and advance to a finals matchup with Louis Oostheizen, who had beaten Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello in the other semifinal.
In the final, Day picked up where he left off, making 5 birdies in 14 holes to close Oostheizen out 5 up with 4 holes to play. It marked the most lopsided win since the tournament shifted from a 36 to an 18-hole final match. With his stellar play, Day was able to regain the world number 1 ranking from Jordan Spieth and prove another monster year is in sight. A win at the Masters would only cement his status as golf’s new Alpha Dog.
This week, American golf fans got to meet one of the world’s hottest players, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, who made a deep run turning heads and knocking off Rory McIlroy in the third place match on Sunday. Bello has experienced a meteoric rise in the world rankings, starting the year 114th and moving into the top 50, earning himself a Masters exemption following this week’s play. The Spaniard has already notched 3 top-3 finishes and only finished outside the top 15 once in 6 starts.
The WGC Match Play provides fans with the unique opportunity to see stars square off mano a mano. Here were a few of our favorite matchups of the week.
Dustin Johnson 3 and 2 over Patrick Reed
These two American Ryder Cuppers faced off in the round of 16, Reed coming off a dominant pool play performance in which he never trailed in a match. Unfortunately for Reed, he ran into a buzzsaw in Johnson, who was -8 on the round when the match ended on 16.
Rory McIlroy - Kevin Na - halved
McIlroy and Na each won their first two matches in pool play, setting up Friday’s showdown. Na (the overwhelming underdog) put up quite the fight as the match seesawed on the back 9, eventually ending in a tie. McIlroy was finally able to shake the pesky Na on the second playoff hole.
Reed 5 and 4 over Phil Mickelson
The matchup to watch in Friday’s pool play pitted one of golf’s least-liked players, Patrick Reed, against fan-favorite Phil Mickelson. Both players were undefeated in pool play with the winner advancing to the finals. Unfortunately for fans, Reed bulldozed Mickelson. After 10 holes, Reed was an astonishing 7 up before ending the match on the 15th.
Golf is hard.
Thornbjørn Oleson stars in the newest edition of “golf is hard.” The young Danish player had Rory McIlroy on the ropes, but shaky play down the stretch ushered the star back into the match. On 18, Thorbjørn needed to get this chip up and down to halve the match, but he hardly rose to the occasion…
Patrick Reed proved his reputation as one of the best match play competitors, going undefeated during pool play and advancing to the knockout rounds. He also added to his reputation of being one of the Tour’s most self-absorbed player, sporting a new belt buckle that payed homage to his 2014 Ryder Cup moment when he “shushed” the European crowd following a clutch putt…. Reed just can’t seem to get out of his own way.
With the world’s best in Austin, the Puerto Rico Open served as an opportunity for the Tour’s up-and-comers and journeymen to notch a valuable win. Englishman Ian Poulter had the lead entering Sunday’s final round but ultimately faded with an even-par final round, opening the door for the promising 26-year-old Tony Finau and tour journeyman Steve Marino. The two ended up tied at -12, leading to a sudden-death playoff where Finau’s third consecutive birdie finally shook Marino. It was Finau’s first PGA Tour win, earning him a 2-year exemption on the PGA Tour and invitations to this year’s Players Championship and PGA Championship.
Countdown to Augusta - 9 days
Contender: Jordan Spieth
Odds to win: 17 to 2
Masters Record: 1st ('15), t2nd ('14)
The (now) number 2 player in the world enters the 2016 Masters with an average finish of 1.5 at Augusta. Even more impressive? Spieth has never been outside of the top 5 at the Masters after a round of competition. Sometimes golf courses fit a player's eye, and Augusta appears to be one of those golf courses for Jordan. Spieth's 2016 started off hot by blowing away the field at the Hyundai, but his game has been uncharacteristically sloppy ever since, leaving him no longer the overwhelming favorite.
Course Photo Tour
Medinah Country Club is no stranger to exposure as the Chicagoland course has played host to 3 Western Opens, 3 U.S. Opens, 2 PGA Championships and the 2012 Ryder Cup. Originally designed by Tom Bendalow with the help of A.W. Tillinghast, Medinah’s Course #3 underwent a redesign by Rees Jones in 2002. Check out our full photo tour here.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem likely to step down in 2016
(prepping our resume as we type)
Ping’s Oostheizen caught using a competitor.
McIlroy-Day slo-mo swing comparison...enjoy.
Got a spare $24 mill? You could own Tiger’s first golf course project.