Dueling Golfers

The wind kicked up in Round 2 of the WGC-Dell Match Play, making conditions extremely difficult at Austin Country Club, a course that rewards precise approach shots. The story of the tournament is the withdrawal of Jason Day, the world’s No. 2 player who departed after just six holes during Wednesday’sopening round to be with his mother, who is undergoing surgery on Friday for her bout with lung cancer. Day broke down into tears in the press room and said that he was taking a “leave from golf,” putting his Masters status in doubt.

Along with Day, Gary Woodland was forced to withdraw from the tournament to tend to a family emergency prior to his Thursday match with Rory McIlroy. Due to impending thunderstorms, today’s tee times have been moved up two hours and will start at 7:30 AM CST.

Following today’s action the field will be trimmed to the final 16 players. Only Søren Kjeldsen and Alex Noren have clinched their spot in the final 16 and many big name stars will look to punch their tickets while others will look to force a playoff for their pods spot.

Must-watch matches

Bubba Watson (2-0-0) - Thomas Pieters (1-1-0)
Struggling star Bubba Watson has been dynamite this week thanks to a putting tip from Brandt Snedeker. Watson entered the week 188th in strokes gained: putting, but thanks to Snedeker’s tip has been rolling them in from all over, leading to two dominant wins over Jhonattan Vegas and Scott Piercy. To earn a spot in the round of 16, Watson will have to win or tie his match against fellow bomber Thomas Pieters.

Jon Rahm (2-0-0) - Sergio Garcia (1-0-1)
A dream matchup between Spain’s young and old stars puts a spot in the Round of 16 on the line. With a win or tie, Rahm moves on, easier said than done against the match play stalwart Garcia.

Dustin Johnson (2-0-0)  - Jimmy Walker (1-1-0)
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson has been absolutely dominant through two rounds, defeating Webb Simpson, 5 and 3, and Martin Kaymer, 3 and 2. Johnson blitzed both with early birdies and built insurmountable leads. Johnson has certainly looked like the best player in the field and will look to move on to the round of 16 against fellow Ryder Cupper Jimmy Walker.

Tyrrell Hatton (2-0-0) - Rafa Cabrera-Bello (1-1-0)
The 25-year-old Englishman Hatton will look to continue his stellar play by advancing to the Round of 16. Since the new year, Hatton has made five starts, with his worst finish being a T13 and has ascended to a career-best 14th in the world rankings. Hatton will have a tough task as he faces off against fellow European Tour star Rafa Cabrera-Bello who can force his way into a playoff with a win.

Ryan Moore (0-0-2) - Jordan Spieth (1-1-0)
Spieth got off to a slow start, falling to Hideto Tanihara in Wednesday’s opening round but rebounded nicely, collecting a win over Yuta Ikeda. He got help when Ryan Moore was able to tie Tanihara, giving Spieth a chance to earn a spot in the final 16 or a playoff with Tanihara if he is able to beat Moore, who will move on if he were to beat Spieth and Tanihara loses.

Paul Casey (2-0-0) - Charl Schwartzel (2-0-0)
Both Casey and Schwartzel have been able to get through the first two rounds unscathed, setting up a big-time matchup between two of golf’s most underappreciated players.

Phil Mickelson (2-0-0) - J.B. Holmes (0-1-1)
One of the tournament’s most impressive players has been Phil Mickelson, who has put beatdowns on both Si Woo Kim and Daniel Berger. Phil is looking like he is getting in top form, a good sign for Augusta. He will look to punch his ticket into the round of 16 with a win or tie (or a Daniel Berger loss or tie).

Brooks Koepka (2-0-0) - Patrick Reed (0-1-1)
2017 has been a struggle for Brooks Koepka, whose best finish was a T42 at the Waste Management. Something has clicked as Koepka looks like his old self, eviscerating tee shots and making birdies in bunches, leading to blowout wins over Kevin Kisner and Jason Dufner. A win or tie will move Koepka into the final 16 but he will face the tough task of Patrick Reed who surely doesn’t want to leave Austin shut out of a win.

Full Friday scenarios

Freshly hitched

Just five days after his wedding, PGA Tour rookie Trey Mullinax is out in front at the Puerto Rico Open after firing a nine under par 62 opening round. Right behind Mullinax is PGA Tour veteran D.A. Points, who shot an 8-under 63, which was highlighted by his hole-out eagle on 18 to close out his round. Mullinax and Points are hardly alone as 28 players currently sit at 4 under or better, full scores here.

Geaux

Playing in Louisiana, Nate Lashley holds the lead after firing an opening round of nine-under 62. Lashley is looking to build on his success south of the border, where he was last year’s money list winner on the Latin American Tour. Chasing Lashley is Kent Bulle who fired an eight-under 63 and Erik Barnes at seven-under and four others at six-under. Full scores

Quick hooks

Snedeker needs to run to Golf Galaxy for a putter.

Majority rules, the annual anonymous player poll.

Kerr and Martin lead the LPGA Kia Classic.

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