Friday's golf: Garcia comes up aces on a frenetic Friday at Match Play
Austin, Texas — Needing to win the final hole to advance, Bob MacIntrye drilled a driver to 3 feet of the cup on the 371-yard 18th hole. Moments later, Sergio Garcia ended one of the record eight sudden-death playoffs with a hole-in-one.
Already the most fickle event in golf, the Dell Technologies Match Play on Friday was an endless frenzy.
Kevin Na lectured Dustin Johnson about not waiting for a putt to be conceded — 6 inches — and then birdied the last two holes to oust the No. 1 player in the world.
Patrick Cantlay, practically flawless with 14 birdies and an eagle over two days, managed only two birdies and lost a playoff with a three-putt.
When it finally ended, Jon Rahm at No. 3 was the only player from the top 20 seeds who made it to the knockout stage of the weekend at Austin Country Club.
"You just never know what can happen out there," Billy Horschel said after beating Max Homa on the third playoff hole.
Just about everything did.
Garcia beat Lee Westwood in the longest of the eight playoffs with a 9-iron from 161 yards to a front pin on the par-3 fourth hole that landed just beyond the pin and trickled back into the cup.
"Well, 28 years on tour and I thought I had seen everything. I hadn't!" Westwood posted on Twitter.
Equally stunning was the drive of MacIntyre, the 24-year-old from Scotland with plenty of spunk and loads of fight. He was 1 down against Adam Long, who was poised to advance with Johnson in the group ahead about to lose to Na.
Johnson backed away from his 6-foot par putt — Na only had 4 feet for birdie — and his caddie, brother Austin, stepped in a few feet from the cup to help read the putt. Out of nowhere, a ball shot up the left side of the bank around the green and rolled in front of the caddie's feet.
Dustin had to mark MacIntyre's ball so he could putt. MacIntyre was oblivious to what happened except he knew he hit the shot of his life.
"Probably one of the best and one of the luckiest golf shots I've hit in my life," MacIntyre said. "You've just got to keep fighting until the end, and it just shows anything can happen in this game."
His only chance was a low bullet, and it caught the downward slope for extra run toward the left side of the green, which MacIntyre couldn't see. He heard it was on the green.
"I didn't have a clue how close," MacIntyre said. I'm thinking it's going to be just on the green below the slope. Going to have hopefully two putts maybe to win the hole. But when I seen where they put the ball back down I was like, 'No way!'
"And that's what you play the game for, these moments."
Given how three days of group play has gone, no telling what to expect on the win-or-go-home weekend. It will include a trio of Texas Longhorns, including Jordan Spieth for the first time since 2016. He won three straight holes around the turn and, unlike Thursday when he let Matthew Wolff off the hook, Spieth managed to close out Corey Conners.
Scottie Scheffler halved his match when Xander Schauffele made an 8-foot birdie putt on the last hole, and then Scheffler returned the favor with a 12-foot birdie on the second extra hole. The other Longhorn is Dylan Frittelli of South Africa, who became the first No. 64 seed in Match Play history to make it to the weekend.
Frittelli had company.
Two other players seeded at No. 60 or lower made it to the knockout stage. Ian Poulter won his third straight match as the No. 60 seed, while Erik van Rooyen (62) advanced by beating Daniel Berger with a par on the second playoff hole.
Poulter and Matt Kuchar are the only players to have won all three matches. Kuchar knocked out defending champion Kevin Kisner with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole.
The 64-man field based on the world ranking was divided into groups of 16 based, with the final 16 assigned to the "D" group. Eight of those players are still in the game. Rahm was the only player from the "A" group of top 16 seeds.
Brian Harman felt a small measure of redemption. He shot the equivalent of a 64 in the opening round and still lost to Cantlay, who had seven birdies and an eagle. But when Cantlay fell flat and lost to Hideki Matsuyama, that sent Cantlay and Harman back out for a sudden-death playoff that Harman won when Cantlay's 4-foot par putt lipped out.
Garcia was amazed by his ace, but he was quick to point out that he had to make a 10-footer and an 8-footer for par on the previous two holes just to stay in the match during the playoff.
The eight playoffs to decide group winners broke the previous mark of five in 2017 since group play began six yeas ago.
"The two putts I made ... massive to keep myself going," Garcia said. "And then obviously the shot on 4, it's a great shot, but then you get lucky that first of all it doesn't hit the flag because it must have been very close to hitting the flag, and then it rolls back in. Obviously, very happy about that."
Michelle Wie West missed the cut in her first tournament in nearly two years while Inbee Park headed into the weekend still holding a one-stroke lead in the Kia Classic.
Wie West shot a 2-over 74 at Aviara, an improvement of seven strokes from her opening-round 81 to finish at 11-over 155. She had two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey.
Park carded a 3-under 69 for a two-round total of 9-under 155 and a one-stroke lead over Sophia Popov, who shot 68 for the second straight day. Mel Reid carded a 70 and was three strokes off the lead. Hyo Joo Kim was 5 under after a 72, and Wei-Ling Hsu carded 69 to reach 4 under.
Wie West, 31, was playing for the first time since giving birth to daughter Makenna nine months ago. It was her first tournament since the Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine in June 2019, when she shot 84-82.
She said being rusty coupled with Thursday’s rain and wind made it “tough to get back into it. But a lot to learn from the last couple days. I like that today was a lot more consistent than yesterday. Obviously still not where I want it to be, but a lot of progress, and that’s the best thing. If I can improve by seven strokes every single day, I’ll take it.”
Park. the 20-time tour winner with seven major titles, had four birdies and got to 10 under before her only bogey, on the par-4 seventh, which was her 16th hole.
“I hit good shots, and it’s just weird on these greens, because I hit the shots really close and I don’t make the birdie putt, but I kind of hit it to 15, 20 feet and I make those birdie putts,” she said. “The holes I made today is pretty much I made probably 10- to 20-footers. But coming in last three holes I missed probably inside five, six feet. So it’s just greens that really need patience.
“I played good throughout the day today, struck the ball well, hit a lot of greens, gave myself a lot of opportunities, so happy with the round.”