Jordan Spieth lost to Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy came back from two down with two to play to beat Billy Horschel at the 20th. Even the dead rubbers were lively as the much maligned WGC - Cadillac World Match Play final managed to whittle the field down from 64 to 16 for Saturday's straight knockout rounds at Harding Park.
A brief, tense stand off between Miguel Angel Jiménez and Keegan Bradley livened up the late afternoon play considerably after the Spaniard told Bradley's caddie Steve "Pepsi" Hale to shut up and stop butting in. A hippie love-in it wasn't.
The veteran they dub the "Most Interesting Man in the World" clearly irked Bradley, who would lose two down, when he sidled over to the referee to make a point about a ruling and the way Bradley was seeking relief from a cart path.
Bob Harig has the details for ESPN and as is often the case in these matters, one party feels the other is calling his integrity into question. In this case Bradley felt Big Mig was out of line:
"I have a world of respect for him. He's a great player out here,'' Bradley said of Jimenez. "I felt like I had to stick up myself. I had a ruling, he felt like he needed to intervene and he was bring inappropriate. Very rarely do you have a ruling and have the other person interject. It was over the top, accusatory.''
The Jiménez-Bradley spat added just another layer to a day of meaningless matches — Shane Lowry lost 1 up to Harris English to finish third in his group behind the American and his compatriot Rickie Fowler, who made eight birdies in a 5 and 4 demolition of the increasingly out-of-sorts Graeme McDowell.
When the dust had finally settled — results — the last 16 looked like this (Irish time):
- 19:14 AM Rory McIlroy (1) v Hideki Matsuyama (16)
- 19:02 A Charl Schwartzel (38) v Paul Casey (37)
- 18:26 AM ee Westwood (27) v Danny Willett (49)
- 18:14 AM randen Grace (39) v Tommy Fleetwood (57)
- 18:02 AM John Senden (65) v Hunter Mahan (32)
- 17:50 AM arc Leishman (60) v Gary Woodland (52)
- 18:50 AM ouis Oosthuizen (30) v Rickie Fowler (13)
- 18:38 AM Jim Furyk (5) v J.B. Holmes (12)
McIlroy holed little all week until he face a must-hole 25 footer for birdie at the 17th to keep his match alive.
“It was either hole it or go home,” McIlroy said. “So I just made a really committed stroke, and picked my line, and it was obviously the best putt of the whole day.”
After going on to win the 18th and force extra holes, he won at the 20th and said his putt on the 17th reminded him of a similar putt he holed with Sergio Garcia on the 17th at Gleneagles in the Ryder Cup last year (McIlroy holed a 40 footer on the 17th in the Friday afternoon foursomes to take Fowler and Jimmy Walker to the 18th, where they salvaged a half with another winning birdie.)
Horschel was rattled by the 17th and was poor from that moment on, despite his protests afterwards.
Was a great battle with @McIlroyRory today. That's why I play golf! Love competing against the best! Congrats again Rory!— Billy Horschel (@BillyHo_Golf) May 2, 2015
And for all you haters saying I choked... I didn't choke. You have no clue what you are talking about!!— Billy Horschel (@BillyHo_Golf) May 2, 2015
The AP sums up the day here but McIlroy's birdie on the 17th trumps the clutch chip in and some excellent putting under pressure by Westwood.
McIlroy's problem now is that if he beats Matsuyama, he will then face Charl Schwartzel or Paul Casey and if he win, be left with little time to get to Las Vegas for the Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquaio fight and back.