Jaded Rory exits; Power and Dunne contending
 AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 23:  Alexander Noren of Sweden plays his shot from the 14th tee during the third round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 23, 2018 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 23:  Alexander Noren of Sweden plays his shot from the 14th tee during the third round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 23, 2018 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy blamed tiredness and turned his attention to the Masters after he crashed out to Brian Harman in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas.

The world No 7 lost 5 and 3 and confessed that ending his 18-month winless streak at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last Sunday left him mentally spent.

He had no response to an impressive Harman, who plays fellow left-hander Bubba Watson in the last 16.

“That takes it out of you — being in contention and all that mental energy,” McIlroy said, putting some ragged play at Austin Country Club down to fatigue.

"I wish I was hanging around for the weekend but I'll rest up and get a little bit of work in before going to Augusta."

Scores

While McIlroy's stunning Bay Hill heroics were a boost to his confidence ahead of the Masters, they proved to be a double-edged sword.

"Yeah, it was tiring," he said. "And obviously going from winning on Sunday to travelling on Monday, and getting an early practice on Tuesday to play on Wednesday, I didn't have a lot of time to recharge the batteries. 

"I feel like my game is in good shape. I got off to a bit of a scrappy start today. 

"I was two-under on the back nine and trying to press, and Brian just played really, really well. He made a few birdies and didn't really make a mistake."

McIlroy was two down after finding two hazards in his first five holes and Harman's deadly approach play and solid putting did the rest.

The American (31) made four birdies in five holes from the ninth to be four up, losing only the par-five 12th when he found a water hazard trying to match McIlroy's stunning approach to 17 feet.

"I've played with Rory enough times to know I can't keep up with him off the tee," Harman said. "But I can hit it plenty long enough to be aggressive."

Harman added: "Rory started playing a little bit better on the back nine but I was able to make some birdies and keep the momentum going.

"Rory is an intimidating guy. He hits it a mile. Especially what he did last week."

Charles Howell III takes on Kiradech Aphibarnrat while Kyle Stanley will play Sergio Garcia after beating Paul Casey in a playoff.

Justin Thomas meets Si Woo Kim while England's Tyrrell Hatton beat Brendan Steele in a playoff and now faces Australian Cameron Smith.

Sweden's Alex Noren birdied the last three holes, winning the last two, to beat Tony Finau 1 up for the right to take on Patrick Reed, who saw off his out-of-sorts Ryder Cup foursomes partner Jordan Spieth 2 and 1.

Ian Poulter also advanced when Kevin Chappell, three down after eight and suffering from a back injury, conceded the match.

Noren will be joined in the last 16 by fellow European Tour members Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton and Louis Oosthuizen.

Poulter will face Oosthuizen, who came through a group play-off against Jason Dufner. Poulter needs to win his match with Oosthuizen to secure a place in the Masters.

New dad Garcia was two down early in his third match against Xander Shauffle, but turned it round to win on the 17th and set up a last 16 match with Kyle Stanley of the USA.

Aphibarnrat will take on Charles Howell III on Saturday morning after matching the perfect qualifying records of Garcia, Noren and Poulter with a 4 and 3 win over Jon Rahm.

Hatton lost his third match of the group against Charley Hoffman but defeated Branden Steele in a playoff to set up his next round match with Australian Cameron Smith.

The remaining last 16 matches will see Brian Harman take on Bubba Watson; Justin Thomas will face Si Woo Kim and Kevin Kisner versus Matt Kuchar.

Alex Noren

“It's great to get another and to get through - I putted so well again today and you really need to do that if you want to advance in this tournament because if you are confident on the greens you can be more aggressive and try and hole every putt you have.

"I managed to hole a lot of good putts today, especially on 17 and 18 when it really mattered so that was really satisfying.

"Playing Patrick tomorrow is obviously going to be a tough match. I know a lot of people might look at that as some sort of Ryder Cup rehearsal but I can't. The Ryder Cup is a long, long way away and I have to go out tomorrow and try and play well and keep making putts because Patrick is a great player and a tough guy to beat so I will need to play really good to beat him."

Ian Poulter

“Phase one done. We're now obviously straight match play from here on out. This round-robin thing in the groups is very strange. I don't know if I like it. Obviously, I've come through it, but it is strange. You win two matches and you are still not sure. So we have got the job done, but there's a long way to go. Four more matches hopefully to contend with and hopefully, I can come out on top.

“Obviously I want to make the Masters. There's no secret. The form I'm in, I feel like I can really enjoy Augusta. But I need to get there. And it also goes beyond that. I'm staring four potential matches in the face here. If I can get through those four matches, I think there's a bigger picture with the Ryder Cup this year, which I obviously want to make as well.”

WGC Dell Technologies Match Play

  1. Kevin Kisner v Matt Kuchar;
  2. Louis Oosthuizen v Ian Poulter;
  3. Patrick Reed v Alex Noren;
  4. Cameron Smith v Tyrrell Hatton. 
  5. Justin Thomas v Si Woo Kim;
  6. Sergio Garcia v Kyle Stanley;  
  7. Kiradech Aphibarnrat v Charles Howell III;
  8. Brian Harman v Bubba Watson.

Power and Dunne in the mix

In the Dominican Republic, Seamus Power eagled his 16th hole and carded a five-under 67 to lie tied sixth, just four shots behind American Brice Garnett in the PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.

Garnett shot a 68 to lead by a stroke from compatriots Steve Wheatcroft and Keith Mitchell on 13-under with Paul Dunne tied 14th, six behind on seven-under after a 70 as Graeme McDowell added a four-over 76 to his first round 70 to miss the cut by three.

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo propped up the field after rounds of 77 and 82.

Three survive in Kenya

On the Challenge Tour, five-time European Tour winner Michael Hoey is six shots off the pace at halfway in the Barclays Kenya Open at Muthaiga Country Club in Nairobi.

He followed his opening 66 with a one-over 72 to share 15th on four-under-par behind German teenager Max Schmitt (19), who fired a second round 65 to lead by two from Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen on 10-under par.

West Waterford's Gary Hurley is tied 31st on two-under after a 69 with Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin is a shot further back after a 70.

But Mount Juliet's Gavin Moynihan missed the one-over par cut by two strokes after a 73 with Derry's Ruaidhri McGee seven-over after a 74.