McIlroy and Johnson to meet in knockout phase at Match Play

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2016 6:53 PM

(Reuters) - Defending champion Rory McIlroy and British Open champion Zach Johnson will meet in the sweet 16 knockout phase at the WGC-Dell Match Play, after winning their respective matches in Texas on Friday.

On the final day of the round-robin phase, McIlroy overcame a slow start to halve his match with American Kevin Na at Austin Country Club.

Both players posted 2-0-1 overall records, but McIlroy advanced as the winner of his four-man group when he won a playoff at the second extra hole, after Na drove into a hazard.

Other players to book an early berth in the final 16 included second-seeded Australian Jason Day, and Americans Bill Haas, Matt Kuchar and Patrick Reed.

McIlroy was relieved to advance in the World Golf Championships event.

"All three of my matches this week have been tough," the Northern Irishman told Golf Channel.

"I didn’t get off to the best of starts again, but found my rhythm in the middle of the round, and started to make some birdies and hit some good shots when I needed to. I had a couple of opportunities. It took a mistake from him to get over the line."

McIlroy looked forward to his Saturday match against Johnson on a course he said suited the American because it called more for precision than power.

"This is a course that sets up perfectly for Zach," McIlroy said. "If he can get it in play he’s going to be tough to beat, but I feel like I’m playing well."

Haas, meanwhile, advanced by edging Australian Adam Scott 1-up in a match that never reached great heights.

"I didn’t want it to come down to having a half at the end and sure enough we’re playing 18 all square," Haas said after sinking clutch par putts at the final two holes.

"There wasn’t much of an edge out there," Haas continued, revealing that Scott had jokingly told him he needed to up his game to have a chance on Saturday.

"I struggled all day from tee to green. Adam gave me a few holes. When we shook hands, he said, 'I don’t know what to say about that, but you need to play better tomorrow.'"

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Larry Fine)