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McIlroy among first-day losers at Match Play, Golf News & Top Stories

WASHINGTON • Big names Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy were among the upset losers in Wednesday’s opening group matches at the WGC Match Play Championship.

English veteran and 60th seed Ian Poulter, a WGC Match Play and World Match Play winner as well as a Ryder Cup stalwart, won the final five holes for a 6&5 rout of 11th seed McIlroy in the 64-player showdown at the Austin Country Club in Texas.

French 58th seed Antoine Rozner, who won in Qatar two weeks ago on a 60-foot putt at the 72nd hole, downed fifth seed DeChambeau 2-up thanks to a birdie at No. 18 while 52nd seed Matt Kuchar beat fellow American and second seed Thomas 3&2.

Unlike a normal matchplay event, first-day losers still have a chance to advance from a group stage into weekend knockout matches.

Poulter won his 30th match in 15 appearances with birdies at the par-four ninth and par-three 11th and an eagle at the par-five 12th before closing out McIlroy with a par at No. 13, his all-or-nothing attitude evident at the US$10.5 million (S$14.2 million) event.

McIlroy, who has started working with swing coach Pete Cowan, suffered his worst Match Play defeat in a decade – since an 8&7 loss to Ben Crane in 2011 – and hooked his tee shot at the par-four fifth out of bounds left into the swimming pool of a nearby home.

“There are a couple of areas of his game which I’m sure he wants to firm up,” Poulter said. “He missed a couple of tee shots left. But it’s Rory, it doesn’t take a lot for him to spark up quickly.”

McIlroy declined to speak to the media after his round.

Rozner birdied the ninth to go 2-up on US Open champion DeChambeau. The big-hitting American birdied the par-five 16th and forced an 18th hole, where Rozner landed his approach inside eight feet from the cup and made the putt for the win.

Kuchar birdied four of the last five holes on the front nine for a 5-up edge and parred his way to victory from there.

Spanish third seed Jon Rahm beat Sebastian Munoz 1-up, sinking a birdie putt from eight feet at the last hole after the Colombian sank one three times as long.

Of the top eight seeds, four halved and two lost, the only winners being Rahm and American world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who beat 61st-seeded compatriot Adam Long 2-up.


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