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McIlroy stays alive in Texas

McIlroy stays alive in Texas

Rory McIlroy bounced back from his opening defeat at the 2021 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a 4&3 victory against Lanto Griffin but he will still need Ian Poulter to slip up if he is to make the last 16.

Rory McIlroy

Poulter claimed a thumping 6&5 victory over the Northern Irishman on day one and survived a late comeback from Cameron Smith to win one up on Thursday and make it nine wins from his last 11 matches at Austin Country Club.

He faces the eliminated Griffin on Friday knowing that a half will see him into the knockout stages, but a defeat would leave the door ajar for a play-off against the winner of the clash between McIlroy and Smith.

"I hit some better shots today," said McIlroy. "I drove the ball very well.

"I didn't feel like I played particularly badly yesterday, I just hit a few destructive shots that cost me in the end but I played solid today. I hit some good shots, hit some good iron shots, hit it well off the tee, hit a couple of decent putts.

"Overall, just really happy to win the match and at least have a chance going into tomorrow."

McIlroy put his second to tap-in range at the first and when Griffin bogeyed the second and third, he already had a mountain to climb.

The gap was trimmed to one at the end of a front nine that saw just two holes halved, but McIlroy hit another excellent approach into the tenth, Griffin conceded the 12th, and a McIlroy tee shot to the side of the green at the par four 13th set up another birdie.

In the other match in Group 11, Poulter was three up when Smith found water at the 11th but the Australian birdied the par five 16th and put his tee shot to 15 feet on the penultimate hole to trim the gap, before Poulter holed a 15 footer of his own on the last.

"I'm in control of the group from that aspect - if I win my match or get anything out of my match then I'll obviously move forward," he said.

"Still a lot to play for, you never know. Match play is just so wonderful, right. It's never over until it's actually over and we've got another of the same scenario tomorrow."

It's never over until it's actually over and we've got another of the same scenario tomorrow - Ian Poulter

Much like McIlroy, Matthew Fitzpatrick recovered from a defeat in the first round with a comfortable victory.

The Englishman had lost to Jordan Spieth on Wednesday but beat Corey Conners 5&4 to see the Canadian eliminated in Group 15.

Spieth finished all square against Matthew Wolff, and Fitzpatrick must beat him on Friday, while hoping Conners can upset Spieth.

Conners' bogeys handed Fitzpatrick the second and sixth, with the 26-year-old hitting a beauty into the fifth and leading by three at the turn.

A tap-in at the tenth was followed by Conners finding water at the 11th and 12th and the writing was on the wall.

"It was a good day," said Fitzpatrick. "I was just happy I didn't give my holes away. That was the big thing for me. 

"Corey would probably say he didn't play his best today and he gave me a couple of holes early and that got me off to a good start."

Paul Casey was another man to bounce back from an opening defeat as he won the 11th, 12th and 13th to seal a 3&2 win against Talor Gooch.

He next faces Webb Simpson in Group Nine but will need the eliminated Gooch to do him a favour against the undefeated Mackenzie Hughes.

Group 16 could produce plenty of drama as all four players head into the final round robin matches with one point.

Victor Perez lost 4&3 to Russell Henley, while Marc Leishman took down Sungjae Im 2&1 to leave the prospect of a four way play-off.

Perez will face Im and Henley takes on Leishman on Friday.

There could also be a four man play-off in Group 14, where every player has one point heading into Sunday.

Erik van Rooyen beat Harris English 2&1 on Thursday, and will face Brandon Todd in his final group match, with English taking on Daniel Berger.

Andy Sullivan had squandered a three hole lead against Xander Schauffele to finish all square on day one in Group Six but he turned the tables against Scottie Scheffler.

The American was dormie two but Sullivan birdied the 17th and Scheffler dropped a shot on the last for another shared result which means Sullivan can still advance.

Tony Finau will not be going into the knockout stages after finishing all square against Will Zalatoris, with Dylan Frittelli top of Group 12 with two wins.

Collin Morikawa will not be making the last 16 after a 2&1 defeat to Max Homa in Group Four, where Billy Horschel lost 4&2 to J.T. Poston but could still advance.

In Group Ten, Patrick Cantlay maintained his 100% record with a one up win over Carlos Ortiz, and Hideki Matsuyama was eliminated after losing one up to Brian Harman.

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