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Former Longhorns Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli, Scottie Scheffler shine at Dell Match Play

Thomas Jones
Austin American-Statesman
Scottie Scheffler hits off the fifth tee during a first round match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament Wednesday at Austin Country Club. Scheffler, who beat Jason Day 2-up, joined Jordan Spieth and Dylan Frittelli as former Texas golfers who won on the first day of the event.

Not surprisingly, the three former Longhorns competing at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play felt right at home in the first round of play.

Former Texas stars Jordan Spieth, Dylan Frittelli and Scottie Scheffler all won their opening match at Austin Country Club on Wednesday. The victories set them up for a strong run at this weekend’s elimination rounds, and they also served as some welcomed home cooking on a course just about a long drive from the Longhorns’ home course in Steiner Ranch.

A 2-up victory over Jason Day was especially gratifying for Scheffler, who’s in his third year as a pro and missed debuting at Dell Match Play last year when the coronavirus pandemic canceled the event.

“I was obviously very bummed last year,” said Scheffler, the No. 30 seed in a group that also includes No. 44 Day, No. 57 Andy Sullivan and group favorite and sixth-seeded Xander Schauffele. “I was really looking forward to coming out here and playing in front of all the fans.

“So this year to at least have a few people out here is great, and it's nice that things are starting to get back to normal.”

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There was something very normal about Scheffler’s clutch play on the final few holes against the veteran Day, a former top-ranked player on the PGA Tour. Scheffler won three state titles during his prep career at Highland Park High School in Dallas, and he helped Texas win three Big 12 Conference titles from 2015-18. The experience in match play gained at Texas helped him pull away from Day after the two entered the 17th hole tied, he said.

“(I) haven't played match play in a while,” he said. “In college, it was always nice getting that experience. And as far as nerves go, I would probably say I was more nervous in college coming out and playing match play with four guys depending on me.”

So donning the burnt orange and trying to light the Tower caused more butterflies than playing for a possible $1.82 million?

“Well, I mean, yeah, I guess,” said Scheffler, who helped the 2016 Texas team finish second at the NCAA national tournament. “National championship on the line. Sure.”

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Spieth and Frittelli know something about national championships, leading Texas to its third and most recent title in 2012. Frittelli, a senior on that squad, had the winning putt against a talented Alabama team led by Justin Thomas. The South African native, who now lives about 15 minutes away from Austin Country Club, also remembered that ACC wasn’t too keen on Frittelli and his Longhorn teammates teeing off on its course — at least until Texas began to vault up the national rankings.

“The first few years I didn't play (ACC) too much,” he said. “We were probably the 20th- or 30th-ranked team in the country, and I guess the members didn't really think fondly of us, but then as we moved up the rankings, my senior year, we were ranked No. 1 and seemed to get a lot more invitations.”

Frittelli can still relate to that lack of respect; he entered the tournament seeded as the 64th and final player but topped No. 12 Tony Finau 6 and 5 Wednesday.

“If you had checked the betting odds, if those guys were doing their homework, I would figure they would put me in the top half, just having that sort of experience, home town, sleeping in my own bed,” he said. “I think that counts a lot. I'm not going to spout too much, but I definitely think it's a huge advantage that at least puts me in the top half of the field.”

And his ability to utilize all the tricks of a hometown driver should also count for something, Frittelli said.

“It's just nice to have those routines with falling out of bed, riding in the car,” he said. “It's perfect. I can cut in and out of traffic and get to the course really quickly because I know the roads. It just feels really familiar right now.”

Jordan Spieth hits off the sixth tee during a first-round match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament Wednesday at Austin Country Club. Spieth, who beat Matt Fitzpatrick 3 and 1, joined Scottie Scheffler and Dylan Frittelli as former Longhorns who won on the first day of the event.

Spieth, seeded No. 49 in a challenging group, also looked plenty comfortable in the opening round. He cruised past former U.S. Amateur champion and 15th-seeded Matt Fitzpatrick 3 and 1 while flashing a steady putter, which he will need against No. 20 Matthew Wolff and No. 37 Corey Conners later in the week.

“I found myself having more putts to win the hole than Matt did, and what a tough opponent he is in match play, somebody who's been playing some really good golf,” Spieth said. “So (a) big match to get kind of a victory early on, still in control of my own destiny.”

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Spieth, who won three state championships during his high school days at Dallas Jesuit High School, currently resides in his hometown but still has his preferred barbecue in a city that takes smoked meat as serious as its match play. He hopes to get a chance to make the drive to Driftwood and visit The Salt Lick BBQ.

“Ribs, brisket, burnt ends, the whole deal,” Spieth said.

Editor's note: The original version of this story has been updated to correct the attributed quote about the preference for Salt Lick BBQ and "ribs, brisket, burnt ends, the whole deal” to Jordan Spieth.