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Defending Dell Match Play champion Kevin Kisner knocks out Justin Thomas

Thomas Jones
Austin American-Statesman
Justin Thomas watches his tee shot on the fifth hole Thursday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament at Austin Country Club. Thomas, the No. 3 player in the world, couldn't overcome a slow start and was eliminated.

The second day at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play proved deadly for the title hopes of several notable golfers, including second-seeded Justin Thomas.

The world’s No. 3 player and one of the betting favorites for the Austin Country Club event fell 2 and 1 to defending champion Kevin Kisner.

Kisner raced out to a quick lead with two birdies in the first five holes while Thomas struggled to navigate the gusty north winds that arrived with Wednesday night’s storms. By the time the day’s marquee matchup reached the seventh hole, Kisner held a four-hole lead and methodically ground out the win.

“My strategy in match play is to try to force the other person to do something really great,” Kisner said. "And when you keep firing it in there (within) 20 feet first, it gets really annoying. The thing that I did well today is I got a few up and down that probably surprised him, and that just wears you out when you're on the other side.”  

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Several other notable golfers also enter Friday’s final first-round matchups without hopes of reaching the elimination rounds this weekend. Louis Oosthuizen, seeded No. 22, remained winless after a 1-up loss to Matt Kuchar, and No. 13 Viktor Hovland fell to 0-2 after a 4-and-2 setback to Bernd Weisberger. No. 23 Hideki Matsuyama also got bumped out of contention after a 1-up loss to Brian Harman.

Dylan Frittelli reacts to his missed putt on the 15th green during the final round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National last year. He finished in a tie for fifth.

Dylan Frittelli stays hot, eyes weekend

Dylan Frittelli, the lowest-seeded player in the event at No. 64 and a crowd favorite because of his status as a former player for Texas, continued his magical run with a 3-and-2 win over Jason Kokrak capped by an eagle putt on the 16th hole. 

“Yeah, that was pretty cool to end there on 16,” he said. “I definitely didn't want to go down 17, and stuff can happen there, and going down 18 is definitely nerve-wracking, so I’m glad I nailed that eagle to finish the match.”

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Frittelli improved to 2-0 and leads his group entering Friday’s first -round finale.

Scottie Scheffler, the third former Longhorn competing in Dell Match Play, was seeking to improve to 2-0 against Andy Sullivan late Thursday.

Professional golfer and Austin native Ben Crenshaw speaks with General Marshall during the dedication of a National Register of Historic Places marker at Lions Municipal in 2016. "General was a great part of Muny. He was such a good golfer and a beautiful person who always had a smile on his face," Crenshaw recalled.

Gentle Ben Crenshaw impressed by recent crop of Longhorns

Two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw and his wife, Julie, were on hand to follow Jordan Spieth and the other two Longhorns in the field. And he's fully impressed with the Texas trio.

"Scottie Scheffler looks really good. He looks comfortable out here," Crenshaw said. "And Dylan Frittelli, boy, is he playing well. He has for the last year and a half."

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

Crenshaw also likes how Spieth has bounced back this season with three top-five starts after tallying just three top-10 finishes in all of 2020. 

"His confidence is way up," Crenshaw said. "That's good to see."

Bryson DeChambeau defeated Si Woo Kim on Thursday and hopes another win Friday can qualify him for this weekend's elimination round.

Driving toward the weekend 

One of the mis-hits of the day came when Bryson DeChambeau hammered his tee shot on No. 10 off an oak tree, a wallop that sounded like a gunshot and ricocheted onto the adjacent putting green before it rolled down against the white picket fence. After getting relief following a talk with the rules official, DeChambeau tried to settle in for his second shot and muttered, "I don't know what I'm doing." Finally, wedged between the cart path and a bed of yellow and purple pansies just below the elevated tee box, he hit a long iron into the fairway.

DeChambeau, seeded No. 5, topped South Korea’s Si Woo Kim 2 and 1 for his first win and will face Tommy Fleetwood on Friday with a chance to automatically qualify for the elimination rounds.

Kirk Bohls contributed to this report.