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Golden: Big names falling by the wayside at Dell Match Play

Upsets abounded at the Dell Match Play

Cedric Golden
Austin American-Statesman
World No. 2 Justin Thomas watches his second shot on the first hole Friday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tournament. Thomas finished up with a win over Louis Oosthuizen but had taken himself out of contention with losses in his first two matches.
  • No. 2 Dustin Johnson was eliminated
  • No. 5 Bryson DeChambeau was eliminated as was No. 4 Collin Morikawa

We missed this.

After COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the 2020 World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, the fans are back this week, masked up and excited to watch some of the sport’s biggest names duke it out on a course that’s perfectly suited to one-on-one competition.

The big names showed up this week, not including the legendary Tiger Woods, whose latest comeback was derailed by his automobile accident earlier last month. But not to worry; Texas ex Dylan Frittelli, the final qualifier of the 64 players, who advanced in his pool despite losing to Will Zalatoris, gave us some Tiger flavor with the Sunday red shirt, black slacks combo.

Star power is nice, but a familiar name gets you no real advantage in match play, where a couple of poorly placed shots can lead to the exits.

Bohls:Dylan Frittelli stumbles slightly but has Dell Match Play field eating out of his hand

Just ask world No. 2 Justin Thomas, who came in hot after edging Lee Westwood for the Players Championship two weeks ago for his second top-five finish in six starts. JT finished up with a win over Louis Oosthuizen but had taken himself out of contention with losses in his first two matches.

Chicks dig the long ball, but big-hitting No. 5 seed Bryson DeChambeau wasn’t able to parlay distance into dominance after losing to Tommy Fleetwood.

Frittelli knocked out No. 12 Tony Finau on Wednesday, and Australian Jason Day, who won this this tournament in 2016, lost to Longhorn Scottie Scheffler the same day.

Mar 26, 2021; Austin, Texas, USA; Tommy Fleetwood on #1 tee during the third day of the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play golf tournament at Austin Country Club.

One of the better matches came in Group No. 4, where Collin Morikawa, a rising star who won the PGA Championship last August, had some familiar faces in his group Friday as former NFL quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Colt McCoy and NFL hopeful Sam Ehlinger were on hand to watch his match with Billy Horschel.

The 24-year-old Cal-Berkeley product showed up here confident about making a run, but Horschel took away the play in a cleanly played match. Neither golfer made a bogey, but Horschel made the putts that counted with five birdies to only two for Morikawa.

Day 3:Tommy Fleetwood survives with 18th hole scramble in Dell Match Play

Match play is about taking advantages of those small windows of opportunity, and the 32nd-seeded Horschel’s putter made the difference. Horschel got a little measure of revenge after tying for second at the Concession behind Morikawa..

“It's a great match -play course,” Horschel said. “I think from the first time I stepped foot on it, in 2016 was our first year here, maybe, I thought it was a perfect match-play course, and I love coming back here.”

As of this scribbling, there were playoffs happening all over the place, and much had not been decided.

In short, the big dogs haven’t been barking the loudest this week but there’s plenty of golf ahead of us. The underdogs have shown up, which is the beauty of match play. Golfers such as No. 53 Kevin Streelman, who will face Horschel, who birdied No. 3 to take out Max Homa, are in play for the weekend.

“I think it's a blast,” he said. “Anything can happen. There's probably more pressure on the top guys than a guy like me coming in ranked 58th or something. It's like, hey, I've got nothing to lose, and trying to get in the Masters still, and now we've got a few rounds in front of me that some good things can happen."

Everyone has a puncher’s chance in match play.