If Rory McIlroy was looking to get in some tournament golf in the leadup to the Masters, he sure got his fill in the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. He didn’t leave with the trophy, but he worked his way through 123 holes as he took third-place honors.
McIlroy blitzed through his pool, knocking off Scott Stallings (3 and 1), Denny McCarthy (2 up) and Keegan Bradley (3 and 2). The only time he trailed was early in his match with McCarthy. He was down three holes after six but then squared the match at the 10th green.
Lucas Herbert fell to McIlroy, 2 up, in the round of 16. The quarterfinals match against Xander Schauffele was a seesaw battle that wasn’t decided until McIlroy won the 18th hole.
Sunday’s semifinal match against Cameron Young saw McIlroy in command. He enjoyed a 2 up lead heading to the 16th tee, only to see his rival win 16 and 18 to force extra holes. That didn’t last long as Young took the 19th hole to move on to the championship round and consign McIlroy to a consolation match with Scottie Scheffler.
McIlroy won the first hole against Scheffler and kept his foot on the pedal. When the duo left the 17th green with McIlroy 2 up, that was that.
“A ton of positives to take away,” McIlroy said. “If you had told me that I would make it to the Sunday of the match play last week, I would have taken that. I had my chances against Cam this morning, just couldn’t quite put him away. But it was nice to come out here and get a win this afternoon.”
All facets of his game seem to be top notch as McIlroy preps for Augusta next week.
“The driver’s definitely better,” McIlroy said. “I thought the putter looked pretty good for the most part. The short game was sharp. I feel a lot better about things now compared to this time a couple weeks ago after the Players Championship.”
Shane Lowry and Seamus Power both won a single match while losing two. Lowry’s lone win was over Jordan Spieth (2 and 1). Power defeated Adam Hadwin (1 up) for his sole victory before losing the last two holes (and the match) to eventual champion Sam Burns.
PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS
A sluggish second round held Padraig Harrington in check in the Galleri Classic at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Two birdies against a bogey yielded a round of 71. Combined with the 67 and 68 that flanked it, he finished six strokes shy of David Toms, consigned to a share of fifth place.
Darren Clarke’s form deserted him, a week after a top-10 finish. He posted scores of 75, 68 and 73 to finish tied for 50th place, 16 strokes off Toms’s winning number.
Leona Maguire had to have had some happy memories showing up as the defending champion in the Drive On Championship in Gold Canyon, Ariz. But there was some bitter to take with the sweet.
Maguire never really hit her stride en route to a joint-23rd-place finish. She opened with a 70, mixing only three birdies with a bogey. That improved to 68 on Friday, with seven birdies but also three dropped shots. Weekend rounds of 69 and 68 followed. That doesn’t cut it when the leaders are posting scores in the mid-60s.
Seven strokes separated Maguire from the low aggregate score, which was shared by Celine Boutier and Georgia Hall. Boutier won the playoff.
Stephanie Meadow matched Maguire’s 72-hole score by shooting rounds of 68, 72, 67 and 68. That 72 was hampered by four bogeys. She suffered only two bogeys over the remaining 54 holes.
Next on the schedule is this week’s Los Angeles Open.
There was a time late in the third round of the Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge in India when Niall Kearney held a two-stroke lead. Eight birdies through the first 13 holes on Saturday saw him rocket to the top. He descended almost as quickly.
Bogeys at 16 and 18 knocked Kearney down to sixth place at the end of the day. The bleeding continued on Sunday as he lost four strokes over the first seven holes. He finished with 76 to join rounds of 68, 71 and 66 that preceded for a share of 34th place, 13 strokes behind champion Om Prakash Chouhan.
This was Kearney’s first outing of the year as he tries to regain DP World Tour status.
Dermot McElroy made the cut on the number after shooting 71 and 70. He passed Kearney on the latter’s way down, climbing to a share of 21st place following weekend rounds of 69.
Conor Purcell remains among the top-25 on the Road to Mallorca after finishing joint-48th in India. He shot 68, 71, 70 and 74. Amateur Robert Moran tied for 61st place, having fired rounds of 70, 70, 75 and 72.
John Murphy missed his 10th straight cut. A decent 71 was followed by a nightmarish 80. Ruaidhri McGee also had the weekend off after shooting 75 and 72. He, too, remains among the Tour’s top 25, the goal for those seeking DP World Tour cards for 2024.
DP WORLD TOUR
Tom McKibbin can now enjoy a break of about a month until this circuit takes up again in Asia in late April. He might need it as he didn’t have his best stuff in the Jonsson Workwear Open in South Africa.
A third-round 75 was a stain on otherwise serviceable rounds of 68, 70 and 70. McKibbin earned a share of 71st place, 19 strokes off Nick Bachem’s winning score. In 12 starts thus far this season, he has made the cut in nine.