SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Rory McIlroy finally got his game in order and made short work of Hideki Matsuyama to roll into the quarterfinals of the Match Play Championship on Saturday.
McIlroy, who made only four birdies in narrowly getting out of group play, ran off four birdies in eight holes for a 5-up lead, and the Japanese star could never recover. Next up for McIlroy was Paul Casey, who held off a late comeback by Charl Schwartzel.
“Definitely the best I’ve played scoring-wise,” McIlroy said. “I was able to take advantage of some of the good shots I was hitting today.”
McIlroy would be cutting it close to get to Las Vegas for the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. He teed off at 4 p.m. and needed to end that one perhaps even sooner than the Matsuyama match to get there on time.
And if he were to win, the semifinals start Sunday at 6:45 a.m.
“Two tickets there. There’s a plane waiting,” McIlroy said. “Whether I get on it, we’ll have to see. But this takes priority.”
McIlroy and fifth-seeded Jim Furyk were the only players from the top 35 still around at the TPC Harding Park.
Furyk overcame an early deficit to J.B. Holmes for a 5-and-3 victory to reach the quarterfinals for the second straight year.
Only one match in the round of 16 went the distance, and it was a dandy.
Louis Oosthuizen looked like he would bury Rickie Fowler until he missed a pair of 4-foot putts at the end of the front nine. He still was 3 up after 10 holes when Fowler began to chip away at the lead by winning the 11th hole with a birdie, the 13th hole with a par and squaring the match with a 7-foot birdie on the 14th hole.
Both saved par from a bunker on the par-3 17th to send it to the 18th hole, and the advantage was with Fowler when he drilled his tee shot in the middle. Oosthuizen lost his tee shot to the right into thick rough.
That’s where it all turned.
Oosthuizen kept a 5-wood in his bag this week for shots like this. Enough of the ball was showing for him to get the club on it, and he smacked one hard and straight. The ball landed about 20 yards short of the green and stopped about 20 feet behind the hole for an eagle opportunity.
Fowler followed with his worst swing of the day, sending it so far right that it found an island of grass so deep that he could only advance it about 20 feet into more rough. He barely got that one onto the green, missed his par putt and conceded the eagle to Oosthuizen.
“I’ll rate that shot pretty high,” Oosthuizen said before heading off to get ready for his quarterfinal match with Furyk.
In other matches:
– Danny Willett won the battle of Blighty with a late surge to beat Lee Westwood of England. Westwood made only two birdies, none after the sixth hole. Willett, making his debut in the Match Play Championship, closed him out, 3 and 2.
– Tommy Fleetwood finally got a break. He only had to play 17 holes. The Englishman had played 58 holes in three matches of group play to narrowly advance, and then he seized control around the turn against Branden Grace. Fleetwood won the ninth and 10th holes with par to go 3 up, and they halved the last six holes. Next up is an all-England quarterfinal against Willett.
– John Senden, the highest seed remaining at No. 60, took out Hunter Mahan on the 17th hole with a strong comeback. Mahan was 2 up at the turn when Senden caught him with a pair of birdies, pulled ahead for the first time with a par on the 14th and went 2 up on the 15th with a birdie. Mahan was 1 down playing the 17th when his tee shot on the par 3 hit a spectator in the back and fell into a lie on a slope leading to the bunker, making it difficult to get his chip closer than 15 feet. He made bogey and lost.
Mahan never saw the 18th hole in competition all week.
– Gary Woodland, who had never lasted more than a day in the previous Match Play format, Gary Woodland gave up an early lead and then got it back with an unlikely birdie. His match against Marc Leishman was all square and Leishman had the advantage until Woodland rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt over the ridge on the 14th. Woodland also won the 15th to restore his margin and closed it out on the 17th.