Rory McIlroy reaches World Match Play semis with win over Xander Schauffele
Rory McIlroy revealed how much he would covet being crowned WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play champion once again after edging Xander Schauffele to book his place in the semi-finals in Austin.
McIlroy, who previously won the tournament in 2015, followed up a last eight win over Lucas Herbert earlier on Saturday with a narrow 1-up win to continue his promising form in the build-up to next month’s Masters.
McIlroy, who is playing with a new putter and driver shaft, said the psychological toll of the format made it tougher to triumph than many of the other events on the tour.
“I think winning the Match Play is always a massive accomplishment because of what you have to go through,” said McIlroy.
“It’s seven rounds and, especially this week, I feel like a lot of my matches have been really, really close, so to be able to pull them out when I’ve needed to has been very gratifying.
“Maybe there’s a higher sense of satisfaction when you get through on Sunday night and you’re able to win. I feel like it’s maybe just more of an achievement mentally to do it rather than just winning a four-round stroke-play event.”
McIlroy did not lead until he drained a 12-foot birdie on the final hole to see off Schauffele and book a last-four meeting with Cameron Young, who beat Kurt Kitayama 1-up.
World number one and defending champion Scottie Scheffler battled back from behind for the second straight game to beat former two-time Match Play champion Jason Day 2&1 and also reach the last four.
Scheffler, who had rallied from two down with four to play to sink JT Poston in the last 16, found himself three down after Day made three birdies and an eagle in the first six holes of their match-up.
But Scheffler hit back by winning the eighth hole then the ninth with a 29-foot birdie, and another gain on the 12th set him up for a second consecutive come-from-behind win.
“It’s not like I was playing bad,” said Scheffler, who will play his good friend Sam Burns, who beat Mackenzie Hughes 3&2, in the semi-finals.
“I was playing pretty solid. There’s not much you can do. So I was like, ‘hey man, if you’re going to do that then I tip my cap to you, that’s just good golf and there’s nothing you can do to stop it’.
“If he was to keep it up for the whole round, I would just say the same thing, just take my hat off, shake hands, and say great job. Fortunately for me, he wasn’t able to do that.”
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