McIlroy, Woods open with WGC-Match Play wins in Austin


World No 1 Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy all secured wins on the opening day of the WGC Match Play Championship, while Justin Thomas and Phil Mickelson were among the losers.

The tournament started with the first round of a round-robin format on Wednesday, with rounds two and three to follow on Thursday and Friday. At the end of the three rounds, the 64-man field will be whittled down to 16 competitors who will vie for the title over the weekend.

Recent Players champion Rory McIlroy started with a confident 5&4 rout of Luke List, as the fourth seed took on the 64th and final seed.

McIlroy was never behind in the contest, and didn’t lose a single hole.

“I rode my luck a little bit,” he said. “I had some missed shots but somehow got away with most of them. I played well. To birdie 13 and 14 to close the match out was nice.

“I needed to respond to what he did and I feel like I did that well so that gives me a little bit of confidence going into tomorrow.”

As for 13th seed Tiger Woods, he was able to complete a 3&1 win over 61st seed Aaron Wise. Neither player produced a particularly memorable performance, but Woods did enough to get the job done on the 17th hole – thanks in no small part to a trio of bogeys from Wise over the last five holes of the contest.

“We were both struggling a little bit,” Woods said. “It was just trying to beat the guy in front of you and I was able to advance.

“I was up early then down and up. There was a lot of ebb and flow in this match. It’s not like we were playing great golf. Somehow I came out with the win.”

Top seed Johnson, meanwhile, looked in total control against 55th seed Chez Reavie, wrapping up a comfortable 4&3 win.

“I like the golf course. it sets up well for me,” Johnson said. “It plays tough. The greens are tricky. They are firm. You’ve got to hit quality golf shots if you’re going to get close to the hole.”

Second seed Justin Rose was another winner, though he was made to work hard before beating 53rd seed Emiliano Grillo 2&1.

“I was fairly steady. I didn’t give away much, took care of the par-5s for the most part,” Rose said. “Not electrifying golf but just good enough to get the job done.”

There were also wins for Brits Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, the 10th and 30th seeds respectively.

Casey defeated Mexico’s 58th-seeded Abraham Ancer 5&3, while Poulter beat US 48th seed Kevin Kisner 2-up.

“I was trying to manage the energy,” said Casey, who successfully defended his Valspar Championship title just three days ago. “I was tired the past couple of days. Form and confidence are fine. I’m trying to get the energy back up.”

Among the surprise first-round losers were fifth seed Justin Thomas, who was beaten 3&2 by 50th seed Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark.

Phil Mickelson, the 20th seed, went down 2&1 to Swedish 37th seed Henrik Stenson.

Meanwhile, third seed Brooks Koepka and 28th seed Jordan Spieth both halved their opening matches. Spieth fought back to finish all square with 38th seed Billy Horschel, while Koepka shared the spoils with Englishman Tom Lewis, the 60th seed.

Australian 12th seed Jason Day blew a 3-up lead against a resurgent Jim Furyk, with the American 52nd seed going on to secure a 2-up victory.