Wiesberger and Uihlein upset Johnson and McIlroy at WGC – Dell Match Play
Austin, Texas, March 21: Bernd Wiesberger and Peter Uihlein won their respective matches against Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy on day one of the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play.
Wiesberger defeated the World Number One and defending champion Johnson 3 and 1 while Uihlein threatened to hand McIlroy a heavy defeat after going dormie 5 up on the Northern Irishman only for McIlroy to win three holes on the spin before Uihlein prevailed on the 17th green.
It was an intriguing first day in the 64-man match play event which sees the field split into 16 groups of four, which each player playing three matches before the winners of each group progress to the last 16 and a straight knock-out on Saturday and Sunday.
Ian Poulter defeated Race to Dubai Champion Tommy Fleetwood 3 and 2, while Paul Casey won the 18th to defeat Russell Henley 1 up. Those respective victories took Poulter and Casey’s total of career victories at the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play to 24, which tied them with David Toms as the second most prolific winners in the event’s history. Tiger Woods holds the record number of wins at 33.
New father Sergio Garcia won a hard-fought match against the current Race to Dubai Number One Shubhanker Sharma on the 18th green. There was also first day wins for Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ross Fisher, Tyrell Hatton, Francesco Molinari and Alex Noren.
“I thought it was the easiest game I could have. I’m the underdog playing against the defending champion, so it was a case of just trying to go out there and see what happens. We both didn’t have a great day, obviously, as you can see on the card. He gave away a couple of holes quite unexpectedly. You’ve still got to make the par when your opponent makes the bogey. I didn’t hit it as great. The golf course was tough and the wind was gusting. Just happy to get through the match,” said Wiesberger.
Peter Uihlein, meanwhile played solid golf: “I really snuck one out on the 1st to tie that hole, was pretty big from a momentum standpoint. After that, I hit every green pretty much up to 16. And I just kept putting pressure on him all day. And I felt like, especially on the front, I was always having a chance to win the hole with a putt.”
“I think when you’re able to do that in match play, you kind of control your fate or control how the match is going to go. You always feel like a guy like that — really any player seems like out there, they’re eventually going to make a run. You’re going to trade blows little bit. And he landed some at the end. And I was able to kind of hold him off, which was nice.”
Rory McIlroy made his opponent earn it at least: “I made the scoreline a little more respectable. I just came away a little flat. I didn’t really necessarily play badly. He played pretty well. It was a few under through 9, and got down early and he didn’t make a bogey all day. So it was — it was hard to sort of claw my way back. It was gusty out there, the conditions were a little tricky. As I said, I made a run at him at the end, but it was a little too late.”
For Ian Poulter, winning match play is always really pleasing: “Tommy is a great player. I don’t think either of us really holed any putts. I think I probably played just a little better than he did and obviously got it done.”
“The simplicity of match play is win your match. It sounds really easy and it’s not. So level of focus, level of concentration this week. Be super aggressive, try not to hand too many holes away. It’s a tricky golf course this week. It’s easy to get out of position and it’s easy to hand holes to your guy with not really doing too much wrong. I’m happy with the win. A little practice with this putter, it needs to kick in, needs to warm up a little bit.”