Rory McIlroy plays out of the bunker. David J. Phillip
Bad luck

McIlroy crashes out of WGC Match Play after dramatic battle with Smith

Ian Poulter advances from McIlroy’s group to make the last 16.

RORY MCILROY CRASHED out of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play tonight after he had to settle for half a point in his game with Cameron Smith.

Needing victory – plus a favour from Lanto Griffin who played Ian Poulter – McIlroy fell short in his bid. In any case, Poulter defeated Griffin 2 and 1 to make it into the last 16.

McIlroy’s battle with Smith was intense. The No25 in the world birdied the first to go one up and then went two up after four holes, when his bogey at the par 3 was enough to trump McIlroy’s double bogey.

It would get better for the Ulsterman. His steady play found its reward on the eighth when his par bettered Smith’s bogey. One down, 10 to play, McIlroy knew he could work his way into this one.

But Smith was resilient. He birdied the 10th to go two up again – got pegged back on 13, when McIlroy got an incredible eagle at the par four.

The Down-man was level after 16 – but not for long, Smith getting a birdie on 17 to go one up before McIlroy birdied the last to halve the match. That wasn’t enough to see him progress, Poulter’s consistency ensures he gets that prize.

Meanwhile, Offaly’s Shane Lowry birdied four of the first six holes and never trailed in his match against Sebastian Munoz, to win 3 and 2.

Both players had already been eliminated – Lowry losing to Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer, the other two members of Group 3. Muñoz, who played well but lost a first-round match against Rahm, briefly cut the lead to 1-up but Lowry birdied 13 and pulled away from there.

Elsewhere, Sergio Garcia and Robert MacIntyre advanced to the last 16 in spectacular fashion on a day of high drama in the £7.6million event.

Garcia made a hole-in-one on the fourth play-off hole to get the better of Lee Westwood, while MacIntyre drove to within three feet of the hole on the par-four 18th to snatch a half point against Adam Long and finish top of group one.

The other match in the group between world number one Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na was still on the green when MacIntyre’s ball rolled on to the putting surface and appeared to be marked by Johnson’s caddie and brother Austin.

The play-off between Garcia and Westwood had been required after Garcia – who had beaten Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton over the first two days – lost 3&2 to Matt Wallace, while Westwood beat Hatton 4&3.

Garcia missed a short birdie putt to win on the first play-off hole and then produced superb up and downs on the next two holes to stay alive before his tee shot on the fourth pitched inches behind the hole and span back into the cup.

“I hit a great nine iron, I knew it was straight on line but with the glare I couldn’t see,” Garcia told the Golf Channel.

“It looked like it bounced a little bit past the hole and then when we heard the people go crazy it was really nice.”

Earlier today, Tommy Fleetwood survived a dramatic late scare to beat US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and advance to the last 16 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Fleetwood was in charge of his own destiny after taking 1.5 points from his opening two matches and was three up with five to play against DeChambeau, only to lose the 14th to a birdie and the 15th after three-putting from long range.

After an errant drive on the 18th it looked certain that Fleetwood would have to settle for half a point and a play-off with France’s Antoine Rozner, but the Ryder Cup star scrambled an unlikely par to secure a hard-fought one up victory.

Fleetwood had won the first hole with a par and the fifth and sixth with birdies, the latter coming after DeChambeau three-putted the par-five for par.

A conceded birdie saw Fleetwood move four up after DeChambeau misjudged his chip from the back of the seventh green, but Fleetwood was then unable to get up and down from a bunker on the next.

Worse was to come on the 11th as Fleetwood dumped two balls into the water on the par three, but the former European number one bounced back immediately to win the 12th with a birdie.

DeChambeau almost drove the green on the short par-four 13th despite the hole playing into the wind, but missed from five feet for birdie to remain three down.

A birdie from four times the distance on the 14th gave DeChambeau renewed hope and when Fleetwood three-putted the 15th from the fringe, the gap was down to a single hole.

DeChambeau had the upper hand on the par-five 16th after finding the green in two, but Fleetwood – who had found a bunker off the tee – holed from 15 feet for birdie and forced his opponent to hole from six feet for a half.

Fleetwood’s pulled drive on the last finished in a dry water hazard but he was able to blast the ball towards the green and got up and down for par to secure the win after DeChambeau missed from eight feet for birdie.

Fleetwood will face Dylan Frittelli in the last 16 after the South African won group 12 despite losing to Will Zalatoris on Friday.

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