Garcia’s playoff ace beats Westwood at WGC Match Play

Published March 27, 2021, 8:51 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

Sergio Garcia of Spain reacts to sinking a putt on the second playoff hole in his playoff match against Lee Westwood of England during the third round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 26, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Steve DYKES / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Sergio Garcia aced the par-3 fourth hole to beat Lee Westwood in a playoff Friday and reach the WGC Match Play Championship knockout rounds while top-ranked Dustin Johnson departed.

Garcia hit a 9-iron at the 160-yard fourth and the 39th-seeded Spaniard, who sank a testy eight-foot par putt at the third to stay in the playoff, never even saw it roll back into the cup to defeat the English 18th seed at Austin (Texas) Country Club.

“Hole-in-one is amazing. It was a great shot,” Garcia said.

“Hit a great 9-iron. With the glare I couldn’t see. I saw it bounced past the hole. When we heard the people go crazy, we knew it was in. That was a nice way to finish it.”

Westwood had beaten English eighth seed Tyrrell Hatton 4&3 to reach the playoff after Garcia lost 3&2 to English 51st seed Matt Wallace.

“Well, 28 years on tour and I thought I’d seen everything. I hadn’t!” Westwood tweeted after the playoff, one of eight tie-breakers needed to decide groups.

Garcia was among 16 who advanced to Saturday’s first knockout matches, where he will face Canadian 48th seed Mackenzie Hughes, who advanced by halving with US 59th seed Talor Gooch.

Three of the bottom five seeds reached the weekend but the only top-16 player to advance was Spanish third seed Jon Rahm, who sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to beat US 24th seed Ryan Palmer.

“It was not easy. He was the one playing the better golf,” said Rahm. “The whole day felt like a playoff, but I hit a good shot on two and made the putt.”

Top-ranked Masters champion Johnson was eliminated with a 1-up loss to US 28th seed Kevin Na, who won three of the last four holes with birdies.

Na called Johnson back to the par-3 11th to complain the No. 1 picked up before Na had conceded a six-inch putt, increasing tensions. They halved the hole and no penalty was called but Johnson went into the water at 12 on the way to defeat.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Na said. “We all know he can make a six inch putt.”

Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre drove the 18th green from 371 yards to within three feet of the cup and the 41st seed rolled in a birdie putt to halve with US 61st seed Adam Long and advance to the knockout stage.

“I had probably one of the best and one of the luckiest golf shots I’ve hit in my life,” MacIntyre said. “It just shows anything can happen in this game.”

Next for MacIntyre is French 31st seed Victor Perez, who beat South Korean 16th seed Im Sung-jae 2&1 and advanced when Australia’s Marc Leishman and American Russell Henley halved.

Unbeaten English 60th seed Ian Poulter, a European Ryder Cup legend and WGC and World Match Play winner, beat US 46th seed Lanto Griffin 2&1

“My game feels really good at the minute,” Poulter said. “I feel very comfortable. I wouldn’t say it’s the best I’ve felt but I feel pretty good.”

He booked a knockout match with US 30th seed Scottie Scheffler, whose 13-foot birdie on the second playoff hole ousted US sixth seed Xander Schauffele.

‘A lot of confidence’

English 21st seed Tommy Fleetwood, 4-up after seven holes, sank a 14-foot birdie putt to halve the par-5 16th and held on to edge US fifth seed Bryson DeChambeau 1 up, advancing with two wins and a draw.

“It turned scrappy for a lot of the back nine,” Fleetwood said. “Match play is that funny old week. Guys who are playing better than me are going home.”

He’ll face South African Dylan Frittelli, who lives nearby and became the first 64th seed to advance despite losing 2 up to US 40th seed Will Zalatoris.

“Just a lot of confidence,” Frittelli said. “I knew I wasn’t a true 64th seed. Home course knowledge means a lot here.”

US 52nd seed Matt Kuchar beat 2019 winner Kevin Kisner, the US 34th seed, 2&1 to book a knockout match against US 49th seed Jordan Spieth.

Also meeting Saturday will be US 55th seed Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters winner, and US 54th seed Brian Harman.