The first round of the WGC-Dell Match Play was full of surprises and South Africa’s favourite, Branden Grace, went down 3&1 to American Chris Kirk, who took 22 putts to win the match by the 17th hole.
World number one Jordan Spieth summed up the day after his 3&2 victory over Jamie Donaldson.
‘If you were under par today you were probably winning your match,’ said the Texan.
Louis Oosthuizen started on the right note with a 2&1 victory over Matt Jones, which came after the 2010 Open Champion changed his ball flight during the round. The much-talked-about windy conditions caused King Louis to opt for punchy, low shots in the breeze and he quickly began to score.
‘The front nine, (the wind) was to me all over the place. I started, midway through the front nine, started hitting really low shots just to take out the wind completely,’ said Compleat Golfer’s Playing Editor.
Fellow major champion Charl Schwartzel went 1up over Danny Lee after a round in which he never trailed. The recent Valspar Championship winner made a par at the 17th to take the lead and closed it out at the 18th.
‘Danny made a really good comeback, made a few birdies on the back nine. Then it felt like we both started playing a little scrappy and were just really hanging in there by the skin of our teeth. I’m just happy that I hit some good shots coming in,’ he said.
One of the cleanest cards on Wednesday belonged to Jaco van Zyl, who made two birdies and one bogey on his way to halving with world number 11 Danny Willett.
Rory McIlroy was gifted a 1up victory by Thorbjørn Olesen when the Dane shanked a shot at the 18th. The defending champ got lucky.
‘The quality of golf out there wasn’t too good. I feel like it’s hard for the quality to be that good too because the wind is gusty, so I’m just happy to get the win,’ said McIlroy.
Rickie Fowler succumbed to Jason Dufner in their opening match, with the latter relying on his superiority with the flat stick.
‘I played a lot of good holes today. I feel like I played maybe a little bit better than Rickie. I had control of the match maybe a little bit more than he did today,’ he said.
Jason Day took a convincing 3&2 win over Graeme McDowell, but the Australian paid the price as his back tightened at the end of the day. He went straight to physio after the round.
Fellow Aussie Adam Scott halved his match with Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, who pledged his support for the victims of the Brussels attacks on Tuesday.
‘It was just one of the worst days to wake up,’ said Pieters, who lives an hour outside of Brussels and frequently uses the airport that was the site of suicide bombings. ‘It’s shocking to see the images and the videos. It’s a sad day.’