Lucas Herbert back from the dead in Austin
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After ‘embarrassing’ 82-85 at THE PLAYERS, makes Round of 16 at WGC-Dell Match Play
Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
AUSTIN, Texas – Lucas Herbert wasn’t exactly oozing confidence when he rolled into town for the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. Leaking oil was more like it.
The 46th seed was 181st in the FedExCup and 56th in the world, and he was still trying to make sense of his scores of 82-85 to miss the cut by 21 shots at THE PLAYERS Championship two weeks ago.
Now, though, he’s gone from dead last at TPC Sawgrass to the Round of 16 at Austin Country Club.
In arguably the shocker of the tournament, Herbert, a 27-year-old Australian with a single PGA TOUR victory (2021 Butterfield Bermuda Championship), put aside his disastrous PLAYERS and ran the table in group play. He beat Ben Griffin, 3 and 1, on Friday, improving to 3-0-0 after earlier victories over Russell Henley and group favorite Tyrrell Hatton.
“Yeah, obviously a pretty tough week and a pretty embarrassing week, really,” Herbert said of THE PLAYERS, where he was last – nine shots worse than Nick Watney – among those who completed 36 holes. “Didn't really want to be there much on Friday because I felt like I was looking pretty silly.
“Obviously you go away for a few days and take stock in what happened,” he continued. “Look, I had a lot going on that week. I kind of had a neck injury that I was playing with and just a lot going on in life that just didn’t make it any easier.”
He’s been a completely different player in Austin, racking up 19 birdies and two eagles, which is first among the players who advanced to the knockout rounds. His reward: He’ll face No. 3 seed Rory McIlroy in the Round of 16 on Saturday.
Of the eight Round of 16 matches, Herbert will be the biggest underdog.
“I don't think anyone in the world beats Rory if he turns up with his A game tomorrow,” he said. “I don't care whether it's me or a 15-handicapper down the road or Jon Rahm. He's just that good.
“So, I need him to help me out a little bit,” he added.
The magnitude of his accomplishment, simply making it this far, was not lost on him. Last year, Herbert knocked off Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele but missed a 31-inch par putt in a playoff with Takumi Kanaya to get out of his group.
Job one this week was to learn from that while chalking up his recent PLAYERS misadventure as a fluke.
“Kind of got a lot of those things in order off the golf course,” Herbert said. “Obviously took a few days off and just kind of felt like I tried to bounce back. But I still turned up here feeling like I needed to get some confidence back in my game.
“I wouldn't have been surprised at the start of the week if you'd told me I lost all three matches.”
Neither would anyone else who saw him struggle at TPC Sawgrass’ THE PLAYERS Stadium Course, but golf is a funny game, match play is a funny format, and Lucas Herbert is getting the last laugh in Austin.
Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.