From McIlroy-Schauffele epic to Scheffler's comeback, the highlights from Saturday at WGC-Dell Match Play
5 Min Read
A quick look at the big stories from Saturday’s Round of 16 and Quarterfinals at Austin CC
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
The field has been whittled from 16 pros down to four heading into Sunday’s final day of competition at Austin CC, as Saturday morning’s Round of 16 gave way to afternoon Quarterfinals action.
Sunday morning’s 18-hole Semifinals will feature Scottie Scheffler-Sam Burns and Rory McIlroy-Cameron Young, with the match winners to square off in Sunday afternoon’s 18-hole final match.
MATCH OF THE DAY
The Quarterfinal matchup between Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele was expected to live up to this moniker, a four-time major winner against the reigning Olympic gold medalist, and it more than lived up to the hype, the tension palpable as the two top-tier pros traded barbs down the stretch on a windy afternoon in Austin.
McIlroy was fresh off a nine-birdie effort in a 2-up victory over Lucas Herbert in the Round of 16, and Schauffele had just disposed of fellow San Diego State alum J.J. Spaun by a 3-and-2 margin. There was no shortage of energy in this Quarterfinal match between two of the world’s top seven-ranked players, though, as McIlroy and Schauffele combined for 15 birdies in a match that wasn’t settled until McIlroy drained a 12-foot winning birdie at the short par-4 18th hole. Prior to the final buzzer, McIlroy had not led at any point in the match.
Could there be a rematch at this fall’s Ryder Cup in Rome? It’s not out of the realm.
The proverbial chalk held up in the Quarterfinals round – all four higher seeds advanced to Sunday morning Semifinals – but the Round of 16 produced a surprise in Mackenzie Hughes topping Max Homa by a 3-and-2 margin.
Homa has captivated the golf world with six TOUR titles in less than four years, ascending from an on-again, off-again TOUR pro to legitimate superstardom. He worked methodically through his group to earn a spot in the Round of 16, where he took on the steady Hughes, a two-time TOUR winner who graduated from the 2016 Korn Ferry Tour alongside Homa.
On this Texas morning, Hughes was 1-down through four holes but won three straight on Nos. 5-7 and didn’t look back. Hughes kept a lead for the duration of the match, closing it out with a birdie at the par-5 16th as Homa made bogey.
Scheffler was on the ropes early Saturday, trailing upstart J.T. Poston in the Round of 16 by a 2-down margin with four holes to play. But as Scheffler does, he channeled some magic down the stretch, making three consecutive birdies on Nos. 15-17 – winning two of the three – to turn the tides and tie things up before the short par-4 finisher. Poston had a 6-foot par putt to force extra holes but it burned the edge, and the local hero Scheffler advanced to the Quarterfinals – where he promptly rallied again, falling 3-down to Jason Day early but storming back for a 2-and-1 win, advancing to a Semifinal matchup against Burns.
All four Quarterfinal matchups advanced to at least the 16th hole, in addition to six of the eight Round of 16 matches. But two players earned a good deal of rest in the turnaround time from morning to afternoon; Cameron Young disposed of Billy Horschel by a 5-and-4 margin, and Kurt Kitayama authored the day’s largest margin of victory, defeating Andrew Putnam, 6 and 5.
Kitayama jumped out of the gates fast with four birdies in his first six holes against Putnam, staking a 4-up lead in the process, and he shut the door with back-to-back winning birdies on Nos. 12 and 13. Problem: his opponent in the Quarterfinals was none other than Young, fresh off a comfortable victory of his own. It was a game battle, with Young winning 1-up to punch his ticket to the Semifinals.
Scheffler’s world: It’s hard to doubt the University of Texas alum when it comes to the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin CC. A runner-up finish in 2021, followed by a win last year, have earned him the benefit of the doubt. His back-to-back Saturday comebacks against Poston and Day proved just that. Now he takes aim at his second successful title defense of the season (WM Phoenix Open), and a second straight win (THE PLAYERS Championship). The Longhorn faithful would love nothing more than to cheer another Scheffler triumph come Sunday afternoon.
Young rising: Of the eight players to reach the Match Play quarterfinals, only one has yet to win on TOUR – the Wake Forest alum Young, who earned his TOUR card via the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour after beginning that season as a non-member. The New York native has quickly risen through the ranks, reaching last year’s TOUR Championship as a rookie in a season that included two top-three finishes at majors, and it seems that his first TOUR title is destined to come sooner than later. He’s two matches away from making that happen.
TOUR Championship rematch in play: Last year’s FedExCup appeared Scheffler’s to lose for most of the season, and to the weekend of the TOUR Championship at East Lake. Then McIlroy overcame a six-shot deficit in the final round to seize the season-long title in such relentless fashion that he felt compelled to apologize to Scheffler’s family afterward. If each wins their match Sunday morning, a Scheffler-McIlroy rematch in the Match Play final would be in the offing.
Scottie Scheffler (1) vs. Sam Burns (13), 9:05 a.m. CT. Read more about the close friendship between two of the game’s heavyweights, as they prep to tango Sunday morning with a spot in the Championship match on the line.
Rory McIlroy (3) vs. Cameron Young (15), 9:20 a.m. CT. Two of the game’s premier drivers of the golf ball square off, with plenty of fireworks surely in store as they jockey to advance to the final match of the WGC-Dell Match Play era.
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.