Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy eye trip to WGC-Dell Match Play final
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Could be on collision course, but Sam Burns, Cameron Young stand in their way
Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
AUSTIN, Texas – Rory McIlroy won it in 2015.
Scottie Scheffler is the defending champion and was runner-up in 2021.
With those two on track to possibly meet for the trophy at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play – they’ll play Cameron Young and Sam Burns, respectively, in the semifinals – talk turned to just what it takes to win it all.
“I think winning the Match Play is always a massive accomplishment because of what you have to go through,” said McIlroy, who made a combined 17 birdies in beating Lucas Herbert, 2-up, and Xander Schauffele, 1-up, on a busy Saturday.
To win the tournament’s new trophy, McIlroy added, someone will have to survive seven rounds, as usual, and, in the case of all four semifinalists but especially McIlroy, at least a few close calls. He has played the most holes, 87, of any of the four remaining players – Burns 85, Scheffler 83, Young 81 – and continues to be on friendly terms with the par-4 18th.
McIlroy delivered the shot of the tournament when he drove the green at the last on Thursday. At the same hole Saturday afternoon, he and Schauffele each missed left off the tee, but McIlroy got the better bounce off a fan while Schauffele wound up behind a tree. McIlroy pitched to 12 feet past the pin, and he made the walk-off birdie putt.
“A lot of my matches have been really, really close,” he said, “so to be able to pull them out when I’ve needed to has been very gratifying. Yeah, maybe a higher sense of satisfaction when you get through on Sunday night and you're able to win. I feel like it’s maybe just more of an achievement mentally to do it rather than just winning a four-round stroke-play event.”
Scheffler flipped his Round of 16 match, winning two of the last three holes to edge J.T. Poston, 1-up, then overcame an early 3-down deficit and beat Jason Day, 2 and 1, in the afternoon. Scheffler now gets a semifinal date with Burns, a close friend to whom he lost a sudden-death playoff at the Charles Schwab Challenge last season.
“We have a lot of fun together,” Scheffler said. “Our wives are very close.”
Should Scheffler and McIlroy meet in the championship match, it would recall the TOUR Championship last summer, where McIlroy overcame a six-shot deficit in the final round to edge Scheffler and win his record third FedExCup title.
Scheffler is hard to beat on any course, but nearly invincible at Austin Country Club, where his record is 17-2-0 over the last three years. About the only thing that has gone wrong is his caddie, Ted Scott, falling on the fourth hole Friday and injuring his right ankle. Scott has been icing and receiving treatment but was still limping after carrying the bag for 35 holes Saturday.
“I’ll be OK,” he said.
Scheffler played for Texas and is the people’s choice here. Day shot out to an early 3-up lead with three birdies and an eagle in the first six holes, quieting the crowd, but his game tapered off as he struggled with allergies in the middle part of the round. If anyone other than McIlroy can beat Scheffler, it might be Burns, a 2-and-1 winner over Patrick Cantlay in the morning and the 3-and-2 victor over Mackenzie Hughes in the afternoon.
Young, who seems to be showing off for his new (veteran) caddie, Paul Tesori, has not only played the fewest holes of any of the semifinalists, but he’s also leading the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (13.571). He has racked up 31 birdies, four eagles, just three bogeys, and no double bogeys, and has seen the 18th hole just twice so far.
He seems to be having an easy time of it, but few would describe McIlroy as an easy opponent.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played competitively with him,” Young said, “but I’ve played a couple practice rounds, and he’s been great to me since I’ve been out here. I think obviously there are two different levels of names there kind of as far as fan familiarity, but I think I’ll be pretty comfortable, and I’m looking forward to getting to watch him play.”
So are we all – especially if he winds up going eye-to-eye with a certain Texas Longhorn on Sunday afternoon.
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.