Professional / PGA Tour

No playoff? No problem, players say of Match Play format

Russell Knox during first round of WGC-Dell Match Play.
Russell Knox during first round of WGC-Dell Match Play. (Getty Images)

AUSTIN, Texas — Russell Knox knows nothing about it being a tweak to the format. He knows only that 18 holes “was quite a lot of golf, and I wouldn’t have wanted to play any more holes.”

So with that, Knox shook hands with David Lingmerth, the two of them officially in the record books as having tied their first-round match Wednesday in the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club.

Because both are rookies in this WGC, neither knew that matches ending in a halve is new. Last year, the first using the round-robin format, officials insisted that matches that were tied at 18 would go into a playoff. Four games went extra holes, and three of those who won — Gary Woodland, John Senden and Paul Casey — eventually would go on to win their groups.

Good for them, but the losers felt pretty much out of it, which is not exactly what officials want.

Knox said he understood. But more than that, it was Day 1 and going extra holes didn’t sound enticing. He and Lingmerth are Europeans who settled in the Jacksonville Beach, Fla., area and have become good friends, so the half-point each seemed fair enough. Knox owned a 1-up lead for two holes, Lingmerth a 1-up edge for seven, “so I’m pretty fortunate to halve the match,” Knox said.


There were five other matches that ended in halves — Byeong-Hun An and Scott Piercy; Marc Leishman and Ryan Moore; Bubba Watson and Patton Kizzire; Adam Scott and Thomas Pieters; and Danny Willett and Jaco Van Zyl.


Top draws: With 16 groups, one could say there are 16 No. 1 seeds. They went 9-4-3, with Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Branden Grace and Hideki Matsuyama handed the losses.

DJ’s woes continue: Dustin Johnson doubled the par-4 third and never got back against Robert Streb. Losing, 3 and 2, Johnson is now 4-8 in this tournament overall, 1-6 going back to his Round 3 in 2012.

Biggest win of the day: Matt Kuchar’s 6-and-5 triumph over Anirban Lahiri.

Comeback of the day: Down 3 holes to Billy Horschel after eight, Brooks Koepka caught fire. He birdied five of the next eight holes and closed out Horschel, 3 and 2.

Rookie of the day: Emiliano Grillo, one of 15 players making his debut, hit J.B. Holmes with a series of haymakers early: four birdies in seven holes to go 5 up. It ended up a 3-and-2 breeze.

Best-patient award: Hard not to give a salute to Kevin Kisner. He has been here since Sunday, and it took until Wednesday for him to see anything after the seventh hole at Austin CC. In bed with a virus for two days, Kisner played seven holes Tuesday, then played them for real in Round 1 against Soren Kjeldsen. Kisner got 2 up, then on the holes he hadn’t seen — Nos. 8 through 17 — the former Georgia Bulldog won three of them to close out his match, 2 and 1. Even better news: “I finally was able to eat. I’m feeling better,” he said.

So much for the hype: There was so much anticipation for the Jordan Spieth-Justin Thomas Friday match, and for good reason. Great friends. Great young talents. Great storyline. But with his loss to Victor Dubuisson, Thomas will be under pressure Thursday against Jamie Donaldson to win and get into a meaningful position for Friday.

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