Wiesberger over Johnson highlights Day 1 upsets at WGC-Dell Match Play

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Wiesberger over Johnson highlights Day 1 upsets at WGC-Dell Match Play

PGA Tour

Wiesberger over Johnson highlights Day 1 upsets at WGC-Dell Match Play

Bernd Wiesberger was reminded of his seeding after upsetting top-seeded Dustin Johnson, the defending champion and World No. 1, Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

“You sound surprised,” said Wiesberger, when a reporter mentioned the Austrian was ranked 52nd out of the 64 players in the field this week at Austin Country Club.

“I thought it was the easiest game I could have,” Wiesberger added. “I’m the underdog playing with the defending champion, so it was just try to go out there and see what happens.”

Wiesberger’s win over Johnson was one of 11 victories by a lower seed in Wednesday’s opening round of round-robin group play, which featured 32 matches in 16 different groups. It was arguably the most surprising.

Johnson entered the week with a win and nothing worse than a T-16 this season. Wiesberger hadn’t posted a top-10 in his last eight worldwide starts. But Johnson, who never trailed in any match last year, was credited with making bogey or worse on six of his 17 holes and carding just two birdies, and Wiesberger took advantage despite making just two birdies of his own.

“To be honest, if you look back at the way we played, it wasn’t both of our best days,” Wiesberger said. “He made some mistakes. I gave him a few holes with bogeys early on and it wasn’t pretty.

“… For today, for myself, I was there to take the upset today.”

Peter Uihlein delivered another stunning upset, defeating Rory McIlroy, 2 and 1. The former Oklahoma State standout and U.S. Amateur winner led the four-time major winner by as much as 5 up before McIlroy birdied five straight holes on the back nine to avoid being routed.

“You’re going to trade blows little bit, and he landed some at the end,” Uihlein said. “And I was able to kind of hold him off, which was nice.”

McIlroy was coming off a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week at Bay Hill.

“When a guy comes off a win, next week out, they’re either a little flat or still hot as can be and they’re just going to blitz it,” Uihlein said. “… It was going to go two ways: I was going to get crushed early or I felt like I could get him early, because he may be a hair flatter than usual.”

Said McIlroy: “I made him earn it at least. I made the score line a little more respectable. I just came away a little flat. I didn’t really necessarily play badly. He played pretty well. … He didn’t make a bogey all day. So it was hard to sort of claw my way back.”

Tommy Fleetwood, the ninth seed, was the only other top-10 seed who lost on Wednesday. The Englishman fell to fellow countryman Ian Poulter, 3 and 2.

“I know what I need to do,” said Poulter, who at No. 64 in the OWGR is still trying to qualify for the Masters. “It’s quite simple: Win the next number of matches and I won’t be doing what you are doing at Augusta National. I don’t want to do that. I want to play.”

Marc Leishman, the 11th seed, lost to 64th-seeded Julian Suri. Phil Mickelson, No. 14 in the field and winner of the last WGC event in Mexico, fell to No. 59 Charles Howell III.

But it wasn’t all upsets. No. 2 Justin Thomas, No. 4 Jordan Spieth and No. 5 Hideki Matsuyama all won, though Thomas had to hold off a late charge by Luke List, who played his final 11 holes without his putter before Thomas pulled out a 2-up victory.

“I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn’t get it done,” said Thomas, who had his wisdom teeth pulled two weeks ago. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

No. 3 Jon Rahm halved with Keegan Bradley. Bubba Watson, the 35th seed, posted the biggest win of the day, a 5-and-3 victory over No. 23 Branden Grace. Watson birdied seven holes on his front nine and led by as much as 6 up.

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