McIlroy, Mickelson stay alive at WGC-Dell Match Play; DJ eliminated

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McIlroy, Mickelson stay alive at WGC-Dell Match Play; DJ eliminated

PGA Tour

McIlroy, Mickelson stay alive at WGC-Dell Match Play; DJ eliminated

Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson rebounded to win matches Thursday at Austin Country Club and stay alive in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Dustin Johnson, meanwhile, won’t be headed home, but his Friday match will have nothing at stake for the World No. 1.

McIlroy, the sixth seed this week, dug himself an early hole Wednesday against Peter Uihlein and couldn’t complete the comeback despite a strong closing nine. McIlroy was much better early on in his Thursday match against Jhonattan Vegas, never trailing and winning, 2 and 1.

“At least sort of brought things back into my own hands, which is nice,” said McIlroy, who will need to beat Brian Harman on Friday to at least get into a playoff to win his group. If McIlroy wins and Vegas beats or ties Uihlein, then McIlroy advances without need for a playoff.

“I didn’t want to have to rely on that. But that’s the beauty of this group play. Some years it works in your favor, like this year, and some years it doesn’t, like last. I played a match on Friday that was basically meaningless. It’s nice to still have something to play for tomorrow.”

Johnson, the defending champion, won’t have anything to play for on Friday. A day after losing, 3 and 1, to Bernd Wiesberger, Johnson lost to Adam Hadwin, 4 and 3. He was one of 20 players eliminated from contention on Thursday, a group that also includes Jon Rahm and Marc Leishman.

“I expected Dustin to play a lot better than he did,” Hadwin said. “I think everybody did.”

Mickelson was nearly part of that group who essentially will play practice rounds on Friday. But the 47-year-old Mickelson, who won the last WGC event three weeks ago in Mexico City, rallied to defeat Satoshi Kodaira, 1 up.

Kodaira was 4 up after seven holes before Mickelson began his comeback. Mickelson won the eighth hole with par and then was conceded the ninth before hitting his 12-footer for birdie. Mickelson got to just 1 down on three different occasions on the back nine before squaring the match with par at No. 17 and making an 8-footer for birdie at the par-4 18th to win the match and eliminate Kodaira.

Mickelson, who is 1-1 now in group play, needs to beat Rafa Cabrera Bello on Friday and then hope Kodaira beats Charles Howell III, who is 2-0. If both of those results go Mickelson’s way, Mickelson would then need to beat Howell III in a playoff.

“I’ve got to play more aggressive,” Mickelson said. “That’s shocking that I would say that, because I usually play pretty aggressive. But I’ve been playing way too conservative and not going after it.”

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