Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson among semifinalists at WGC-Dell Match Play

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Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson among semifinalists at WGC-Dell Match Play

PGA Tour

Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson among semifinalists at WGC-Dell Match Play

We’re down to the final four at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The single-elimination stage at Austin Country Club commenced Saturday, with the remaining field of 16 at the beginning of the day being shrunk to a deserving quartet.

Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner and Alex Noren all made it through two matches Saturday to reach Sunday’s semifinals. Thomas will face off with Watson while Noren and Kisner do battle in the other semifinal Sunday morning.

It was an action-packed Saturday in Texas, with some expected results, some surprises and definitely some blowouts.

Thomas, the No. 2 seed, was the highest-ranked player to survive group play and advance to the Round of 16. In fact, he moved on to Saturday after drubbing Francesco Molinari, 7 and 5.

A new day, virtually the same story. Thomas quickly disposed of Si Woo Kim in the morning to reach the quarterfinals thanks to a 6-and-5 romp.

Noren also had little trouble. He was up against Patrick Reed and lost the first hole. Instead of crumbling to the match-play stalwart, Noren blitzed him from there on his way to a 5-and-3 win.

Watson faced a tighter Round of 16 match, as he hung on for a 2-and-1 triumph over Brian Harman. Kisner was the closest to not advancing out of the Round of 16 among the eventual semifinalists.

Kisner was 2 up with four to play against Matt Kuchar. Then Kisner lost the 15th and 17th to fall to all square. But he gave himself a 10-footer at the last for birdie to win the hole and the match. He drained it to move onto the quarterfinals.

In the Round of 16, Ian Poulter defeated Louis Oosthuizen, 2 and 1, and Cameron Smith beat Tyrrell Hatton by the same margin thanks to an eight-birdie performance. Kyle Stanley bested Sergio Garcia, 3 and 1. And Kiradech Aphibarnat won the final two holes of his match with Charles Howell III to sneak away with a 1-up win.

The quarterfinals were set.

Watson (the No. 35 seed) became the first to reach the semifinals when he pulled away from Aphibarnrat. The pair was all square in its quarterfinal match after the front nine, but Watson won four straight holes from Nos. 10-13 to build a commanding lead. When he was conceded the 15th, he had a 5-and-3 win.

Kisner wasn’t far behind in closing out, and did so in absolutely dominant fashion. Despite being the last match out, Kisner-Poulter was the second one to finish because it was a total rout.

Kisner (the No. 32 seed) won five straight holes from Nos. 3-7 for a 5-up lead and also won Nos. 9-10 to move 7 up. It was hard to believe against Poulter, known for his match-play prowess (including his win at this event in 2010). But it was real, and Kisner closed the door two holes later when Poulter hit an approach in the water and eventually conceded the hole.

It was a stunning 8-and-6 beatdown to move Kisner into the Sunday semis.

Noren continued his undefeated streak this week, as the No. 13 seed won three of the first six holes to take a 3-up lead on Smith in their quarterfinal match. Smith won Nos. 7 and 8 to cut the deficit to one, but he stumbled to a bogey at No. 11 to fall 2 down. Noren moved it back to 3 up after a birdie at 13.

Smith chipped in for par at the 14th to eventually halve the hole and stave off finding himself down dormie-4 to Noren. But a wild second shot on a lay up at the par-5 16th eventually led Smith to conceding the hole. That meant Noren had a 4-and-2 win and a Sunday semifinal date.

Thomas fell behind to Stanley after losing the second hole and was still 1 down playing the par-5 sixth. A birdie there made the match all square. Thomas briefly took the lead after winning No. 8 with a birdie, but Stanley birdied the ninth to square it again. Thomas took charge, though, by winning Nos. 10-12 to move 3 up.

Stanley birdied the 13th to find himself 2 down, but he could get no closer. Thomas rolled in a 3-footer at the 17th for par to halve the hole and win the match, 2 and 1.

We’re two matches away from having a new World No. 1, as Thomas will take over the top spot if he wins this event.

He and Noren are the only players to sit undefeated and untied this week. Both are 5-0 in their matches, while Watson and Kisner are 4-0-1 apiece.

Regardless, we have quite a group of semifinalists ready to go Sunday morning and hoping for an afternoon date in the final.

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