The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play returned to Austin today and the former Longhorns in the field did not disappoint, each winning their matches.
Jordan Spieth jumped out to a 1-up lead after two holes and never looked back against Matthew Fitzpatrick, closing out the 15-seeded player 3&1. Scottie Scheffler, making his debut at the Match Play, kept Jason Day at bay and won the match on the 18th hole. But perhaps the most impressive victory came from Dylan Frittelli, who was the last player in the field to qualify and took down 13-seed Tony Finau with a 6&5 victory.
Day One.— WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play (@DellMatchPlay) March 24, 2021
Longhorns: 3-0-0. pic.twitter.com/meW3RqY5mA
Strong start for Spieth
After missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open to open his 2021 calendar season, Spieth fell to 92nd in the Official World Golf Rankings. He was in danger of missing the Match Play for the first time in his career, where only the top-64 players eligible to qualify.
But then Jordan Spieth starting doing, well, Jordan Spieth things. He reeled off three top-to-five finishes in four events and catapulted up the OWGR to 52nd.
“I thought I was doing really good work in the off-season, trying to take every advantage and opportunity I could to improve and made some significant changes and just needed some rounds in order to gain some confidence,” Spieth said after his round today.
All of sudden, Spieth was back in contention on the weekends and has had at least a share of the lead in four of the six tournaments he’s played this season.
But Match Play is a different animal and Spieth was grouped with two of the hottest players in the world, Fitzpatrick and Corey Connors, along with an upcoming superstar in Matthew Wolff.
“What a tough opponent [Fitzpatrick] is in Match Play,” Spieth said. “A U.S. Amateur winner and somebody who’s been playing really good golf so big match to get a victory early on.”
Spieth relied on excellent iron play in his match, hitting two shots to gimme range on the front nine to take a 2-up lead that stretched to 3 after Fitzpatrick hit his approach shot on the 9th hole into the hazard.
“I struck my irons beautifully,” Spieth said. “In match play, if you can get your irons dialed in it’s a huge advantage.”
Fitzpatrick kept the deficit to three after sinking a 22-footer for par on the 11th hole but was unable to make up any ground until the 16th hole, extending the match with a birdie.
“I didn’t love the fact that I was walking up the hill to 17,” Spieth said. “I didn’t feel that was necessary [with] the position I was in on the back nine today.”
But after Fitzpatrick failed to get his tee shot close on the par-3 17th, Spieth jumped on the pin with a shot to 8-feet and closed out the match for an upset win.
A dart on No. 17 seals it for @JordanSpieth.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 24, 2021
He wins his match 3&1 against Matt Fitzpatrick.#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/L0gkgruums
Leave it to @JordanSpieth to keep things interesting.— WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play (@DellMatchPlay) March 24, 2021
He went on to tie the hole with a par.pic.twitter.com/KNIBYHwCBi
Spieth will face Matthew Wolff tomorrow, who won his match against Corey Connors 3&1. Whoever wins their match will put themselves in the driver's seat to advance to the round of 16. They are scheduled to tee-off at 10:25 a.m.
Victorious debut for Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler only needed one year on the PGA Tour to qualify for the Match Play, currently ranked 32nd in the OWGR.
“I always believed I would be here but I didn’t expect it [this early],” Scheffler said after his round.
The former Texas All-American took care of business against Jason Day, winning 2-up after holding a lead for the majority of the match.
“It’s always nice to get the first win. I think the other guys halved, so as long as I win my next two matches I’ll go through for sure. And it’s always nice getting that first win out of the way,” Scheffler said after his round.
Scheffler now controls his own destiny and can inch closer to a berth in the round of 16 with a victory against Andy Sullivan tomorrow. Scheffler and Sullivan tee off at 2:27 p.m.
“I think I’m definitely the favorite in the group”
While Dylan Frittelli was the last player in the field to qualify for the Match Play, he only needed 13 holes to dispatch the group favorite, Tony Finau, 6&5.
“I was happy with everything maybe besides the 8th hole,” Frittelli said after his round. “Everything else was pretty seamless and really proud of the way I played today.”
Frittelli jumped out to a 1-up lead after Finau recorded a double bogey on the 1st hole. The South African then would birdie holes 4, 5, and 6 to expand his lead to 4-up thru nine holes.
Finau continued to struggle on the back nine, hitting into the water twice on the par-3 11th and the 13th hole, the latter sealing Frittelli’s upset.
Despite being the 64-seed, Frittelli believes he holds an advantage over everyone else.
“If you had checked the betting odds, if those guys were doing their homework, I would figure they would put me in the top half, just having that sort of experience, hometown, sleeping in my own bed,” Frittelli said after his round. “I definitely think it’s a huge advantage that at least puts me in the top half of the field.”
Frittelli plays against Jason Kokrak tomorrow, who also won his match against Will Zalatoris 1-up. Frittelli and Kokrak tee-off at 11:09 a.m.
All three of the Texas Exes expressed their happiness to be back in Austin, specifically for the food.
“Austin, Texas, is such a beautiful place, and it’s just fun driving around this area and going to restaurants that I’ve missed going to and try and spend more time going forward in this city,” Spieth said.
Spieth, a member of the 2012 National Championship team at Texas, mentioned he was able to get BBQ at Salt Lick this week while Scheffler is most excited for the Tex-Mex.
“I think my wife got us reservations every night this week,” Scheffler said. “Matt’s El Rancho is probably my favorite one.”
Dylan Frittelli, who lives in Austin and plays at the University of Texas Golf Club, used his hometown experience to navigate the course and the traffic.
“I can cut in and out of traffic and get to the course really quickly because I know the roads,” Frittelli said.
Round 2 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play starts at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow and airs on the Golf Channel.