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Jon Rahm faces an uphill battle to qualify for the knockout stages of this year’s WGC-Dell Match Play after losing his opening match to Rickie Fowler on Wednesday. The Spaniard is the top seed in his group and was expected to come out victorious over Fowler who is the fourth seed. However, a ropey round from the World Number three opened the door for Fowler who duly delivered.
It was the first time that Rahm had played since being forced to withdraw from the Players Championship two weeks ago with a virus. His withdrawal proved costly as it gave Scottie Scheffler a golden opportunity to leapfrog Rahm at the top of golf’s world rankings which the American grabbed with both hands.
Rahm started off well on Wednesday and after three holes he was two shots up on Fowler, who was once as high as number four in the world rankings himself. Rahm kept hold of his two-shot advantage until the eighth hole when an uncharacteristic bogey brought the gap down to just one.
This appeared to give Fowler a spring in his step, something he badly needs considering he needs to reach the quarter-finals this week to qualify for the Masters next month. By the 12th hole, he had taken the lead and never looked back, closing out the win on the 17th with a par that couldn’t be bettered by his opponent.
Victories for Mcilroy and Scheffler
It was business as usual for world number, Scottie Scheffler, who is enjoying yet another purple patch on the PGA Tour. His opening match was against Davis Riley, one of the lowest-ranked players at the event.
To Riley’s credit, he didn’t make it easy for Scheffler despite finding himself three shots down after just five holes at Austin Country Club in Texas. He rallied to bring the deficit down to just one shot with four holes to play but Scheffler held his nerve to win by sinking a 13-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
For. The. Win. 🤘
Scottie Scheffler | @DellMatchPlay
— Texas Men's Golf (@TexasMGolf) March 23, 2023
Rory Mcilroy, who is looking to bounce back into form ahead of the Masters, also won his opening match. Playing against Scott Stallings, the Northern Irishman had a relatively comfortable afternoon out on the course and won by three shots. Speaking to reporters afterwards, he said:
“Obviously this part of the season you’ve got one eye on what you’re doing now and one eye on Augusta. I had to respond a couple of times to what Scott did on the back nine, so it was nice to sort of feel that little bit of pressure and have to hit a shot or have to make a putt.”
Spieth with the highlight of the day
Jordan Spieth has been looking more like his old self in recent times and that was evident once again on the opening day in Texas. He only needed 15 holes to win his match against Mackenzie Hughes and he put the final nail in his opponent’s coffin in style.
Stood on the edge of a bunker, the three-time Major champion hit an exquisite flop shot that pitched five feet in front of the hole before rolling in. Spieth hasn’t won on the PGA Tour for over a year now and you would be foolish to rule him out this week.