Woods finally meets match in Bjerregaard

AUSTIN, Texas — Tiger Woods finally met his match Saturday, and it wasn’t Rory McIlroy.

Lucas Bjerregaard delivered the clutch shots so often seen from Woods to tie the match on the 16th hole and beat him on the 18th hole in a shocking conclusion when Woods missed a 4-foot putt. The victory sends the 27-year-old Dane into the semifinals of the Dell Technologies Match Play.

“It’s a shame it had to end the way it did,” Bjerregaard said. “Our match didn’t deserve that. But I’m happy to be on the winning side.”

Equally surprising was how Woods won earlier Saturday against McIlroy, a big match between the two biggest stars left at Austin Country Club. McIlroy was on the verge of squaring the match on the 16th hole when he had a short iron for his second shot into the par-5 16th. He made 7 and Woods closed him out on the next hole.

McIlroy was so angry he walked briskly away into a cart, and wouldn’t make eye contact on his way to the car.

Woods knows the feeling.

They were in the same spot below the hill on the 18th, just under 50 yards from the hole. Woods went first and his lob wedge came out soft and into a bunker. He blasted out nicely to 4 feet, but then his putt to send the match to extra holes spun off the left lip.

“This is going to sting for a few days,” Woods said in his last event before the Masters.

Bjerregaard, who won his first European Tour title last fall at St. Andrews in the Dunhill Links, next faces Matt Kuchar this morning in the semifinals.

Kuchar had to cope with a contentious moment in his 2-up victory over Sergio Garcia, two players in the news this year for all the wrong reasons.

Garcia had an 8-foot par putt on No. 7 to win the hole to square the match. He left it just short, and then casually stabbed at it from the other side as it rimmed around the cup. Such putts typically are conceded. Kuchar said that was his intention. But under the rules, a putt can’t be conceded after a player hits it.

Kuchar says he didn’t want to win the hole that way. That’s when Garcia suggested if he felt that way, he could concede the next hole.

“I thought about it and said, ‘I don’t like that idea, either,'” he said.

Garcia needed to birdie the 18th hole to send the match into extra holes, missed the green and wound up conceding.

“At the end of the day, I’m the one that made the mistake,” Garcia said.

Overlooked in all this drama was British Open champion Francesco Molinari, who has steamrolled his way into the semifinals. Molinari, at No. 7 the only player from the top 20 remaining, has played only 73 holes in five matches. He is the only player to have not lost a match, and the only one left who has not played the 18th hole.

“I can play 27 holes per match, that’s not really the point,” Molinari said after his 6-and-5 victory over Kevin Na. “It’s nice obviously to close it out early, but I’m ready to go as long as it takes.”

McDowell shoots 64 for lead

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic — Graeme McDowell one-putted the first 15 greens Saturday and shot his second straight 8-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead in the PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.

Winless since 2016, the 39-year-old major champion from Northern Ireland had a 15-under 201 total. He opened with a 73.

“I’ve been seeing these Paspalum greens pretty well early in the week, but I’ve been working on some routine stuff the last couple weeks,” McDowell said. “Something small’s kind of clicked, something I used to do really well years ago. I became not so good at it and I’ve tried, I’ve been practicing. It’s just a breathing thing and it really clicked with me last week a little bit and it’s been working really well on the greens again this week. It’s helping me relax and it’s helping me just stand there and hit nice putts.

“Just before I take the putter head away, just a little bit of an outbreath to relax,” McDowell said. “It’s something I used to do very well way back when and it’s amazing how you instinctively get good at things and then you stop being good at things as well. That’s cleaned my routines well up on the greens.”

McDowell had six birdies, two bogeys and a par on the front nine in mostly calm conditions with occasional showers, then birdied four of the first six holes on the back nine. His one-putt streak ended with a two-putt par on the par-4 16th and he parred the final two holes, also one-putting the par-4 18th to finish with 20 putts.

“Standing over those 3-footers on 14 and 15, I was more nervous about the 3-footers that I didn’t want to spoil my round of putts,” McDowell said. “I hit a great shot into 16. I hit a really good putt there and my run came to an end. But it was a fun day. Listen, I hit a lot of great shots and made some putts. I’m going to have to keep doing that tomorrow if I want to try and win.”

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