WGC Match Play: Asian challenge ends as five golfers bow out in group stage

by IANS |

Austin (USA), March 25 (IANS) The Asian challenge at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play ended in the group stage with all five golfers -- Si Woo Kim, Sungjae Im, Tom Kim, K.H. Lee and Hideki Matsuyama -- bowing out on the third day of the competition at the Austin Country Club here.

Entering the final round-robin group matches on Friday, Si Woo Kim was the best placed to advance after garnering two impressive wins in Group 8 but he fell to a 7 and 6 defeat to American veteran star Matt Kuchar, who tied Tiger Woods' tournament record of having the most match victories at 36.

Kim, a four-time PGA Tour winner, dropped five bogeys in his first eight holes and made the turn 5-down, before Kuchar, winner of the event in 2013 and runner-up in 2019, closed out the match on the 12th green at Austin Country Club.

Sungjae Im was the day's lone victor as he earned a second win of the week following a 4 and 3 triumph over Europe's Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood but the effort proved futile as American J.T. Poston safely advanced from Group 16 by securing his third victory with a 3 and 1 win over Maverick McNealy.

Tom Kim, making his first appearance in the event, needed to beat defending champion Scottie Scheffler to force a playoff in Group 1 but the American World No. 1 proved too good as the home favourite produced a 3 and 2 victory to advance into the Round of 16.

Making his debut, K.H. Lee endured a disappointing week in the US$20 million showpiece following a third successive defeat, going down 3 and 2 to Nick Taylor while Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama withdrew before his final group match against Max Homa due to a recurring neck injury which had limited his preparation this week, the PGA Tour informed a release on Friday.

"I experienced some stiffness in my neck this morning while warming up at the range, preventing me from making a full swing. As a precautionary measure, I decided to concede my match to Max and rest before moving on to the Valero Texas Open next week," Matsuyama, who had won his opening Group 5 match against Kevin Kisner, was quoted as saying in the release.

The 44-year-old Kuchar, a nine-time Tour winner, was delighted to tie Woods' record at the Dell Technologies Match Play.

"Certainly very cool. Getting a chance to tie any record of Tiger's is an amazing thing. That's something I still find it hard to comprehend that I'm saying that, that I tied one of his records. So I'm hugely proud, and pleased. There are 300 more records, I'm sure, to go, but it's a fun one to be able to say you've kind of got something you tied Tiger with," said Kuchar, who faces a resurgent Jason Day in the Round of 16.

Reigning FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy was amongst the top seeds to advance into the single elimination rounds this weekend and faces Australia's Lucas Herbert on Saturday morning.

World No. 2 Jon Rahm was the biggest name to make an early exit following a 5 and 4 loss to 2021 champion, Billy Horschel.

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