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Golf roundup: Lucas Bjerregaard tops Tiger Woods in match play quarterfinals

Lucas Bjerregaard, right, watches his drive on the eighth hole as Tiger Woods, left, looks on during quarterfinal play at the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament on Saturday in Austin, Texas. Bjerregaard won the match. (Eric Gay / AP)
Lucas Bjerregaard, right, watches his drive on the eighth hole as Tiger Woods, left, looks on during quarterfinal play at the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament on Saturday in Austin, Texas. Bjerregaard won the match. (Eric Gay / AP)
Associated Press

Tiger Woods finally met his match Saturday in Austin, Texas, 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 on Sunday 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.”

Kevin Kisner became only the third player to lose a match in group play and advance to the semifinals. He lost to Ian Poulter on Wednesday and has been rock-solid ever since, winning three straight holes late to flip his match in a 2-and-1 victory over Louis Oosthuizen.

This is the second straight year Kisner has reached the semifinals. He lost in the championship match last year to Bubba Watson.

Woods, who had not been at Match Play since 2013, advanced to the weekend for the first time since 2008, his third title in this World Golf Championship. All the attention was on his match against McIlroy, and Woods had a 3-up lead through 10 holes until McIlroy closed the gap.

Woods holed a 7-foot birdie putt to stay 1 up, and then it all changed on the 16th.

McIlroy pounded a 395-yard drive with the wind at his back. Woods drove into a half-buried lie in the bunker, could only advance it 60 yards and had 204 yards for his third shot before McIlroy hit a short iron for his second.

Woods never had to putt.

McIlroy hit a shot so bad that it was short and right. Worse yet, it hopped out of its pitch mark on the edge of a bunker, but not back enough to fall into the sand. Facing a difficult shot to the pin over another bunker, he went long and the ball rolled through the gallery against wooden posts. His only option was to go back to the original spot and play his fifth shot.

Woods, who looked certain to lose the hole and go all square, suddenly was 2 up with two to play. He closed out McIlroy with a 12-foot par putt.

“It was a difficult day for both of us,” Woods said.

Bjerregaard looked at the bracket the night before and knew there was a chance he would get Woods. First, he had to beat Henrik Stenson, and the Dane took care of Scandinavia’s best player in 16 holes.

He said he often dreamed about a chance to play Woods in a match when he was growing up in Denmark.

“I didn’t think it was ever going to come true,” he said.

Playing him or beating him?

“Both,” he said with a smile. “And definitely the latter.”

PGA

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 in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

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.”

The 2010 U.S. Open champion the last of his three PGA Tour titles three years ago at Mayakoba in Mexico. He has eight European Tour victories, the last in the 2013 French Open.

“Scoring is still hot here,” McDowell said. “You’ve got to keep your foot on the pedal and I’ve got to come back out here tomorrow and try to make some more birdies.”

Chris Stoud was second, also shooting 64. He eagled the par-5 fourth and has a streak of 41 holes without a bogey.

“I think all the work I’ve been putting in the last couple weeks starting in Tampa last week, it just all pays off,” Stroud said. “To me, it’s just like a big waterfall. You’ve just got to keep working. I’m still going to go tighten up a few things, but I hit some really great shots when I needed to today, especially on the last hole.”

Second-round leader Sungjae Im, likely needing a victory Sunday to get into the top 50 in the world and earn a Masters spot, had a 69 to drop into a tie for third with Aaron Baddeley (68) at 13 under. The winner doesn’t get an automatic Masters spot because the event is being played opposite the World Golf Championships event in Texas.

Mackenzie Hughes (66), Sepp Straka (67), Kelly Kraft (68) and Paul Dunne (70) were 11 under.

Clarkston’s Joel Dahmen sits in a tie for 26th at 7-under after shooting a 72. Spokane’s Alex Prugh is tied for 33rd at 6-under after carding a 68.

Champions Tour

Kevin Sutherland made a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th for a 3-under 69 and a three-stroke lead Saturday in the PGA Tour Champions’ Rapiscan Systems Classic in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Tied for the first-round lead with Marco Dawson after a 65, Sutherland had a 10-under 134 total at Fallen Oak. Dawson was second after a 72 in the windy round.

“I was very fortunate to shoot the score I did,” Sutherland said. “I went through some bouts of trying to find my swing a little bit, but I made some good saves and kind of kept the round together and hit a few good shots and made some putts. I didn’t play nearly as well as I did yesterday, but it played a lot harder today than it did yesterday, so I’m pleased.”

The 54-year-old Sutherland rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 second with a birdie on the par-3 third and also birdied the par-3 eighth. He opened the back nine with birdies on the par-4 10th and 11th and bogeyed the par-5 15th.

“It was definitely windier and that was the reason why it played so much more difficult,” Sutherland said. “Downwind it was hard to hold the green and obviously into the wind is difficult.”

Sutherland won the 2017 Charles Schwab Cup Championship for his lone senior title. He’s the only player to shoot 59 in senior tour history, accomplishing the feat the 2014 Dick’s Sporting Goods Open. His only PGA Tour victory came in the 2002 World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.

“Just keep doing what you’re doing, not really pay attention to what’s going on around you, wait until you get to the back nine to kind of figure out where you’re standing and stuff,” Sutherland said. “Just keep doing what I’m doing. I’m putting the ball well and hopefully I can hit a few better shots tomorrow than I did today.”

Dawson bogeyed two of the first five holes in his even-par round. He won the British Senior Open and Tucson Conquistadores Classic, both in 2015.

Fred Couples and Billy Andrade were 5 under. Preparing for the Masters, the 59-year-old Couples had a triple bogey on the par-4 fifth in a 70.

“I was actually hitting it pretty good and that was just a bad, bad hole,” Couples said. “But I played well and I got it around.”

Andrade had a 68.

“This is a hard golf course,” Andrade said. “You’ve just got to plug away.”

Mike Goodes (68), Duffy Waldorf (69). Tom Byrum (72) and Scott Parel (72) were 4 under.

Vijay Singh (72) and Colin Montgomerie (71) topped the group at 3 under.

Defending champion Steve Stricker was 1 under after a 70. Bernhard Langer also was 1 under, shooting 72.

Gary Nicklaus, the son of 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus, was tied for 73rd in the 75-player field at 11 over after rounds of 76 and 79. He’s playing on a sponsor exemption.

LPGA

Inbee Park curled in an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th for her second straight 5-under 67 and the third-round lead in the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, California, the final event before the major ANA Inspiration.

Winless in 12 months, the seven-time major champion from South Korea had a one-stroke advantage over Nasa Hataoka after a low-scoring day in perfect conditions at Aviara Golf Club.

“I think just a combination of consistency and the putting,” Park said. “I holed some good putts, especially on the back nine.”

Seeking her 20th LPGA Tour victory, Park had a 14-under 202 total.

“Just the feel on the greens is really good this week and I really want to keep that going tomorrow,” Park said. “Hopefully, I can hit a lot of fairways and greens.”

Hataoka, the 20-year-old Japanese player who won two LPGA Tour titles last season, shot a 64.

“I started out playing really well, attacking the pins, and had a lot of par saves as well, good par saves,” Hataoka said through a translator. “Definitely wanted to go low today. The conditions were fairly good today, so glad I was able to shoot a good round.”

Thidapa Suwannapura was two strokes back after a 70.

Mi Jung Hur had a course-record 62 to join top-ranked Sung Hyun Park at 11 under. Hur had seven straight birdies on the back nine.

“I got a goose bump,” Hur said. “So excited playing the back nine. Had great shot and great putt and made seven birdies in a row. I had another chance on 18, but I missed it.”

Tied with Suwannapura for the second-round lead, Sung Hyun Park shot 71. She dropped four strokes on the first six holes – making a double bogey on the par-3 third – then rallied with six birdies in a 10-hole stretch before closing with a bogey.

Azahara Munoz (68), Gaby Lopez (68) and Mariajo Uribe (69) were 10 under. Lydia Ko, the 2016 winner, had a 67 to top the group at 9 under, and Jin Young Ko (67) and Stacy Lewis (69) were 8 under.

“The golf course was a lot softer than I thought it was going to be,” Lewis said. “I think with the heat they probably threw some water on it. The greens stayed receptive all day long. I felt like it played pretty fair. … I think it’s good to see birdies. You don’t want to see us struggling.

Lewis is making her third start since the birth of daughter Chesnee in late October. She missed the cut last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix after tying for sixth in the opener in Florida in January.

“Really excited with the way I’m playing, especially going into next week,” Lewis said.

Jin Young Ko, the Founders Cup winner, rebounded from a second-round 73.

Lexi Thompson was even par after a 72.

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