Rory McIlroy at WGC-Cadillac Match Play 2015: Score and Reaction from Thursday

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 30:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his tee shot on the par 4, fourth hole during round two of the World Golf Championship Cadillac Match Play at TPC Harding Park on April 30, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

On the heels of his opening-round win over Jason Dufner on Wednesday, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy was once again victorious Thursday at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play event as he defeated No. 36 Brandt Snedeker two up through 18 holes.   

The Northern Irishman had firm control over TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, and he inched one step closer to advancing to the round of 16. With Billy Horschel beating Dufner, Friday's clash between McIlroy and Horschel will determine who moves out of the group stage, according to Golf Central:

Golf Central @GolfCentral

Tomorrow’s McIlroy/Horschel match will determine who advances from Group 1. Match Results: http://t.co/4GFcR46i3w http://t.co/J0F0Ww1ElC

Here is a look at the hole-by-hole results for Rory's triumph over Snedeker, courtesy of WorldGolfChampionships.com:

McIlroy vs. Snedeker Results
Rory McIlroy434454433
Brandt Snedeker534454442
ScoreRM 1 UpRM 1 UpRM 1 UpRM 1 UpRM 1 UpRM 1 UpRM 1 UpRM 2 UpRM 1 Up
Rory McIlroy444343434 (conceded)
Brandt Snedeker53334443x
ScoreRM 2 UpRM 1 UpASASASRM 1 UpRM 1 UpRM 1 UpRM 2 Up

McIlroy had little issue beating Dufner in the first round due largely to his consistency, and that was on full display Thursday. He immediately jumped out to a lead by birdying the par-five first hole, which allowed him to settle in and gain some separation from his American opponent.

Both golfers proceeded to par the next six holes, which was developing into something of a trend for the four-time major champion.

According to Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News, he wasn't exactly firing low scores through roughly one-and-a-half rounds of play at the event:

Carl Steward @stewardsfolly

McIlroy has played 21 holes so far over two days at Harding and has 19 pars, 2 birdies. Still leading Snedeker today 1-up through seven.

With that said, Brian Wacker of PGATour.com pointed out that McIlroy was accomplishing plenty simply by playing even-par golf on the vast majority of holes:

Brian Wacker @brianwacker1

Rory just 1 up through 7 but not really making any mistakes. Puts the pressure on Sneds.

It was a fairly simplistic style, but it certainly fit with his simplistic approach to the tournament, as evidenced by his comments after beating Dufner, per ESPN.com"Match play, you just need to beat the person that's in front of you, and I did that today," McIlroy said. "Now move on tomorrow."

Occasional flashes of brilliance were enough to give Rory an advantage, and he was able to extend his lead Thursday with a birdie on the par-four eighth hole while Snedeker once again had to settle for a par.

The 25-year-old used an excellent approach to pick up a three on that hole, which is something that was working quite well for him throughout each of his first two matches, according to Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman:

Kelly Tilghman @KellyTilghmanGC

Rory McIlroy is looking smoooooth so far this week in match play. Great ball striking.

While McIlroy was in firm control of the match after eight holes, things started to get a bit more interesting when Snedeker birdied the par-three ninth to cut his lead to one. Rory would regain the two-hole advantage on the 10th, though, as the underdog registered the first bogey of the day for either golfer.

Even though it seemed as though the momentum had swung back in McIlroy's favor, Snedeker turned that around with back-to-back birdies to make the match all square through 12 holes.

As pointed out by Steward, a battle that was once firmly within McIlroy's grasp suddenly turned into a highly competitive and entertaining match:

Carl Steward @stewardsfolly

Snedeker, McIlroy all square through 12. Heck of a match. Sned two straight birdies to tie it up.

After halving the next two holes, though, McIlroy was able to strike another blow by birdying the par-four 15th to take back his one-hole lead.

Snedeker had his chances to even things back up over the final three holes, but he was unable to card any additional birdies. Rory closed it out on the par-five 18th with a conceded four, and with that, he eliminated the American from the tournament.

While McIlroy showed impressive mettle and clutch ability against Snedeker, he is far from guaranteed to play in the knockout rounds. That is because he must first get through Horschel, who is also 2-0.

The American has defeated both Snedeker and Dufner just like McIlroy, and it can be argued that he has played even better golf than the world's No. 1 player through two matches.

Playing a fairly close match against Snedeker likely prepared Rory for the tougher matchups that lie ahead, though, which means he should be very well-prepared to go down to the wire with Horschel if need be.

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