Following a noteworthy opening day at the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, things kicked into gear on Friday. The new format with round-robin matches on the first three days does present unique challenges for everyone, though one bad day no longer means doom.
In the past, players who lost on Wednesday, like Jason Day and Henrik Stenson, wouldn't have been around for the next four days. Now, they were given an opportunity to right the ship and compete for a title but had to turn things around on Thursday.
Here's how Day and Stenson, as well as the rest of the field fared during the second day of matches in San Francisco.
|2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play Results - Thursday|
|1: Rory McIlroy vs. Brandt Snedeker, Billy Horschel vs. Jason Dufner||McIlroy def. Snedeker (2 Up), Horschel def. Dufner (3 & 2)|
|2: Jordan Spieth vs. Matt Every, Lee Westwood vs. Mikko Ilonen||Spieth def. Every (4 & 3), Westwood def. Ilonen (1 Up)|
|3: Henrik Stenson vs. Brendon Todd, Bill Haas vs. John Senden||Stenson def. Todd (3 & 2), Senden def. Haas (4 & 3)|
|4: Bubba Watson vs. Keegan Bradley, Louis Oosthuizen vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez||Watson def. Bradley (4 & 2), Oosthuizen def. Jimenez (2 Up)|
|5: Jim Furyk vs. Thongchai Jaidee, Martin Kaymer vs. George Coetzee||Jaidee def. Furyk (3 & 1), Coetzee def. Kaymer (19 Holes)|
|6: Justin Rose vs. Anirban Lahiri, Ryan Palmer vs. Marc Leishman||Rose def. Lahiri (19 Holes), Leishman def. Palmer (4 & 3)|
|7: Jason Day vs. Branden Grace, Zach Johnson vs. Charley Hoffman||Grace def. Day (4 & 3), Hoffman def. Johnson (2 & 1)|
|8: Dustin Johnson vs. Charl Schwartzel, Victor Dubuisson vs. Matt Jones||Schwartzel def. Johnson (20 Holes), Jones def. Dubuisson (2 Up)|
|9: Adam Scott vs. Paul Casey, Chris Kirk vs. Francesco Molinari||Casey def. Scott (1 Up), Kirk def. Molinari (2 & 1)|
|10: Sergio Garcia vs. Bernd Wiesberger, Jamie Donaldson vs. Tommy Fleetwood||Wiesberger def. Garcia (2 & 1), Fleetwood def. Donaldson (21 Holes)|
|11: Jimmy Walker vs. Webb Simpson, Ian Poulter vs. Gary Woodland||Simpson def. Walker (19 Holes), Woodland def. Poulter (3 & 2)|
|12: J.B. Holmes vs. Russell Henley, Brooks Koepka vs. Marc Warren||Holmes def. Henley (19 Holes), Koepka def. Warren (20 Holes)|
|13: Rickie Fowler vs. Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell vs. Harris English||Fowler def. Lowry (1 Up), English def. McDowell (2 & 1).|
|14: Matt Kuchar vs. Stephen Gallacher, Hunter Mahan vs. Ben Martin||Kuchar def. Gallacher (3 & 2), Mahan def. Martin (5 & 3)|
|15: Patrick Reed vs. Danny Willett, Ryan Moore vs. Andy Sullivan||Willett def. Reed (2 & 1), Sullivan def. Moore (3 & 2)|
|16: Hideki Matsuyama vs. Joost Luiten, Kevin Na vs. Alexander Levy||Matsuyama def. Luiten (2 Up), Na def. Levy (3 & 1)|
|Source: PGA Tour|
After an easy win in the first round on Wednesday, Rory McIlroy faced a strong challenge from Brandt Snedeker before birdies on Nos. 15 and 18 gave him a two-hole advantage.
Snedeker seemed like he was going to pull off the upset with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 to square the match.
McIlroy started the day in grand fashion with this birdie putt from just off the green on No. 1, via PGA Tour:
The world's top-ranked player hasn't taken his foot off the gas through two rounds of match play, with Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel being particularly impressed with his ball-striking:
With two wins in two days, McIlroy is on the verge of making it to the weekend. His final test will come on Friday against Billy Horschel, who has also won his first two matches. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16 on Saturday.
Horschel got to this point with a strong win over Jason Dufner, winning three and two after Dufner bogeyed the 16th hole. The 19th-ranked player in the world took to Twitter after his victory to express excitement about playing McIlroy on Friday:
In group eight, Dustin Johnson and Charl Schwartzel provided one of the best matches. They took 20 holes after Schwartzel hit birdies on Nos. 16 and 18 to square things up. He got the win with a birdie on the final hole.
An eagle from Schwartzel on the 12th hole kick-started his comeback, as Johnson birdied the same hole that would have put him up by four. Here's how Schwartzel's shot looked, via PGA Tour:
Jordan Spieth and Matt Every played one of the most fascinating matches of the event to this point. Every led the 2015 Masters champion by two holes after a birdie on No. 5, but Spieth would go on one of those runs like he showed at Augusta with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 6 through 12 to win easily.
Birdies are nothing new for Spieth through two days, as Tilghman noted the 21-year-old is hitting them on nearly half of his holes:
Spieth's putting continues to be unfair. He doesn't have to be long off the tee if the short game is so masterful. Per Golf Central, the Texas native hit six putts of at least 10 feet through 14 holes:
Good luck to anyone hoping to compete with Spieth if he's going to be playing that well on the greens.
Day, who won this event last year under the old rules, is finding the 2015 version to be difficult. He has lost his first two matches following Thursday's defeat at the hands of Branden Grace. The Australian did mount a comeback after falling behind three holes after No. 5, closing the gap to one heading into the turn.
A bogey by Day on No. 11 followed by a birdie by Grace on No. 12 spelled the end of Day's chances. His day officially ended with a bogey on No. 15 to give the South African star a 1-1 mark heading into Friday's final round-robin match against Charley Hoffman (2-0).
Most of the top players took care of their business Thursday. Jim Furyk was the highest-ranked star (No. 5) to lose, but everyone in group five is 1-1 with one more match coming for all of them.
The new format has provided players who struggled early some breathing room in order to fix things. That sense of urgency will return with tomorrow's final round-robin stage. The good news is things are still set up for a McIlroy-Spieth championship.