WGC-Dell Match Play 2018: Defending Champ Dustin Johnson Eliminated

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 23, 2018

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 22:  Jordan Spieth of the United States plays his shot from the fifth tee during the second round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 22, 2018 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The WGC-Dell Match Play event rolled on with the second day of round-robin matches featuring all 64 players in the field. 

The 64-player field is divided up into 16 groups, with the top 16 seeds leading each group. After three days of round-robin action, the winners of each group will advance to the single-elimination portion of the tournament that starts Saturday. 

Dustin Johnson is the defending champion in this event, but he faces stiff competition from a loaded field that includes Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth. 

    

Thursday Match-Play Results

Group 1: No. 32 Kevin Kisner (1-0-1) def. No. 52 Bernd Wiesberger (1-1-0) 5 & 4; No. 38 Adam Hadwin (1-0-1) def. No. 1 Dustin Johnson (0-2-0) 4 & 3

Group 2: No. 2 Justin Thomas (2-0-0) def. No. 48 Patton Kizzire (0-2-0) 3 & 1; No. 21 Francesco Molinari (2-0-0) def. No. 60 Luke List (0-2-0) 3 & 2 

Group 3: No. 28 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (2-0-0) def. No. 63 Keegan Bradley (0-1-1) 1 Up; No. 43 Chez Reavie (1-1-0) def. No. 3 Jon Rahm (0-1-1) 1 Up

Group 4: No. 4 Jordan Spieth (2-0-0) def. HaoTong Li (0-2-0) 4 & 2; No. 19 Patrick Reed (2-0-0) def. No. 49 Charl Schwartzel (0-2-0) 1 Up

Group 5: No. 46 Cameron Smith (2-0-0) def. No. 5 Hideki Matsuyama (1-1-0) 1 Up; No. 30 Patrick Cantlay (1-1-0) def. No. 53 Yusaku Miyazato (0-2-0) 1 Up

Group 6: No. 6 Rory McIlroy (1-1-0) def. No. 44 Jhonattan Vegas (0-1-1) 2 & 1; No. 18 Brian Harman (1-0-1) def. No. 57 Peter Uihlein (1-1-0) 3 & 2

Group 7: No. 7 Sergio Garcia (2-0-0) def. No. 41 Dylan Frittelli (0-2-0) 2 Up; No. 20 Xander Schauffele (2-0-0) def. No. 62 Shubhankar Sharma (0-2-0) 3 & 1

Group 8: No. 42 Jason Dufner (1-1-0) def. No. 8 Jason Day (1-1-0) 3 & 1; No. 56 James Hahn (1-1-0) def. No. 25 Louis Oosthuizen (1-1-0) 3 & 1

Group 9: No. 9 Tommy Fleetwood (1-1-0) def. No. 33 Kevin Chappell (1-1-0) 7 & 6; No. 58 Ian Poulter (2-0-0) def. No. 26 Daniel Berger (0-2-0) 2 & 1

Group 10: No. 10 Paul Casey (2-0-0) def. No. 45 Kyle Stanley (1-1-0) 4 & 2; No. 51 Russell Henley (1-1-0) def. No. 31 Matthew Fitzpatrick (0-2-0) 2 & 1

Group 11: No. 35 Bubba Watson (2-0-0) def. No. 11 Marc Leishman (0-2-0) 3 & 2; No. 23 Branden Grace (1-1-0) def. No. 64 Julian Suri (1-1-0) 2 & 1

Group 12: No. 12 Tyrrell Hatton (2-0-0) def. No. 36 Brendan Steele (1-1-0) 3 & 2; No. 55 Alexander Levy (1-1-0) def. No. 22 Charley Hoffman (0-2-0) 1 Up

Group 13: No. 13 Alex Noren (2-0-0) def. No. 39 Thomas Pieters (0-2-0) 5 & 4; No. 29 Tony Finau (2-0-0) def. No. 61 Kevin Na (0-2-0) 3 & 2

Group 14: No. 14 Phil Mickelson (1-1-0) def. No. 40 Satoshi Kodaira (0-2-0) 1 Up; No. 59 Charles Howell III (2-0-0) def. No. 17 Rafa Cabrera Bello (1-1-0) 3 & 1

Group 15: No. 37 Webb Simpson (1-0-1) def. No. 15 Pat Perez (0-1-1) 3 & 1; No. 50 Si Woo Kim (1-0-1) def. No. 24 Gary Woodland (0-1-1) 5 & 3

Group 16: No. 16 Matt Kuchar (1-0-1) def. No. 47 Yuta Ikeda (1-1-0) 1 Up; No. 27 Ross Fisher (1-1-0) def. No. 54 Zach Johnson (0-1-1) 2 Up

    

Recap

Johnson's run at the WGC-Dell Match Play unofficially ended Thursday when he was defeated by Adam Hadwin. The world's top-ranked golfer has lost his first two matches this weekend, leaving him in the cellar of Group 1 with one more round to play. 

Kevin Kisner will be Johnson's opponent Friday, but the defending champion's best result will only get him to 1-2 in round-robin play. Hadwin and Kisner halved their head-to-head match, so Friday's results will determine which one advances to the single-elimination bracket. 

While Johnson has had a weekend to forget, Spieth appears to be getting back on track after missing the cut at the Valspar Championship two weeks ago. 

Playing in his home state of Texas, Spieth has looked comfortable on the course at the Austin Country Club. He cruised past HaoTong Li in a 4 & 2 win thanks to shots like this with a wedge on No. 13:

Joining Spieth atop the standings in Group 4 is his fellow Texan Patrick Reed, who had to sweat things out at the end before prevailing over Charl Schwartzel. 

Schwartzel's birdie on No. 16 knocked Reed's lead down to one up with two holes remaining. Both players traded pars on No. 17 and 18 to give Reed his second win in as many days. 

The wins for Spieth and Reed set up their head-to-head showdown Friday, with the winner advancing to play the weekend. 

Following his win Thursday, Reed jokingly gave Spieth some bulletin board material as extra motivation for their critical matchup tomorrow, via Shane Ryan of Paste Magazine:

Phil Mickelson provided the most exciting match of the day with a thrilling come-from-behind win over Satoshi Kodaira. 

Lefty was four down after the first seven holes before things turned around. He was still two down teeing off at No. 16 before closing with a fury, highlighted by this birdie to close things out:

Since missing the cut and finishing 45th at back-to-back tournaments in January, Mickelson has been on fire with four straight top 10s, including a win at the WGC-Mexico Championship three weeks ago. 

When Mickelson is firing on all cylinders, he's still capable of being one of the most dominant players on the PGA Tour. That's good news for his chances at the Masters in two weeks. 

On the other hand, a top player like Johnson struggling isn't any cause for alarm. Match play is its own unique thing, and he's had four top-10 finishes in five PGA Tour events coming into this week. His early exit doesn't spell doom for him heading into Augusta. 

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