Lucas Bjerregaard stunned Tiger Woods to reach the semifinals of the 2019 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a 1-up victory on Saturday.
Trailing by one heading onto No. 16, Bjerregaard birdied the next two holes and watched Woods hit a bogey on 18 to secure the victory.
Woods set himself up for a showdown with Bjerregaard after a 2-and-1 win over Rory McIlroy in the round of 16 earlier in the day. That match saw Woods in control most of the way before McIlroy won back-to-back holes on Nos. 12 and 13 to get within one.
The 16th hole provided the difference for Woods in his victory against McIlroy:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
What a change in momentum. Rory: 395-yard drive (longest drive of the day on 16) Tiger: Finds the bunker Tiger: Lays up Tiger: Finds the green Rory: Misses the green Rory: Goes long Rory: Takes unplayable Rory: Finds the sand Rory: Cards a 7 @TigerWoods is 2 UP thru 16. https://t.co/l8twgqYRP4
Playing two matches in one day was a good way to test where Woods is at physically. NBC golf analyst Paul Azinger expressed concern about the 43-year-old's ability to bounce back from the neck strain that forced him to withdraw from the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
"His neck issue, that's a serious issue I feel," Azinger told Golfweek's Steve DiMeglio earlier this month. "Because if your neck doesn't flow the way you want, that's trouble."
After a disappointing 30th-place finish at the Players Championship two weeks ago, Woods seemed poised to put to rest any doubts about his durability. He even acknowledged after Wednesday's win over Aaron Wise that his body is in great shape.
"My neck has been freed up a little bit, and I'm able to get into a better posture and that helps," Woods told reporters. "And because of that, I'm able to log in a little bit of practice time, which is nice."
That extra practice time seemed to be working well for Woods. He went 2-up after the fifth hole on the strength of three consecutive birdies:
Bjerregaard was able to regain his composure after that difficult stretch. The Denmark native squared the match on No. 10 with a birdie after this second shot from the fairway stopped five feet in front of the hole:
The positive momentum Bjerregaard found quickly evaporated on No. 11 when his first shot came up short of the green and landed in the water. Woods didn't play the hole well either, but he was able to get away with a bogey to get back on top.
Both players got back on track at the par-five 12th hole with matching birdie putts:
After they exchanged pars on Nos. 14 and 15, Woods found an opening to unload with this massive drive off the tee at 16:
Bjerregaard countered with a strong 325-yard drive of his own. He used that to set himself up for an eagle putt that squared the match with two holes remaining.
With the NCAA tournament currently going on, it's only fitting the WGC Match Play would feature its own Cinderella. Bjerregaard started this week as the No. 50 seed in a field of 64. He hasn't seemed to feel any pressure despite going head-to-head with four of the world's best players:
Bjerregaard is the lowest-ranked player still in the tournament, though it's been a week of upsets. No. 7 Francesco Molinari is the only person ranked in the top 10 who advanced to the semifinals.
This isn't completely uncharted territory for Bjerregaard. The 27-year-old does have two career wins on the European Tour, most recently at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last October.
But after a win over Woods, the spotlight will be on Bjerregaard in a way it hasn't been before with potentially two matches to play on Sunday. He rose to the occasion in the face of adversity in the quarterfinals. Doing it again Sunday will give him a chance to leave Texas with a victory.
Woods' struggles on the green cost him late in the match. He missed an eagle putt on No. 16 from inside four feet that would have kept him 1-up. His par attempt on the final hole to keep the match square missed from inside of five feet.
It's an issue Woods will have to figure out with the Masters just two weeks away. His early departure from the WGC Match Play provides him an opportunity to work on his short game before the year's first major.