World number one Dustin Johnson crashed out of the World Golf Championships Dell Technologies Match Play on Thursday after suffering his second defeat of the tournament.
Defending champion Johnson, who suffered an upset loss to Austrian Bernd Wiesberger on Wednesday, was beaten 4&3 by Canada’s Adam Hadwin at the Austin Country Club in Texas.
The loss made it impossible for Johnson to progress from Group One in the round-robin phase to the weekend’s knockout rounds, with Hadwin — who halved his opening match with Kevin Kisner — assured of finishing above the top seed.
Johnson trailed from the opening hole against 38th seed Hadwin, who set up a simple birdie chance after hitting his iron from the fairway to within four feet.
Johnson birdied the fifth to draw level but Hadwin edged back in front on the sixth after draining a 13-foot eagle putt on the 590-yard par-five.
The 30-year-old from Moose Jaw went two up at the turn with another superb putt, rolling in a 38-footer.
Johnson then found himself three down after three-putting on the par-three 11th, and his problems mounted on the 13th when his tee shot found the water hazard to help Hadwin go four up.
Hadwin sealed victory at the 15th when Johnson conceded.
A delighted Hadwin admitted he had expected a tougher challenge from Johnson.
“Obviously I really expected Dustin to play a lot better than he did, I think everybody did coming into this week,” Hadwin said.
“I played extremely solid all day long. I made the putts from five and seven feet when I needed to to keep the momentum on my side.
“I knew if I played well it would be a good match. And I played well.”
– Rahm out, Poulter wins –
Also eliminated with a defeat was Spain’s third-seeded Jon Rahm, who lost to Johnson in last year’s final. Rahm fell 1 up to US 43rd seed Chez Reavie.
European Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter once again demonstrated his penchant for match play with his second win, defeating US 26th seed Daniel Berger 2 & 1.
Poulter, seeded 58th, has reverted to the putter that he used during Europe’s “Miracle at Medinah” Ryder Cup win in 2012.
The Englishman is aiming for a high finish in Austin this week as he tries to snare a place in the Masters by breaking into the world top 50.
“Today I holed some putts at the right time,” said Poulter.
“Match play is a confidence game. If you can get out there and establish a lead early and continue to hit good shots you can put pressure on your opponent,” he added.
Poulter will face 33rd seed Kevin Chappell on Friday aiming to seal his place in the last 16.
US Ryder Cup teammates Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed set up a winner takes all showdown in Group Four with their second wins of the competition.
Spieth was a 4&2 winner over China’s Li Haotong while Reed defeated South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel 1 up. Reed and fourth seed Spieth meet Friday with the winner reaching the last 16.
– McIlroy, Casey win –
Northern Ireland sixth seed Rory McIlroy kept his advancement hopes alive by beating Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas 2&1.
“I drove the ball well again,” McIlroy said. “I turned 2 up through nine and just kept putting pressure on him.”
England’s 10th-seeded Paul Casey beat Kyle Stanley 4&2 to go 2-0.
“I don’t make a lot of mistakes and that’s tough to play against,” Casey said. “I never feel like I’m out of a hole and it’s tough to beat me. I’m on the rise. I feel confident. But you don’t want to get ahead of yourself.”
Phil Mickelson, seeded 14th, was ahead only once but that was when it mattered in a 1-up win over Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira.
“I’ve been walking with my head down. You know what happens to animals who do that — they get eaten,” Mickelson said.
“I didn’t have great energy. I was lucky to turn it around. I’ve got to get my attitude better. I wasn’t very positive. I was whiny. I have to change that.”