Rory McIlroy revealed he hit 11 bags of range balls following his humbling round one loss at the hands of Ian Poulter to come out on day two to defeat American Lanto Griffin 4 & 3 at the WGC – Dell Match-Play Championship in Austin, Texas.
McIlroy now faces Aussie Cam Smith in a must-win third round match after Smith lost to Poulter 1-down. Whoever wins the McIlroy -v- Smith match will need Griffin to beat the undefeated Poulter to force a sudden-death play-off to decide the winner of Group 11. McIlroy was never behind in his match against Griffin who clearly struggled but a win is a win and handed McIlroy a much needed confidence-boost after his first round demolition.
“Winning my match keeps me in the championship and gives me a hope tomorrow,” said McIlroy. “I have to now play Cam and whoever wins that match is going to have to rely on Poults doing either of us a favour.
“I do feel the scoreline did not match-up with how I played but I played solid and while Lanto didn’t play his best, I am just happy to still be in with a chance for the weekend.”
McIlroy had spent a considerable amount of time following his loss to Poulter endeavouring to get to grips with his badly haemorrhaging game, so much so it was confirmed he went through 11 bags of practice balls on the Austin range Wednesday afternoon.
“I think as everyone knows who’s played this game, it’s a very difficult game at times, and I feel like it’s testing me a little more than it has done in the last few years,” he said.
“I feel the only way to get through it is to put your head down and work on the right things and sort of trust the process of putting in the hard work, and my dad always said, you get out of it what you put into it, and that’s the attitude that I’m sort of bringing with me to the course each and every day. There’s going to be some good days, there’s going to be some bad, but I feel like I’m on the right path.”
McIlroy went into the second-round robin match in the €8.8m clearly looking to restore his severely dented pride following his thumping at the hands of ‘Poults’. And McIlroy quickly buried any lingering demons from a day earlier in launching an opening 351-yard drive to set-up an 8-inch birdie ‘3’ putt and go 1UP.
McIlroy then went 2UP holing a 25-footer for par at the par-4 second and in the bat of any eyelid, the World No. 11 was 3UP after just three holes in paring the third with Griffin taking a second straight bogey.
It took Griffin six holes with a birdie ‘4’ to a McIlroy bogey to get back to 2DWN before holing a ‘bomb’ of his own, a 25-footer for birdie at the par-3 seventh hole. McIlroy regained the ascendancy winning the eighth thanks to a four-foot birdie but the 32-year-old Californian and winner of the 2019 Houston Open was not going away.
He two-putted the par-4 ninth hole from 32-feet for par after McIlroy three-putted from 28-feet for bogey, for Griffin to now be back to 1DWN. McIlroy grabbed only the fifth birdie of the match at the 10th in holing a four-footer for a ‘3, helped by Griffin being well past the green and recording his third bogey of their match. McIlroy won 12 and 13 to be 4UP and from thereon it was a matter of when McIlroy would end the match and he did that on 15 with a par.
Shane Lowry meanwhile battled hard to force his match down 18 before eventually losing out to Spain’s Jon Rahm. Lowry was 2UP through four holes before Rahm won three holes to make the turn 1UP. It had been a poor match through nine holes with just one birdie between the pair but Rahm got into his groove on the back nine, winning 10 in birdie before Lowry found trouble on 12 to go 3DWN.
Lowry wasn’t going down without a fight, however, winning 14 with a birdie before Rahm restored his 3UP advantage with a birdie of his own on 15. The Open Champion then birdied 16 and 17 to get the match back to 1DWN playing the last but when Lowry missed his birdie putt from 12 feet with Rahm inside him also putting for birdie, the Clara man conceded the match for his second loss of the week.
Full scoring HERE
Stay ahead of the game. Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest Irish Golfer news straight to your inbox!