Seamus Power celebrated his maiden appearance with an impressive 5&4 victory over Sungjae Im on day one of the WGC – Dell Technologies Match-Play Championship in Austin, Texas.
Power, teeing-up on the opening day as a member of the DP World Tour, was never behind in his match against the South Korean, brilliantly setting-up victory with four winning birdies in succession from the 11th hole of the host Austin CC course.
The Las Vegas based Irishman grabbed the second equal biggest win on the opening day of the $12m event against his 23-year-old, two-time PGA Tour winning and World No. 26 rival.
And if Power was seeking an omen for an overall victory come Sunday afternoon, it’s the fact that six of the last seven winners of the championship won their opening round matches. As well, if Power goes on to either win or finish second in his group, he will be assured of ending next week inside the top-50 on the World Rankings, and the assurance of a maiden Masters invitation.
Power quickly raced to 2up with back-to-back opening birdies, chipping to tap-in distance at the first, and then two-putting the second for a par 4 while Im walked off with bogey.
Im won the fifth with a birdie ‘3’ but only for Power to then win the sixth with a par to Im’s bogey ‘6’. The next three holes were halved before Im got one back with a par at the 10th.
Power then turned-up the heat winning the par-3 12th with a birdie after finding the water guarding the green. He then won the par-5 13th holing an 11-foot birdie, the par-3 14th with a four-foot birdie before shaking hands with Im after seeing an 11-footer fall into the cup at 15 to make four winning birdies in succession.
“It was an interesting match as I didn’t get much going on the front nine but then he made a couple of mistakes that I was able to take advantage,” he said.
“I made a real mess of 10, which is disappointing. I was back to 1-up, and he kind of lost momentum there hitting it in the water on 11 and I was able to capitalise and make birdie on the last three.
“It’s nice to get a point on the board. It’s my first time playing here, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but one for one, so it’s a good start.”
Power was also full of praise for the host Austin CC course, despite the windier conditions for those out in the later stage of the first day.
“It’s fun golf course and it’s in great condition,” said Power. “It’s fun. Obviously with this breeze it makes it a challenge, too. I know it’s going to be the same breeze tomorrow, so hoping it’ll kind of play the same way, but it’s a very fun golf course in great condition, and you’ll definitely see some putts going in.”
Power now faces the big challenge of squaring off against the reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay and this despite the World No. 4 being kept to a tie, and earning a half point, in being taken all the way to the 18th by compatriot Keith Mitchell.
And while Power was muscling his way to a first-up win, fellow Irishman Shane Lowry had a fight on his hands against reigning Saudi International champ, Harold Varner III.
Lowry grabbed the early lead when he holed a 12-footer at the first before Varner III got back to level with a birdie on four before the American putt the foot down winning four of six holes from the sixth to the 11th with birdies. Varner III birdied the sixth, eighth, 10 and 11th to jump to 4up before Lowry halted the birdie barrage with a birdie of his own at the par-5 12th hole.
Lowry came to the par-4 13th, with the Pennymaker Bridge in the immediate background staring at him and the Colorado River in all its glory down the right side, only to do the unthinkable in match-play in finding the water. Though Lowry pulled off a remarkable par save in holing a seven-footer and kept the match at 3 down with five to play.
Lowry remarkably saved another par at the 14th hole, and this after losing his drive well right but getting a ‘line of sight’ drop, finding the green in two ahead of a two-putt par to match Varner III’s regulation fairway and then green par.
It was then a third poor drive with Lowry finding a fairway bunker at the par-4 15th and yet again walking off with a par to save the hole and keep the match at 3 down.
Lowry’s luck looked to have run out at the next, the par-5 16th in joining Varner III in the left rough though it was advantage Lowry in putting his third shot to nine-feet and finding the cup to win the hole with a birdie to a concealed Varner III par. The Irishman now two down with two to play, and only three of 32 matches still on the course.
Lowry survived another scare at the par-3 17th when his tee-shot narrowly avoided dropping off the side of the hole and well below into a penalty area while Varner’s tee shot landed 13-feet shy of the flag. Then with one foot on the wall supporting the hole, Lowry brilliantly holed his 22-foot pin-high birdie chip shot to break out in a huge smile, but only for Varner III to then clinch the match by holing his birdie putt for a hard-fought 2up victory.
And then in a great show of their friendship, Lowry walked up to give Varner III a congratulatory hug around the shoulders and a couple of back slaps.
Lowry heads to round two now up against South African Erik van Rooyen who lost 3&2 to Brooks Koepka. Koepka faces Varner III.
In speaking of Power’s equal second biggest win of the day, the biggest win went to American Maverick McNealy with the 64th ranked in the field handing out an 8&6 thumping of Chilean Joaquin Niemann who last month was handed the Genesis Invitational victory trophy by Tiger Woods.
McNealy was never behind in his match against Niemann who was born on the same day, November 7th, as his opponent but at 26, is three years older than Niemann.
And Bryson DeChambeau, in his return to golf after injury, halved his match with England’s Richard Bland. DeChambeau had been 1up through nine holes with Bland winning the 10th, while the duo halved the closing eight holes, with DeChambeau struggling overall, hitting just 11 greens in regulation.
Paul Casey is in doubt to continue in the event after he conceded his match against Canadian Corey Conners after back spasms forced out the Englishman following his drive at the third hole, and this after having won the second hole with a birdie to get back level with Conners. If Casey does withdraw it will mean Swede Alen Noren being handed the match after his opening round victory over Louis Oosthuizen.
- Full scoring HERE