WGC Matchplay: Rory McIlroy finds swimming pool in loss to Ian Poulter

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Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy drove his ball into a swimming pool during a thumping defeat to Ian Poulter in his opening group game at the WGC Matchplay in Texas.

The four-time major winner’s wayward drive on Austin’s fifth hole was one of a number of errors in a 6&5 thrashing.

The Northern Irishman, who now has coach Pete Cowen on his team, also found water on 13 with a chip across the green as Poulter sealed the win.

The 31-year-old faces American Lanto Griffin in his next group match.

His final contest will be against Australian Cameron Smith, who finished tied second at last year’s Masters.

“There’s a couple of areas of his game which I’m sure he wants to firm up a little bit,” Poulter said. “He missed a couple of tee shots left. But it’s Rory, it doesn’t take a lot for Rory to spark up pretty quickly.”

The 64 players at Austin are split into 16 groups of four with only the group winners advancing to the knockout stages at the weekend.

Top three seeds win but DeChambeau loses

Lee Westwood has been in good form with two runners-up finishes on the PGA Tour but the Englishman lost 4&3 to Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia. The 2017 Masters champion led from the first hole and went three-up on the 13th then clinched the match on the 15th.

Antoine Rozner stunned fifth seed and US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau with a two-up victory. The 58th seed birdied the ninth to go two-up and although the American fought back by making birdie on the par-five 16th, the Frenchman stayed firm at the last.

DeChambeau, winner at Bay Hill earlier this month, could only manage par as Rozner – in the matchplay tournament after winning in Qatar – holed an eight-foot birdie putt.

“It’s the strongest field I’ve ever played in in my life and I played good golf out there,” said the unheralded Rozner.

World number one Dustin Johnson defeated fellow American Adam Long two-up, while second seed Justin Thomas – fresh from his Players Championship victory – secured a 3&2 win over fellow American Matt Kuchar.

Spanish third seed Jon Rahm got the better of Colombian Sebastian Munoz after a tight battle. Rahm had to hole an eight-foot birdie putt at the last for his one-hole win after the South American sunk his putt from more than 20 feet.

The all-English contest between Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Wallace ended in a tie. Eighth seed Hatton was one-up boarding the final tee but could not match the 51st seed’s birdie.

Scotsman Robert MacIntyre impressed in his 2&1 win over American 28th seed Kevin Na.

England’s Andy Sullivan tied his opening match with American eighth seed Xander Schauffele while another Englishman Tommy Fleetwood made a fine putt at the last to enjoy the same outcome against South Korea’s Si Woo Kim.

American three-time major winner Jordan Spieth defeated 15th seed Matt Fitzpatrick of England 3&1 and Paul Casey, another Englishman, was beaten 3&2 by Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes.

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