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Lee Westwood has seen most things in his long career, but this was the first time he had ever been beaten by his opponent making a hole-in-one on the fourth sudden-death hole.
And to make the circumstances of Westwood’s elimination from the WGC Dell Match Play even more bizarre, it was his old Ryder Cup partner Sergio Garcia striking the walk-off ace.
It was a great effort by Westwood, the 47-year-old who fought his way back into the world’s top 20 with back-to-back runner-up placings on the PGA Tour earlier this month. After losing his opening round-robin group match against Garcia on Wednesday, he battled back at Austin Country Club with impressive wins against countrymen Matt Wallace on Thursday and then Tyrrell Hatton, on Friday.
The manner of Westwood’s 4&3 victory over the world No 8 suggested he was favourite against Garcia - who lost 3& 2 to Wallace - but after they halved the first three holes of the shootout, Garcia hit a nine iron on the 160-yard fourth that instantly removed all of the uncertainty. “I really don't know what to say,’ he said. “A hole-in-one is amazing. It’s my 13th and it’s lucky No. 13.
“It was a great shot, but then you get lucky that first of all it doesn't hit the flag because it must have been very close and then it rolls back in. I'm sorry for Lee, but unfortunately one of us had to lose.”
Garcia plays Canadian Mackenzie Hughes in the last 16 and must fancy himself to go all the way. As Europe’s leading points-scorer in the Ryder Cup, it is faintly ridiculous that the Spaniard has only once gone further than the quarter-final in this event. For Westwood, the next stop will be Augusta for the season’s first major in 12 days time.
Bob MacIntyre, the debut-making Scot, was feeling similarly fortunate, although his progression from the group containing world No 1 Dustin Johnson actually owed little to anything else other than the left-hander’s own exciting talent.
After halving with Johnson on Thursday, MacIntyre, the 24-year-old from Oban, was one down against American Adam Long on the 18th tee. As he was driving, Johnson was stood over his 40-footer on the 18th green against Kevin Na. A few seconds later, MacIntyre’s ball bounced on to the green and rolled up to within two feet.
He was the first player to drive that hole all week, but MacIntyre thanked the stars after it came down off the left bank of the putting surface.
“That was probably one of the best and one of the luckiest golf shots I've hit in my life,” he said” I was trying to hit the green, but for me if I hit my normal shot I fly the slope, it hits flat, doesn't go on the green. But I had to win the hole, so I thought, ‘here we go’. Let's get the low one going. It was absolutely perfect - exactly what I needed.”
MacIntyre plays France’s Victor Perez this morning, with the winner playing either Garcia or Hughes in the afternoon quarter-final
Rory McIlroy also created drama on that final hole when he chipped in to claim a half with Australian Cam Smith. It was academic as by that point as McIlroy was out anyway, with Ian Poulter having beat Lanto Griffin 2&1 to go through. Next up for Poulter is Scottie Scheffler. Tommy Fleetwood is another Englishman in the last 16 after seeing off Bryson DeChambeau on the 18th. He now faces South African Dylan Frittelli.