March 23 (Reuters) - World number one Dustin Johnson continued his perfect record at the WGC-Dell Match Play on Thursday while number two Rory McIlroy was eliminated without even setting foot on the course.
On an extremely windy afternoon in Austin, American Johnson beat German Martin Kaymer 3&2 at Austin Country Club.
“Putting is the hardest part,” Johnson told Golf Channel after improving to 2-0-0 overall. “It’s very breezy and then really gusty at times.”
McIlroy, after losing to Dane Soren Kjeldsen on Wednesday, won on Thursday when his scheduled opponent Gary Woodland withdrew, citing personal family reasons.
Even with that walkover, however, McIlroy still needed Kjeldsen to lose his second match to have any chance of advancing out of the round-robin group stage.
But Kjeldsen duly shut the door on the Northern Irishman, beating Argentine Emiliano Grillo 4&3 on Thursday to improve to 2-0-0.
Kjeldsen said he relished the tough conditions.
“I’m brought up in this,” he said. “The way I play golf, I like to shape shots, like to change the trajectory. When I saw it being windy today I was really happy.”
He will have the luxury of not even needing to turn up at the course on Friday, due to the absence of his scheduled opponent Woodland.
World number four Hideki Matsuyama was also mathematically eliminated from the round-of-16, losing to Englishman Ross Fisher 2&1 a day after halving his opening match.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk won the other match in Matsuyama’s group, 3&2 over South African Louis Oosthuizen.
Others winners among the early matches in the 64-man event to improve to 2-0-0 included Americans Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka, Pat Perez and William McGirt, Swede Alexander Noren, Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, Spaniard Jon Rahm and South Korean Kim Kyung-tae.
The wind caused all sorts of problems and a watery grave for many a ball, even a shank by American Charles Howell, who had no problem assigning the blame to the conditions.
“(It was) difficult enough to cause a shank,” he said after escaping with a 1-up win over Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
“I was a bit numb playing the last hole after that but fortunately got a nice up-and-down at the last to save it a little bit.” (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)