By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent
More than a decade after their famous Ryder Cup singles match, Rory McIlroy again got the better of Keegan Bradley to reach the last 16 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
McIlroy needed a ride in a state trooper’s car to avoid being late to face Bradley at Medinah in 2012 after misreading the tee time on television at the European team’s hotel.
Despite arriving with just minutes to spare, McIlroy went on to win 2&1 as Jose Maria Olazabal’s side staged the ‘Miracle at Medinah’, having trailed 10-4 midway through Saturday afternoon’s session.
Eleven years on there was no such drama at Austin Country Club as McIlroy eased to a 3&2 victory to win group three with a 100 per cent record, setting up a tie with group 14 winner Lucas Herbert.
This is what it means to reach the knockout stage 💪@lhgolf5 | #DellMatchPlay pic.twitter.com/oSBlQ333t1
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) March 24, 2023
“I think everyone knows I came here this week with a slightly different driver set-up and I’m getting more and more confidence with it as the days go by,” McIlroy told PGA Tour Live after becoming the first player to compile a perfect record three times since the group format began in 2015.
“I drove it great yesterday and great again today and I think this course sets up well if you can drive it in the fairway and drive it long, especially these last few holes.
“I was a little happier with my putting on the front nine, I missed a couple of short ones coming in there that meant I probably could have put Keegan away a little bit earlier, but overall everything feels pretty good.”
Shane Lowry had earlier held off a spirited fightback from Jordan Spieth to send the three-time major winner crashing out of the event.
Lowry had already been eliminated following defeats by Taylor Montgomery and Mackenzie Hughes, his fifth and sixth match play losses of the year after he lost all four of his matches in January’s Hero Cup.
However, the former Open champion took advantage of an erratic display from Spieth to race into a five-hole lead at the turn and held on to complete a 2&1 victory.
Taylor Montgomery vs. @MacHughesGolf 👀
The first sudden-death playoff @DellMatchPlay to determine who will advance to the Round of 16. pic.twitter.com/bGc2d2ELcu
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 24, 2023
Hughes thrashed Montgomery 6&5 in the other match in group 12 to set up a play-off between the pair, which Hughes won on the first hole after Montgomery fired his approach over the green and third shot into a bunker.
Hughes will face Max Homa in the last 16 after Homa had earlier advanced to the knockout stages without hitting a single shot on Friday.
Homa was due to face former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama in the final round of group matches, only for Matsuyama to withdraw before play got under way with a neck injury.
That meant Homa was credited with his third win of the week and advanced to the knockout stages for the first time.
Homa joked about enjoying another “bogey-free day” on Twitter before adding: “In all seriousness, this isn’t the way I wanted to make it through. I hope Hideki feels better soon. Golf is better when he’s playing well.”
Matsuyama later released a statement via the PGA Tour which read: “I experienced some stiffness in my neck this morning while warming up on the range, preventing me from making a full swing.
“As a precautionary measure, I decided to concede my match to Max and rest before moving on to the Valero Texas Open next week.
“I want to express my sincere appreciation to Dell Technologies and the Austin Country Club for their kind hospitality and supporting the WGC Match Play through the years.”
Two-time winner Jason Day won group nine with a 100 per cent record thanks to a 4&3 victory over Collin Morikawa, the Australian facing Matt Kuchar in the last 16 after Kuchar thrashed Si Woo Kim 7&6.
Defending champion Scottie Scheffler also made it three wins out of three with a 3&2 victory over Tom Kim, the world number one setting up a last-16 tie with JT Poston.