AUSTIN, Texas — In a crazy match that saw a comedy of errors over the final few holes, Tiger Woods prevailed 2 and 1 over Rory McIlroy when he buried a 13-foot par putt on the 17th green Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Woods had led 3-up through 10 holes, then saw McIlroy fight back with a chance to tie before making a mess of the 16th hole, one he appeared destined to win but ended up conceding.
After barely clearing the hazard at the par-3 17th, Woods made par following a narrowly missed birdie putt by McIlroy.
Woods will face Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard in a Saturday afternoon quarterfinal match.
“It was a fun match for us. I know that we battled pretty hard against one another and we thoroughly enjoyed it,” Woods said. “I was fortunate to come out on top. We had some interesting conditions today. I guess that front was coming through about 11:00. The wind changed. I played pretty consistent the entire day. Felt like I didn’t give him any holes. And Rory didn’t make any putts today. I think he made two birdies today. It was just a tough day all around. I’m happy I advanced.”
Woods seemed in control through 10 holes with a 3-up lead that included a missed 3-footer for par by McIlroy at the 10th.
But McIlroy made his first birdie at the par-5 12th — Woods unable to hit his approach close from 100 yards and then 3-putting — and then pulled within one at the short par-4 13th, where Woods played back off the tee with an iron, then missed the green from 70 yards. McIlroy birdied again.
And then McIlroy appeared set to draw even at the par-5 16th, where he had a huge advantage after a 395-yard drive. Woods was in a bunker off the tee and up against the lip, causing him to blast out and hit his third from 200 yards.
Then it was nothing but disaster for McIlroy. A 173-yard approach came to rest just outside of a bunker, from where he pitched it over the green and up against a wooden bulkhead. He took an unplayable, went back to the original spot near the bunker, then proceeded to chunk it into the front bunker. McIlroy blasted out and then conceded — with Woods not even having to hit a putt.
“What I’ve been told is he hasn’t trailed in a match yet. It was nice to get that lead, especially back-to-back holes, too,” Woods said. “From there he gave me a gift at 10. He chipped away at it with a couple of birdies of his own on 12 and 13. And 16 was tough. The wind is blowing as hard as it is, his ball got knocked down. My ball on 17 was supposed to be downwind, came back into my face. And that’s just the way it is with these hills, the way the fronts come through. And it was a difficult day for both of us.”