AUSTIN — Patrick Reed and match play golf have never really been a boring combination. He had a different energy on Wednesday afternoon.
The passionate Reed, who was dubbed ‘Captain America’ after his heroics at the 2016 Ryder Cup, dominated HaoTong Li 3&2 in the first round of the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club.
“Hit the ball in play off the tee, hit it on the green or around the green, just make a bunch of pars,” Reed said. “It wasn't anything special. But a day like today — first match, wind in the opposite direction — just kind of more getting a feel for the golf course and getting ready for the week.”
In the other match in the group, Jordan Spieth beat Charl Schwartzel 2&1.
Reed, who is 9-6-2 in match play as a pro, and Spieth, who is 10-9-1, will go head-to-head on Friday. They have a 7-2-2 record as partners.
Reed loves match play, whether he's wearing the red, white and blue or the once a year event on the PGA Tour.
“I mean, they are a little different,” he said. “An event like this, it's just you out here playing. When it comes down to Ryder Cup, you are playing for your country. You have your teammates. It's a whole different beast.”
In other action, Ian Poulter won an all-English matchup against No. 9 Tommy Fleetwood 3&2. Fleetwood fell behind with back-to-back bogeys to put Poulter 2up early on. Poulter birdied the par 5 15th to help expand his lead.
Poulter needs to get out of his group to move into the top 50 and qualify for the Masters in two weeks.
“I know what I need to do,” Poulter said. “It's quite simple. Win the next number of matches and I won't be doing what you are doing at Augusta National. I don't want to do that. I want to play. I'm playing some of the best golf I've ever played. Stats are proving that.”
Defending champion and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson lost 3&1 to Austrian Bernd Wiesberger. He faces Canadian Adam Hadwin in the second round and Kevin Kisner in the Round 3 on Friday.
Defending Masters champion Sergio Garcia clinched a win against Shubhankar Sharma after a birdie on the par 4 18th. He’ll face off with former Longhorn Dylan Frittelli in Round 2 and Xander Schauffele in Round 3.
Playing in his first tournament since the birth of his daughter, Garcia was sporting a pink shirt to celebrate the occasion.
“A win is always great,” Garcia said. “This one was no different. A couple of moments here and there that I would like to do a little bit better. But I think I made four or five birdies on the back nine in not easy conditions. The course is quite tough.”
A back nine charge wasn’t in the cards for Rory McIlroy as Peter Uihlein beat the four-time major champion 2up. Uihlein led by as much as 5up, but McIlroy made five birdies on the back nine.
“I made him earn it at least,” McIlroy said. “I made the scoreline a little more respectable. I just came away a little flat. I didn't really necessarily play badly. It was gusty out there, the conditions were a little tricky. As I said, I made a run at him at the end, but it was a little too late.”