GOLF

Tiger Woods catches fire on Thursday to set up showdown with Rory McIlroy at Dell Match Play

Posted

When Tiger Woods started the back nine on Friday, the crowd following him was as large as just about any other that regularly follows the superstar around at every golf tournament he's in.

By the time he walked off the 13th green, the excitement had grown to a fever pitch.

Wood had four birdies and one eagle - he holed out with a wedge from 82-yard out on No. 13 - on the back nine, winning five of the final six holes to down Patrick Cantlay 4 and 2 and advance to the knockout round of the Dell Match Play.

"I just got hot right when I needed it," Woods said.

He faces Rory McIlroy in the round of 16 on Saturday morning, the first time the two will face off in a match play setting. McIlroy won all three matched during pool play and has yet to trail at any time this tournament.

"We're looking forward to it," Woods said. "We've played tournaments together and battled each other down the stretch at events, but never in a match-play situation. So this will be fun and I'm sure both of us will be ready for it."

Woods needed some help to make it to the weekend after losing to Brandt Snedeker on Thursday and he got it. Former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Aaron Wise beat Snedeker 6 and 4 on Friday.

Cantlay birdied three of the first six holes to build a 1-up lead. Woods then bogeyed the par-4 eighth to fall behind by two holes.

Cantlay caught a bad break on the very downhill par-4 ninth. His drive caught the massive hill and rolled down into the hazard. Woods played it safe and settled for a par to win the hole, which he said gave him the momentum he carried throughout the back nine.

Woods bombed a drive way left on the scenic 12th hole but still ended up with a birdie to win the hole. He laid up with an iron on the short par-4 13th to put pressure on Cantlay before his electrifying eagle.

"I knew I needed to put it up there to at least have a chance at three, to force him to have a good pitch from down there and a bit of a bonus," Woods said. "I think it landed pin-high, skipped back and spun back towards the hole. I tried to hit a little 60 (degree wedge) with a little bit of cut spin to hold it against the hill and the wind, and it worked out nicely."

No kidding.

Lucas Bjerregaard (1 up over Matt Wallace), Tyrell Hatton (3 and 1 over Lee Westwood), Sergio Garcia (2 and 1 loss to Patrick Reed), Branden Grace (2 and 1 over Chez Reavie), Louis Oosthuizen (4 and 3 over Tommy Fleetwood), Marc Leishman (5 and 4 over Bryson DeChambeau) and Matt Kuchar (Halved match with Jon Rahm) all advanced.

In the only battle of unbeaten players, Henrik Stenson dominated Jim Furyk 5 and 4 to move to the weekend.

"That's the best round of golf I've played all year for certain," Stenson said. "It was called the ‘group of death' and I managed to bring it to the other guys. It was always going to be a tough group. I think that was really inspiring on my end, being up against such great players."

Follow @ByZachSmith and @HCNSports on Twitter and Instagram for the latest news on all local and regional sports. 

Email: sports@hillcountrynews.com

Comments