GOLF

Woods stumbles, Spieth rallies on second day of Dell Match Play

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Tiger Woods has always been one of the most creative golfers on the PGA Tour. He took that to a new level on Thursday afternoon.

The 14-time major winner turned a club upside down and just grazed a flower, hitting an unconventional shot to just a few feet. But it wasn't enough.

Brandt Snedeker beat Woods 2&1 to move into a tie for first place in Group 13 with Patrick Cantlay. Woods needs to beat Cantlay on Friday and have Aaron Wise - who has yet to win a match this weekend - beat Snedeker to advance to the knockout phase.

"Neither of us seemed to make any putts," Snedeker said. "we had a bunch of 15 to 20-footers, which was about as close as we going to hit it today just because of the wind and how tough it was. I was able to hit some clutch shots down the stretch."

One day after winning two of the final three holes to grind out a tie, Spieth made four birdies and had an eagle in his 3-up win over Kevin Na on Thursday.

"I feel like I played better than I did yesterday and everything felt better than it did yesterday," he said. "Looking for some midrange putts to go in. I really haven't made anything outside 10 r 12 feet. I feel good."

He has yet to crack the top 25 this season and hasn't finished in the top 10 since last July when he lost the 54 hole lead at The Open Championship and finished in a tie for ninth.

It might turn out to be a long few weeks for Spieth, who is in the driver's seat to advance to the knockout stages. He's committed to play in the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio next week before heading to Augusta for The Masters.

"I'm just trying to feel like I progressed each day little more in what I'm working on," Spieth said. "Whatever happened this week as far as win or lose the match, whatever happens next week, if I continue to do that I'll be in the best position day inane day out to succeed."

Tommy Fleetwood and Kyle Stanley approached the 15th tee all square. A rollercoaster ride later, and the score looked oddly the same.

Fleetwood birdied the par-4 15th and won the 16th hole after his 250-yard 3-wood hit the green on the long par 5. Stanley stuffed his approach on the par-3 17th and nearly holed out for eagle on the 18th to fight back for the tie.

Fleetwood and Stanley are tied atop Group 11 with 1.5 points. Fleetwood meets Louis Oosthuizen, while Stanley takes on Byeong Hun An on Friday with the top finisher advancing to the knockout stage of the Dell Match Play beginning Saturday.

Rory McIlroy (3&2 over Justin Harding), Sergio Garcia (5&4 over Andrew Putnam) Francesco Molinari (4&3 over Thorbjørn Oleson) and Matt Kuchar (6&4 over Si Woo Kim) set themselves up to advance after moving to 2-0 on the tournament.

Group 12 was the so-called ‘Group of Death' with Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Henrick Stenson and Jason Day. The four have a combined eight major-championship victories between them.

On Thursday, Furyk beat Mickelson 1 up despite making four bogeys, while Stenson downed Day 4&3, making four birdies and one bogey, to set up a winner-take-all match tomorrow afternoon.

"It's going to be another tough match," Furyk said. "I knew to start this week the three guys I have, let's be honest, there are no easy matches here. Hopefully, the ball bounces my way tomorrow and I'm hoping to play another solid round of golf."

The group is the oldest at the tournament, with Day being the only player under 42 years old.

Friday's showdown will pit 48-year-old Furyk against the 42-year-old Stenson. But the Swede is still taking a young approach.

"I'm only turning 43 next week, so I feel like a young pup," Stenson said with a smile. "I don't think (Furyk) has given away an easy bogey since 1994 or something. He's a gritty match player. It's going to be a tough one again."

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