Tommy Fleetwood survives with 18th hole scramble in Dell Match Play

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Rick Cantu, Austin American-Statesman
·3 min read
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AUSTIN, Texas — Tommy Fleetwood was staring at a one-way flight out of Austin on Friday when his second shot on the 18th hole landed in a deep hazard roughly 40 yards from the green.

Carrying a 1 up lead against Bryson DeChambeau, one of the world’s hottest golfers, he needed to halve the hole to be among the 16 competitors who will compete Saturday and Sunday at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.

Fleetwood, who could not see the green, then launched a shot that caught the back side of the green and saved his weekend. He would need two putts — his final shot a simple three-footer — to oust DeChambeau 1-up.

Fleetwood finished pod play with a 2-0-1 record. He advanced from a group that also included Antoine Rozner (2-1-0).

The popular 30-year-old from England was serenaded by an appreciative gallery. “Tommy! Tommy! Tommy!” fans shouted as he left the green.

Fleetwood said he was fortunate because his second shot on the 18th hole landed just inches from a creek. The small patch of dirt beneath the ball was firm enough to give him a decent shot.

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“I could hit the ball, which was lucky,” said Fleetwood, the world’s 22nd-ranked golfer. “It was just the direction that might have been the problem. But I knew I could hit the ball so I could find a way into that. … It came out way better than I thought it would. It helps when you can ground your club in a hazard now.”

Down by three shots after 13 holes, DeChambeau won the 14th and 16th holes to put pressure on Fleetwood. DeChambeau, ranked fifth in the world, was consistently longer off the tee, but that didn’t rattle Fleetwood.

“I think for some people it can make it more challenging knowing that he’s probably going to have some more opportunities if he hits it well, but at the end of the day your game is all you’ve got, and that’s what you go with,” he said.

Among the golfers who qualified for the final 16 are Mackenzie Hughes, Kevin Streelman and former University of Texas All-American Dylan Frittelli.

Frittelli advanced despite losing his match to Will Zalatoris 2 up. His 2-1 record was enough keep him in the tournament ahead of Zalatoris and Tony Finau, both 1-1-1.

Playing on a familiar course benefited the former Longhorn.

“Any course can be overpowered if you can put it in play,” Frittelli said. “I think there are a few holes where doglegs and water and hazards kind of inhibit your ability to hit it long and take advantage and I think wedge is going to be the better odds, but in match play anything is possible.”

Streelman advanced by defeating Abraham Ancer on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.

Among the golfers who might have surprised the field by reaching the round of 16 is Hughes, who halved his match with Talor Gooch after winning easily Wednesday and Thursday. Having a close call Friday might serve him well the rest of the weekend, he said.

“My caddie and I said that it was probably not a bad thing that we had to play 17 and 18 and see those holes,” Hughes said. “Maybe I saw too much of 18 today, but all in all, yeah, it was good to be tested and be pushed to the brink like that and have to hit some good shots down the stretch.”

Justin Thomas, the world’s No. 2 golfer, ended a forgettable week on a high note, defeating Louis Oosthuizen 3 and 2.

Among the other golfers who won matches Friday but failed to advance to the weekend were Viktor Hovland and Shane Lowry.