24 Mar 2023 | Professional golf |

Day, Herbert extend unbeaten run at WGC Match Play

by Australian Golf Media

Jason Day and Lucas Herbert.

By Tony Webeck

A win or tie in Round 3 will be enough for both Jason Day and Lucas Herbert to advance out of the group stages at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas.

Day got the better of Frenchman Victor Perez 2&1 on day two as Herbert accounted for England’s Tyrrell Hatton 2&1 thanks to birdies on the 16th and 17th holes, Cam Davis the other Aussie to win in the second round with a 3&1 victory over American Tom Hoge.

Adam Scott (1 down to Sam Burns), Min Woo Lee (2&1 to Matt Fitzpatrick) and Kiwi Ryan Fox (2&1 to Andrew Putnam) all went down in their matches, leaving Day and Herbert as the only Aussies with their fate solely in their hands.

A win or tie against Collin Morikawa will be enough to secure Day’s spot in the knockout stage while Herbert can secure safe passage with either a win or a tie against American Ben Griffin.

The remaining Aussies are not guaranteed to advance even with wins in their final matches that will pit Adam Scott against Adam Hadwin, Lee against the undefeated JJ Spaun and Davis against Aaron Wise.

A two-time Match Play champion in 2014 and 2016, Day’s recent resurgence suggested he would mount a strong campaign at Austin Country Club.

He surrendered a 2 up advantage with consecutive bogeys on seven and eight – but his finishing stretch indicated those aforementioned signs of sky-high potential.

After Perez won the par-5 12th with a chip-in eagle to go 1 up, Day answered with back-to-back winning birdies at 13 and 14. Day drained an 11-foot birdie to win the par-5 16th, and a routine two-putt par at the par-3 17th sufficed to tie the hole and close the match.

“The intensity will be so much more than what it has been over the last two days, so that’s exciting,” Day said of his match-up with Morikawa.

“I guess the willingness to grind it out is going to be more imperative to handle or take care of business tomorrow.

“I’m just not really looking too far ahead. I’ve just got to stick to that process and try and take on every shot the best I can. At the end of the day if that’s good enough to beat Collin, great; if not, then go back to the drawing board and get after it again.”

Herbert didn’t lead in his match with Hatton until the 16th hole and then closed out the result at the next.

Hatton was 1 up to the par-5 12th hole, but Herbert uncorked a 412-yard drive, leading to a 166-yard approach to nine feet and subsequent winning eagle to tie the match.

The match remained tied to the par-5 16th, which Herbert won with a six-foot birdie, and he closed the deal with a five-foot birdie at the par-3 17th after Hatton couldn’t convert from 22 feet.

Given he is currently ranked 56th in the world, the deeper Herbert can travel into the knockout phase the greater his chances of earning a late invitation to The Masters.

“I was in the same position last year and lost and then lost the playoff so I’m very aware that I need to play better than I did last year,” said Herbert, who fell at the hands of Takumi Kanaya 12 months ago.

“I need to have a different mindset to what I did last year.

“I want to finish 3-0 and get through to that next round and be playing on Saturday. The way to do that is to make sure I win tomorrow, don’t give anything up, don’t give the other guys a chance.

“That’s a good position to be in.”

Lee ran into a red-hot Fitzpatrick in their round two match, the reigning US Open champion making five birdies over his first 13 holes to go 1 up.

Lee missed a 10-footer for par at 15, and Fitzpatrick doubled his lead. Fitzpatrick made a clutch 17-foot birdie putt at 17 to match Lee and stay 2 up. Fitzpatrick then walked in a 16-foot birdie putt at 17 (his seventh birdie) for the win he needed.

Scott’s match with Sam Burns was a scrappy affair for the most part and ended in unfortunate circumstances for the 2013 Masters champion.

Burns won the eighth hole with a bogey when Scott made double bogey and then went 1 up at 13 when he had a short look for birdie and Scott bladed a chip.

Scott tied the match with an approach to 17 inches at the par-4 15th and the score stayed that way until 18 where Scott drove it left into a penalty area.

He made bogey, leaving Burns two putts from 22 feet to move to 2-0.

All square with Hoge through the opening six holes of their match, Davis went 1 up when Hoge made bogey at the par-3 seventh.

Hoge won the eighth hole with a birdie to tie the match again, Davis taking control again with a birdie on 10.

From there he was never headed, moving 3 up with birdies on 13 and 14 before closing out the match by winning the 17th hole with a birdie.

Round 2 results Jason Day def Victor Perez 2 &1 Lucas Herbert def Tyrrell Hatton 2&1 Cam Davis def Tom Hoge 3&1 Adam Scott lost to Sam Burns 1 down Min Woo Lee lost to Matt Fitzpatrick 2&1 Ryan Fox (NZ) lost to Andrew Putnam 2&1

Round 3 draw Jason Day v Collin Morikawa Lucas Herbert v Ben Griffin Min Woo Lee v JJ Spaun Cam Davis v Aaron Wise Adam Scott v Adam Hadwin Ryan Fox (NZ) v Will Zalatoris

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