25 Mar 2022 | Professional golf |

Herbert extends giant-killing run at WGC Match Play

by PGA of Australia

Lucas Herbert and Xander Schauffele shake hands after their second round match.
Lucas Herbert and Xander Schauffele shake hands after their second round match.

By Tony Webeck

Lucas Herbert has taken a crucial step towards the Round of 16 after edging No.7 seed Xander Schauffele in Round 2 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas.

On a day in which he and fellow debutant Min Woo Lee were the only Aussies to record wins on day two of the group stages at Austin Country Club, Herbert’s 1-up win was one of the day’s biggest upsets.

Buoyed by a first-up win over Tony Finau, Herbert now needs just a tie against Japan’s Takumi Kanaya in the final group match to guarantee his place in the knockout phase and a meeting with the winner of the Alex Noren v Corey Conners match in Group 10 for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Up against the Olympic gold medal winner, Herbert was 1-up at the turn but the match was all square when Schauffele made a birdie at the par-4 10th.

Schauffele made a key misstep at the par-5 16th, where he had the advantage, facing 51 feet for eagle. With Herbert scrambling to make par on the hole after hitting his tee shot right into tall grass, Schauffele had two putts to win the hole. He hit a terrible first putt, leaving him 13 feet for birdie. When that putt didn’t go down, Herbert could exhale.

The two still were tied at the short 18th where Herbert hit his approach to eight feet to apply the pressure on his former amateur combatant.

Schauffele had 26 feet for birdie and missed, Herbert stepping up in the moment to make his putt and take his first lead of the back nine at the best possible time.

“It’s always good coming into match play events, seeing the draw, getting to play against a really good player,” Herbert said if his high-profile match-ups the first two days.

“To come out and play the way I have against Tony and Xander has been really satisfying.

“I just said to myself that I didn’t want to give him any free holes on the way in.

“I didn’t want to rinse one in the water and just throw away a hole. I wanted to keep pushing him the whole way.

“Just had to try and at least if I was going to lose, make it a contest. Fortunately, I got myself back into the match and gave myself a chance down 18 and played quite nicely.”

Although making his debut in a gathering of 64 of the world’s finest players, Herbert has been able to call on prior experiences to feel comfortable going toe-to-toe with the elite of world golf.

“I played a little bit with Tony the last 12 months in some bigger events. I feel like I competed with him pretty nicely. That was obviously good for yesterday,” Herbert explained.

“Then I played a lot of amateur golf with Xander. He’s obviously had a quicker rise than I did to the PGA TOUR and to that top 10 in the world, but I felt like back seven or eight years ago we probably had similar games and that I’m getting somewhere near where he is.

“I didn’t feel super out of place playing against him. I felt like I knew him and had spent a bit of time with him out at events and practising and that kind of thing with him before so that was a big benefit to me versus playing against someone that I’ve not really met before and not played any golf against.”

Min Woo Lee played against Thomas Pieters once before prior to their second-round meeting in Group 6 and again it was the 23-year-old Aussie who was victorious.

Lee got the better of the tournament’s marquee player in the Round of 16 at the 2019 World Super 6 Perth but had to fight back to once again get the better of the Belgian.

Two-up through three holes, Lee was 2-down through 14 holes but two birdies and an eagle from the 15th hole delivered a 1-up win to keep alive his hopes of progressing to the knockout stage.

“It was a bit of back and forth there,” Lee admitted.

“I started really well and then he came back and then obviously made a few really good putts coming down the stretch.”

Adam Scott remains undefeated after halving his match with Keegan Bradley on day two, a win against Jordan Spieth in Round 3 enough to guarantee his place in the round of 16.

A second straight defeat means that Marc Leishman won’t be advancing, going down 5&4 to No.6 seed Justin Thomas.

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