Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry out of WGC-Dell Matchplay
FORMER champion Rory McIlroy and fellow Irishman Shane Lowry both crashed out of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play on day two.
World number two McIlroy was handed a walkover win by the withdrawal of his opponent Gary Woodland, but then watched his day one conqueror, Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark beat Emiliano Grillo 4&3 to move to two points from two games in the the four-man group.
With Kjeldsen due to face Woodland on day three but also handed a walkover, McIlroy cannot now catch the Dane, who goes through to the last 16 irrespective of what happens in today's match against Grillo.
Speaking after his round, Kjeldsen told reporters: "I'm very pleased, but actually not happy about Gary and what's going on with Gary. I don't know the details, but Gary is one of the nicest guys out here. So we wish him all the best, and his family all the best.
"I was in a very, very, very tough group. And I got through that."
Lowry lost 2&1 to Spain's John Rahm after his first round halved match against Sergio Garcia. Rahm now has two points from two games and Garcia 1.5pts after beating Kevin Chappell yesterday so the two Spaniards will battle it out for top spot on Friday.
A day after defending champion Jason Day pulled out of the event to spend time with his mother as she undergoes treatment for lung cancer, Italy's Francesco Molinari also withdrew with a wrist injury after suffering a 5&3 defeat to Thongchai Jaidee.
That meant Sweden's Alex Noren, who was due to play Molinari on Friday, was guaranteed to advance from group eight having beaten Bernd Wiesberger 3&2 to claim his second win of the week.
In contrast, Masters champion Danny Willett was eliminated with a game to spare after being thrashed 6&5 by American Bill Haas, while world number one Dustin Johnson made it two wins out of two by beating Martin Kaymer 3&2.
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson also showed signs of a return to form with his second win, the left-hander beating compatriot Scott Piercy 4&3.
Watson has not had a top-10 finish since September's Tour Championship and, despite being ranked seventh in the world at the time, was left off the United States Ryder Cup team.
But the world number 17 could be rounding into form at the right time with the Masters just a fortnight away.
"I'm always thinking about Augusta," Watson said. "If there's a major – not a golf tournament, but a major – built for me, where I have a good shot at it, that's it. That's just common sense, right? Everybody knows a lot of the holes go the way that I want to shape it, and there's not high rough."
Watson can book his place in the last 16 by beating Thomas Pieters on Friday, the Belgian Ryder Cup star having lost to Jhonattan Vegas on Thursday.
Second round results in the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, Austin Country Club, Austin, Texas, United States of America
Bubba Watson (USA) bt Scott Piercy (USA) 4 & 3
Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) bt Thomas Pieters (Bel) 3 & 1
Ross Fisher (Eng) bt Hideki Matsuyama (Jp) 2 & 1
Jim Furyk (USA) bt Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 3 & 2
Brooks Koepka (USA) bt Jason Dufner (USA) 6 & 5
Alex Noren (Se) bt Bernd Wiesberger (At) 3 & 2
Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) bt Francesco Molinari (Ita) 5 & 3
Bill Haas (Us) bt Daniel Willett 6 & 5
Lee Westwood (Eng) bt Jason Day (Nzl) WD
Rory McIlroy (Nirl) bt Gary Woodland (USA) WD
Zach Johnson (USA) bt Matt Kuchar (USA) 2 down
Brendan Steele (USA) bt Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 1 down
Dustin Johnson (USA) bt Martin Kaymer (Ger) 3 & 2
Jimmy Walker (USA) bt Webb Simpson (USA) 3 & 2
Brendan Steele (USA) bt Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 1 up
K.T. Kim (Kor) bt Russell Knox (Sco) 3 & 1
Kevin Na (USA) bt Justin Thomas (USA) 4 & 2
Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) bt Chris Wood (Eng) 4 & 2
Phil Mickelson (USA) bt Daniel Berger (USA) 5 & 4
J.B. Holmes (USA) Tied to Si Woo Kim (Kor)
Tyrrell Hatton (USA) bt Jeunghun Wang (Kor) 2 up
Charles Howell III (USA) bt Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa) 1 up
Sergio Garcia (Spa) bt Kevin Chappell (USA) 4 & 3
Jon Rahm (Spa) bt Shane Lowry (Ire) 2 & 1
William McGirt (USA) bt Branden Grace (Rsa) 2 & 1
Brandt Snedeker (USA) bt Andy Sullivan (Eng) 2 & 1
Soren Kjeldsen (Dnk) bt Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 4 & 3