Austin (Texas), Mar 24 (IANS): South Korea's Si Woo Kim enhanced his reputation as a match play specialist after cruising to a second straight win at the World Golf Championships Match Play.
Kim, a four-time PGA Tour winner, swept to a 4 and 3 victory over World No. 9 Viktor Hovland in his Group 8 match at Austin Country Club and needs only a tie in his final group match against veteran Matt Kuchar to advance out of the group stage and into the Round of 16. It is the first time in his sixth career start that Kim has opened with a 2-0-0 record.
However, Kim's hot run proved to be the only bright spark for the Asian challenge on Thursday as countrymen Sungjae Im, Tom Kim and K.H. Lee endured defeats while Japan's Hideki Matsuyama also suffered a loss which leave their fates out of their hands.
Defending champion and World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler cruised to a 5 and 4 victory over Alex Noren and requires only a tie in his last Group 1 match against debutant Tom Kim to advance into the knock-out rounds.
Reigning FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy, winner of the Dell Technologies Match Play in 2015, also secured a second group win with a 2-up win over a stubborn Denny McCarthy, thanks to a glorious drive at the last hole which ended four feet off the flag.
Si Woo opened up an early 2-up lead through three holes after Hovland dropped bogeys on the first and third. The Korean star cruised to a 4-up lead through the turn with birdies on the fourth and ninth holes before closing Hovland out at the 15th green.
He will face a tough final group match against Kuchar, who needs a victory over Si Woo, to advance. Kuchar, who won the tournament in 2013 and was runner-up in 2019, tied his second match against Chris Kirk, missing a six-footer for a win.
Kuchar, a nine-time PGA Tour winner, was disappointed to miss a birdie putt on the 18th green against Kirk which would have seen him tie Tiger Woods' record of 36 match wins in the Dell Technologies Match Play. "I guess I've got to beat Si Woo. You try to win every match. I'll certainly see if I can win tomorrow," said the 44-year-old.
Sungjae Im blew a 3-up lead with six holes remaining as he was trumped by J.T. Poston 1-up, with the 29-year-old American making four late birdies which puts him in the driver's seat in Group 16. Im must beat Tommy Fleetwood in his last match on Friday and hope for Maverick McNealy to defeat Poston, which would force a sudden-death playoff to determine the group winner.
After winning his opening Group 1 match against Alex Noren on Thursday, 20-year-old Tom Kim lost 1-up to Davis Riley and next faces Scheffler in a match the young Korean must win to have a chance to extend his stay in Austin.
Hideki Matsuyama, who lost 3 and 1 to Justin Suh, must also beat an in-form Max Homa, who has won his first two matches, to have any hopes of advancing into the knock-out stage. It was the end of the road for another Korean debutant, K.H. Lee, who fell to No. 4 seed, Patrick Cantlay 4 and 2.