WGC Match Play 2018 bracket, scores: Americans dominate as Justin Thomas leads the way
Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Kevin Kisner all advanced on Saturday in Austin
The 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play has taken on a very intriguing trope of one golfer against all comers. That sets us up for a fascinating Sunday in which Justin Thomas will take on a threesome of Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner and Alex Noren for the chance to become just the 21st human being to ever become the No. 1 player in the world. If Thomas beats Waston in the first match, he will be the third American under the age of 25 to assume No. 1 in the world, joining Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods.
He's also the +165 favorite to win the entire tournament.
Thomas, currently ranked and seeded No. 2, blasted his way through Saturday's action with a 6 and 5 destruction of Si Woo Kim and a 2 and 1 victory over Kyle Stanley in the quarterfinals. He trailed for just four holes throughout the day.
"I was hoping to never trail this whole week," said Thomas. "I thought that was unbelievable that DJ did it last year. To be perfectly honest, I'm trying to beat everybody as bad as I possibly can. This isn't really a sport to feel bad for anybody, especially yourself. If I'm winning by 7, I want to win by 8. If I'm winning by 2, I want to win by 3. I never want to take the foot off the gas."
In the first semifinals matchup on Sunday, he'll get the suddenly-streaking Bubba Watson, who pummeled Kiradech Aphibarnrat 5 and 3 in the quarterfinals after sneaking past Brian Harman 3 and 1. This is Watson's second overall trip to the semifinals in this event.
Kevin Kisner and Alex Noren will square off on the other side of the bracket for the chance to face the Thomas-Watson winner on Sunday afternoon. Kisner bested Matt Kuchar 1 up and committed a felony against Ian Poulter, 8 and 6. Noren hammered Patrick Reed 5 and 3 and beat Cameron Smith soundly 4 and 2, as well.
Here are three takeaways from a fun day of golf in Austin, Texas.
1. Poulter misses Masters: Poulter needed to defeat Kisner to make it into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings and subsequently the Masters in two weeks. He got thoroughly trounced in near-historic fashion. After splitting the first two holes, Kisner won seven of the next eight and ended things on the 12th hole. Poulter never even saw the tee box at No. 13.
It was a successful week for him and hinted at the potential of one more Ryder Cup, but unfortunately for his Masters hopes, he fell one match shy of the goal and is projected to be 51st in the OWGR on Monday (the top 50 on Monday are in).
Even worse? Poulter said after his match he was told he was in the Masters.
"I guess I should never listen to other people," said Poulter. "When you finish a round of golf and the press and everybody telling you you're in the Masters, and then you get a text message 10 minutes before you tee off to correct everybody, to say, 'oh, we've made a mistake. Actually, no, that was wrong, you're not in. You need to go and win.' Not that that's an excuse or any form or factor, it's a little disappointing."
2. Bubba had a vacation planned: Hilariously, instead of expecting to be in the semifinals and finals, Watson planned to leave on a vacation Sunday morning. He had to change his plans. Good thing, too, because his match with J.T. should rock.
"The sad thing is I had a vacation planned," said Watson. "I was supposed to leave tomorrow morning. I figured I wasn't going to make it so I went ahead and scheduled a vacation. So I've got to call my wife now and tell her that I'm going to be a day late. But it will be fun. I can't wait. This is exciting. This is what we all want to do. We want to make it to Sunday and have a chance."
3. Ryder Cup preview? It's silly (because it's March), but it's so difficult to not project ahead to the 2018 Ryder Cup. According to a stat on the broadcast, this is the first time three Americans have reached the semifinals since Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink and Justin Leonard did it in 2008.
The characters are intriguing, too. Kisner has been an afterthought as it relates to the Ryder Cup team so far this year. Watson continues to solidify his case. And obviously Thomas is a lock. Poulter is another guy who could gain a little momentum over the last five months of the year heading into Paris. So while I know he's bummed about the Masters, not all is lost. A rejuvenated Poulter taking skins in Paris is about the last thing the U.S. team wants to have to deal with.
All times Eastern
Justin Thomas (No. 2 seed) vs. Bubba Watson (35) -- 10 a.m.
Kevin Kisner (32) vs. Alex Noren (13) -- 10:15 a.m.
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