Aphibarnrat eases into last 16

Kiradech Aphibarnrat maintained his 100 per cent record in Group 3 to storm into the last 16 at the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play.

The Thai is something of a match play specialist with his last two European Tour wins coming at the 2015 Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play and this season’s ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth.

He claimed wins over Chez Reavie and Keegan Bradley on days one and two and on Friday he beat last year’s finalist Jon Rahm 4 and 3 to earn a match against Group 14 winner Charles Howell III.

World Number Seven Rory McIlroy needed a win over Brian Harman to have a chance of progressing from Group 6 but the 2015 champion lost 5 and 3, with Harman setting up a clash against Bubba Watson.

The two-time Masters champion was two down with two to play against Julian Suri but a birdie-birdie finish handed him a half and avoided a play-off against his fellow American in Group 11.

A tee-shot to 15 feet on the par three fourth helped move Aphibarnrat one up and when Rahm missed the green with his third on the sixth and the 28 year old put his to three feet, the gap was two.

A Rahm bogey on the eighth extended the lead further and with Aphibarnrat needing just a half, he was in total control at the turn, making a 20-footer for birdie on the 14th and closing out the win.

“I just kept the ball in play,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t think Jon was playing his best game, I know that it’s not the best day for him.

“I’m playing great golf and have a lot of confidence, I’m comfortable with the swing. Really comfortable with the way I’m working the balls and I just keep the ball in play under the winds.

“I’m just looking forward to playing tomorrow. I just want to enjoy it and go out and play my best golf.”

I’m just looking forward to playing tomorrow. I just want to enjoy it and go out and play my best golf – Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Reavie and Bradley halved their match.

Suri and Watson halved their first four holes in pars and after they both birdied the fifth, Suri put his second at the par five sixth to 18 feet for an eagle and a one up lead.

Watson sent his tee-shot a long way right on the tenth but hit a brilliant approach to 11 feet for a birdie and then took advantage of the par five 12th to turn the contest on its head.

Suri was not done, however, putting his approach to six feet on the 13th and moving ahead when Watson bogeyed the 15th, with a birdie on the par five next moving him two up with two to play before Watson’s big finish.

Branden Grace and Marc Leishman halved their match in Group 11.

McIlroy’s usually impeccable driving let him down in the early stages as he went right onto the rocks to bogey the third and right again into the rough on the fifth, failing to get out and conceding the hole.

Harman got a bit of luck as avoided the hazard on the ninth and he took full advantage, leaving himself five feet for a birdie and a three up lead at the turn.

McIlroy was already staring down the barrel but when Harman holed a 21-footer on the 11th for another birdie, the Northern Irishman required a miracle, with the duo trading the next two holes and Harman taking the 15th.

Peter Uihlein beat Jhonattan Vegas 4 and 3 in the other Group 6 match.

Howell only needed a half to advance and while he was one down at the turn, he won the tenth, 14th and 16th for 2 and 1 victory against Satoshi Kodaira.

Rafa Cabrera Bello was two up after three against Phil Mickelson but after the American won the fifth there was never more than a hole in it, with Mickelson prevailing one up in the remaining group 14 match.