Paul Casey put himself in the driving seat to reach the weekend at the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play after following up Wednesday’s victory over Russell Henley with a comfortable win against Kyle Stanley on day two.
The in-form Englishman led from start to finish as he beat American Stanley 4 and 2 on Thursday to maintain his 100 per cent record.
There were also second-successive wins for Francesco Molinari and Sergio Garcia, who face winner-takes-all showdowns on Friday against Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele respectively.
Italian Molinari saw off Luke List in Group 2 while World Number Ten Garcia recovered from a slow start to beat Dylan Frittelli by two holes in Group 7.
Casey, who has finished second in this event twice before, went one up at the earliest opportunity on Thursday courtesy of a birdie at the first before doubling his advantage at the third.
Today I just eliminated the mistakes, made some putts and made it very, very difficult for Kyle – Paul Casey
Stanley reduced the deficit to one with a birdie at the sixth but Casey was two ahead once more when he rolled in his 15-foot birdie putt at the seventh.
The 40 year old then won the ninth to head into the turn with a three-hole lead.
Casey’s putter stayed hot as he began the back nine, with a 21-foot putt at the tenth sending him four holes in front.
Stanley pulled one back after making a birdie at the 13th but Casey had the last word, sending his approach at the 16th to within a few feet of the hole to complete a 4 and 2 win.
Casey was delighted with his performance on day two. He said: “Really solid stuff today. I didn’t make too many mistakes.
“I made some putts, really nice putts. I still find the golf course difficult. You saw me staring at that shot on 15. I had no clue how to play it.
“Today I just eliminated the mistakes, made some putts and made it very, very difficult for Kyle today.”
Next up for Casey is fellow Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, whose hopes of reaching the weekend are over after his 2 and 1 defeat to Russell Henley left him at the foot of the group.
Garcia, who beat Indian Shubhankar Sharma in his opening match on Wednesday, fell behind early in his clash with Frittelli as the South African made a birdie at the first to go one up.
The 2017 Masters Tournament winner got a birdie of his own at the third to level the match but Frittelli won the fifth and sixth holes to take a two-hole lead into the turn.
Garcia pulled one back with a birdie at the tenth before winning three holes in a row from the 12th to turn the match on its head.
A birdie at the long 16th saw Frittelli cut the gap to one and the 27 year old had the chance to level the match at the 18th but, after Garcia had found the green with his tee-shot, Frittelli’s 30-foot birdie putt hit the hole but did not drop, handing Garcia a second win of the tournament.
Garcia will face Schauffele on Friday after the American claimed a second successive victory, beating Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex leader Sharma 3 and 1.
Looking ahead to the showdown, Garcia said: “It’s going to come down to that match with Xander. So excited about it.
“He’s obviously a very nice young player. And I expect that we’ll have a nice, hopefully a good match and see who comes on top.”
There was nothing to separate Molinari and List at the turn in Group 2 after they each won two holes on the front nine.
Molinari chipped in from 44 feet at the tenth to take a narrow lead but List was back on terms thanks to Molinari’s concession at the 12th.
But the Italian won three of the next four holes to claim his second win.
He said: “It was a good game today. I think we both played well. Lots of birdies.
“We both gave away a couple of holes. But I think in these conditions it’s to be expected. Yeah, I’m really happy and obviously have a big game tomorrow.”
Molinari will face Thomas on Friday after the American beat Patton Kizzire 3 and 1.
Webb Simpson was a 2 and 1 winner against Pat Perez in Group 15, while Gary Woodland beat Si Woo Kim 5 and 3 in the group’s other match.