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Horschel in seventh heaven in Texas

Horschel in seventh heaven in Texas

Defending champion Billy Horschel made it seven consecutive wins at the WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play as he beat fellow American Tom Hoge 3 & 2 at Austin Country Club.

Billy Horschel

The 35-year-old lost to JT Poston at this stage last year but advanced out of his group after a play-off and then lifted the trophy before taking down Min Woo Lee on day one in 2022.

His victory over Hoge means just a half against Thomas Pieters will now see him advance from Group 12, after Lee kept his hopes alive with a 1 Up victory over the Belgian.

Hoge was never really in the contest after Horschel birdied the first, with the reigning BMW PGA Championship winner winning the third with bogey, the sixth with birdie and the seventh with par.

A par was enough to put Horschel 5 Up after 11 and while Hoge won the 12th and 13th, it only delayed the inevitable.

"I've been lucky that the two guys I've played have made some mistakes," said Horschel. "So it's allowed me not to have to really do anything special.

"It's also nice when you get up you don't have to really force anything. Once you get two, three, four up, you just keep playing solid, smart golf and let them have to do something special to try and beat you."

Lee had to do things the hard way to beat Pieters as the duo put on a show in a roller coaster contest.

The Australian birdied the first and third to go 2 Up but Pieters went birdie-birdie-birdie from the fourth to the sixth before a Lee bogey on the seventh made it four wins in a row and put the 2016 Ryder Cup player 2 Up at the turn.

Birdies at the tenth and 13th saw Lee even it up but Pieters won the 13th with a par and 14th with a birdie before Lee made a hat-trick of gains from the 15th to snatch victory.

"It was a bit of back and forth there," said Lee. "I started really well and then he came back and then obviously made a few really good putts coming down the stretch."

Min Woo Lee

Matt Fitzpatrick needs just a half to advance from Group Five after a 4 &2 win over Ryder Cup team-mate Ian Poulter.

The Englishman has never got out of the group stages at this event but should he avoid defeat against fifth seed Scottie Scheffler, he will face the winner of Group 12 in the last-16.

Fitzpatrick birdied three of his first four holes to move 2 Up and it was that way at the turn with just one hole halved on the front nine.

A birdie-birdie start to the back nine put Fitzpatrick 4 Up and he closed out victory with an eagle from 19 feet at the 16th.

"I played well," said Fitzpatrick. "Good holes were great, bad holes were awful. I guess that's the good thing about match play. I'd be useless in a stroke-play event today, just gifted too many holes, which was disappointing.

"This is a miracle, this is the closest I've gotten to getting out of the group. I'm happy with the start. The good thing is it's in my hands, so if I go out and win tomorrow, I'll go through."

Ian Poulter and Matt Fitzpatrick

Tommy Fleetwood was a 2 & 1 winner against Scheffler in a match where he never trailed, with both men still able to advance.

The Englishman won the first with a birdie and eagled the second from 22 feet but allowed Scheffler to win the eighth with a par.

A brilliantly holed bunker shot from Fleetwood saw the 11th halved in pars but he won the 12th with a birdie and, while Scheffler eagled the 16th, Fleetwood closed things out on the next.

"I think it's nice to go into tomorrow, especially after yesterday, knowing that you're playing to try and get through," said Fleetwood. 

"You know, obviously Poults is never going to lie down and it's going to be a really difficult match. But just keep trying to play my best, try my best.

"Today I really enjoyed the way I hit it. That makes me feel good. So I want to keep doing that. Whatever happens tomorrow happens but I'm excited to go into Friday still with a chance of progressing through into the knockout stages and just keep trying to do my thing."

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