Austin, Texas, Mar 27 (IANS): Rory McIlroy holed a vital birdie putt at the 18th to win a thrilling quarter-final clash against Xander Schauffele to book his place in the last four of the 2023 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
McIlroy had to call on all match play experience to come through two extremely close matches on Saturday. He first held off Lucas Herbert in the last 16 before facing a very different challenge against Schauffele.
The 33-year-old never trailed against Herbert but was unable to relax, with the Australian staying in touch with his opponent throughout the contest before the Northern Irishman overcame a late scare to close out a two-hole victory.
But it was a completely different story against Schauffele, as McIlroy did not lead until his clutch putt from around 12 feet on the 18th green earned him a memorable one-hole win.
World Number Three McIlroy, who made 17 birdies across his two matches on day four, will meet Cameron Young in the semis at Austin Country Club after he held off a stunning fightback attempt to beat debutant Kurt Kitayama by one hole.
Defending champion Scottie Scheffler came from behind to beat Jason Day 2&1, while Sam Burns saw off Mackenzie Hughes 3&2 in their quarter-final.
The World Number One found himself three down in the early stages before winning three holes without reply to level things up after 12 holes.
He then won the 13th and 14th to go 2UP before almost making an ace at the 17th, with a birdie there clinching his tenth consecutive match win at this event.
McIlroy said, "I putted well all day. I felt yesterday against Keegan (Bradley) I found something or I got a feel, and then putted really well this morning against Lucas, and then continued that this afternoon.
"I think winning the Match Play is always a massive accomplishment because of what you have to go through. It's seven rounds and - especially this week, I feel like a lot of my matches have been really, really close, so to be able to pull them out when I've needed to has been very gratifying."
Scheffler added, "Glad to be moving on. Both the guys I played with today got off to really good starts - actually, no, I got off to a good start this morning, but Jason (Day) got off to a really good start this afternoon and put behind pretty quickly there. I think I was three down through seven, but he made a mistake on eight and then I birdied nine and it was kind of a match from there on out, and I had a really good back nine. When you get three down, that's what you've got to do. Very proud of that effort there on the back nine and my finish."