Defending champion Dustin Johnson failed to hit the ground running in testing conditions when he started the defence of his Masters title on Thursday.

Johnson donned the green jacket for the first time last November, finishing the tournament on a record-breaking 20 under par.

The world number one made only four bogeys as he blew the field away in the 2020 major at Augusta, but he dropped two shots in his opening five holes five months later, with patrons returning under blue skies.

Birdies were at a premium when the tournament got under way on much quicker, firmer greens than those seen in last year's tournament.

Two-time major champion Johnson started by dropping a shot after running through the first green with his second shot. Although he hit straight back with a birdie at the par-five second, Johnson was back at one over after failing to sink a par putt at the fifth.

Hideki Matsuyama led the way on three under through eight holes after draining an eagle putt at the eighth, with Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Si Woo Kim just a shot behind.

New father Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey were among a host of players on one under following early birdies.

The recently in-form Lee Westwood was struggling on three over through six after a double bogey at the third, while Rory McIlroy dropped to one over with a dropped shot at the fifth and Brooks Koepka was level par eight holes into his first round.

The 85th Masters got under way on Thursday with Dustin Johnson waiting in the wings to defend his title at Augusta.

Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder signalled the opening of the 2021 tournament, which officially began with twosome Michael Thompson and Hudson Swafford teeing off.

Reigning champion Johnson, who secured his second major with an imperious victory in Georgia five months ago, will tee off at 10:30 local time (14:30 GMT) alongside two-time runner-up Lee Westwood and U.S. Amateur Championship winner Tyler Strafaci.

The world number one has earned top-10 finishes at each of his past five Masters outings and holds the tournament scoring record after his stunning 20-under 268 last November.

Johnson is aiming to become the first man since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002 to win consecutive green jackets.

Though Woods is absent as he continues his recovery from a recent car accident, Johnson will face stiff competition from the likes of Jordan Spieth.

The 2015 champion ended a 1,351-day wait for a PGA Tour victory at the Texas Open last week and will head out in the final group to tee off at 14:00 local time (18:00 GMT), along with US PGA Championship victor Collin Morikawa and Cameron Smith.

Rory McIlroy has a career Grand Slam in his sights and his bid to become the sixth golfer to achieve the feat begins with new father Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele for company.

The Northern Irishman is still waiting for a maiden green jacket but boasts a strong record in the event, having finished in the top 10 in six of the last seven editions.

Brooks Koepka will play with Bubba Watson and Viktor Hovland, while Bryson DeChambeau joins Adam Scott and Max Homa.

Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen form another group, with Sergio Garcia starting alongside Webb Simpson and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, while Patrick Reed will measure himself against Paul Casey and Daniel Berger.

Phil Mickelson, the man with the most major titles (five) in the field as Woods is absent, will appear alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Scottie Scheffler.

What's the greatest achievement in the history of sports?

Is there a more difficult question for any fan to answer? It's such a subjective and divisive topic, and one that cannot truly be measured.

But that doesn't mean it's not fun to argue the toss nonetheless and on this day 20 years ago, Tiger Woods staked his own claim for the moniker by completing the unthinkable.

It was on April 8, 2001, when Woods won the Masters for a second time and by doing so he became the first player to ever be in possession of all four of golf's major trophies at the same time.

Because it was done over two seasons, Woods missed out on a calendar Grand Slam so the phenomenal achievement was dubbed the 'Tiger Slam'.

"It was exciting for everybody," four-time major winner Laura Davies recalled when speaking to Stats Perform News.

"I'm sure it was hard work for him and very mentally difficult for him to win all four in a year. It was just exciting to watch Tiger do it. 

"It just would have been lovely if he'd done it in one year because it's not quite the same but it's still some achievement to hold all four at one time. 

"It was good for the game definitely. I'm a big Tiger fan, I love watching his golf. At the time it was just really exciting and just making golf a more exciting game, more exciting for the younger fans and the game's built because of what he did then."

What Woods did transcended the game and enshrined his name even deeper within the list of all-time sporting greats.

Sadly, Woods will not be at Augusta – where he is a five-time champion – this week due to the injuries he suffered in a serious car accident in Los Angeles in February.

But the magnitude of his achievement will stand the test of time and, two decades on, we have taken a look back at the incredible 'Tiger Slam'.


U.S. Open 2000: Taking apart Pebble Beach

"My words probably can't describe it, so I'm not even going to try."

While Ernie Els, who took a distant share of second at the 2000 U.S. Open struggled to sum up Woods' utter domination at Pebble Beach, we should probably at least try.

Having already blasted into a six-shot lead through two rounds thanks to scores of 65 and 69, it was on the Saturday where Woods' class really told.

As the rest of the field struggled badly in wild playing conditions, Woods recovered from a triple bogey at the third to finish the round at level par and take the lead by 10 strokes – the largest 54-hole advantage at a U.S. Open.

If that's not impressive enough for you, then a closing 67 meant Woods was 15 shots clear of Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez. And, no, that is not a typo.


The Open 2000: Sensational at St Andrews 

There was a sense of deja vu at The Open just a month later.

There was a sense of deja vu at The Open just a month later.

Poor gags aside, it truly was remarkable to see Woods in full pomp completely in command of the Old Course at St Andrews – the spiritual home of golf.

Opening with a 67 to sit one shy of leader Els, by the end of Friday's play Woods was three shots clear. By the end of Saturday that lead had doubled to six.

A closing 69 wrapped up victory by eight from Els and Thomas Bjorn, with Woods becoming the youngest person to complete golf's Grand Slam in history.

"It wasn't long ago when I said there'd never be another Jack Nicklaus but we're looking at one. He is the chosen one," Mark Calcavecchia said of Woods at the time.


US PGA Championship 2000: Play-off glory at Valhalla

There wasn't quite the same level of domination for 2000's season-ending major at the US PGA Championship but there was a familiar outcome at Valhalla. 

Having led or co-led through three rounds, there was a ding-dong battle on the final day with Bob May, who missed a crucial birdie putt at the 15th on the same hole Woods made a clutch par.

Another gain from Woods at the 17th left them tied going up the last. May drained a 15-footer for birdie, but Woods sank his own pressure putt to force a three-hole play-off.

A birdie at the first additional hole was followed by two pars and that proved enough for Woods to join Ben Hogan as the only player to win three majors in one season.

"Tiger plays a different game than we play," May said after his defeat, with Woods saying of the win: "We never backed off. We went birdie-for-birdie, shot-for-shot. It was a very special day."


Masters 2001: The Tiger Slam

After opening with a steady 70, Woods was five shots back of first-round leader Chris DiMarco but scores of 66 and 68 had him leading by one from Phil Mickelson heading into the final round.

Mickelson was part of a star-studded leaderboard including Calcavecchia, DiMarco, Angel Cabrera, David Duval and Els – all of whom were within three of Woods.

Duval made a good fist of the challenge and even briefly tied for the lead by birdieing the 15th – only to give that shot straight back.

Needing only a par at the last, Woods finished with a birdie for a two-shot win to complete a truly epic moment of sporting history.

Dustin Johnson has had little time to revel in the success of his record-breaking Masters triumph last November.

The world number one became the first player in the tournament's illustrious history to win with a score of 20 under par.

But the coronavirus pandemic meant the event could not be held in its usual April slot, with Johnson's triumph achieved amid an Autumnal rather than Spring backdrop.

This year, though, the action takes place at the traditional point in the calendar. So, here we are for the first major of 2021 and the expert team at Stats Perform News have picked out their favourites for the green jacket.

GEAR UP FOR THE SPIETH SHOW – Peter Hanson

Here is a statement of fact (okay, actually it's an opinion): golf is much more fun when Jordan Spieth is in the groove. We all know it to be true. And recently, boy have there been some tantalising moments to suggest Spieth will be flying at Augusta – a place where you could fill a lengthy highlight reel with his brilliance from years gone by. A rancid run of form saw Spieth ranked as low as 92nd earlier this year following a missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open. However, four top-10 finishes from six events preceded a victory at the Valero Texas Open at the weekend – his first tournament win since triumphing at The Open four years ago. Spieth is always great viewing at a venue where he was champion in 2015 and has recorded three other top-three finishes. Key to success for Spieth will be if he can get the putter firing. On the PGA Tour this season, he ranks fifth for one-putt average, while his 27.91 putts per round tallies fourth.

BRYSON REVOLUTIONISED THE SPORT, NOW HE'LL WEAR GREEN - Dan Lewis

Having helped to revolutionise the sport en route to winning the US Open seven months ago, Bryson DeChambeau will now be looking to put his power game to good use with a second major title. The 27-year-old will certainly better his previous best finish of 21st in 2016 and, if he can continue to improve his putting, he has a serious shot of unseating Johnson.

THERE'S NO CURE QUITE LIKE WINNING FOR RORY – John Skilbeck

Who was that lurking in 39th place on the FedEx Cup standings last week? Is there another Rory McIlroy or is this where we are? By now, many thought we would be in an era of McIlroy domination, given the prowess he showed in his early twenties, but those predictions have been skewered, with McIlroy struggling to mount sustained title challenges in the majors. His career card shows plenty of top-10 finishes at the very elite level, but, since landing his fourth major at the 2014 US PGA Championship, the Northern Irishman has often been chasing essentially lost causes. There have been rounds which have amounted almost to self-sabotage, such as the closing 74 when he was genuinely in the hunt three years ago at Augusta, or the 75 with which he began last year. With coach Pete Cowen now on board, McIlroy is actively looking for remedies. There's no cure quite like winning.

DON'T IGNORE THE OBVIOUS, DJ CAN MASTER AUGUSTA AGAIN – Ben Spratt

Are we ignoring the obvious? Dustin Johnson is the Masters favourite and rightfully so. Since winning on his last trip to Augusta in November, DJ triumphed at the Saudi International on the European Tour but his PGA form has been mixed – just one top-10 finish from five tournaments. But no other golfer has had the benefit of returning to the scene of their triumph just five months later. Johnson did not just squeak to victory in November either; his 20-under 268 for the week broke Masters records and secured a five-stroke advantage. Do not bet against him mastering Augusta again.

IT'S NOW OR NEVER FOR VETERAN WESTWOOD – Pat Ridge

Westwood has never won a major, but he is in excellent form heading to Augusta. He just missed out to Bryson DeChambeau at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, losing by one shot – his best result on the PGA Tour since he tied for second at the 2016 Masters. He followed that up with a second-placed finish at The Players Championship, and it could be a case if not now, then will it ever happen for the 47-year-old? A strong performance will also do his Ryder Cup chances no harm, as he looks to match Nick Faldo’s record of 11 appearances for Europe.

NEW FATHER RAHM CAN JOIN NEW WINNERS' CLUB – Chris Myson

Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau were first-time winners in golf's majors in 2020. Going further back, 12 of the last 19 winners had never before won a major, while seven of the last 10 champions at Augusta was triumphing at one of the big four events for a first time. This could be Jon Rahm's turn to continue those trends. While first-time winners have been prominent, nine of the last 10 Masters winners had landed a top-six major finish in the previous two years before breaking their duck. Rahm, who recently became a father for the first time, came in a tie for third at the 2019 U.S. Open and has three straight top-10 finishes to his name at Augusta. He has recent form too. In seven events in 2021, Rahm has five top-10s and is yet to miss a cut.

Rory McIlroy said golf's biggest stars must rally around Tiger Woods by making regular trips to his Florida mansion and he would love to be part of the sport's Grand Slam club by his next visit.

After winning an Open Championship, a U.S. Open and two US PGA Championships early in his career, McIlroy returns to Augusta for another shot at Masters glory this week.

Woods, who suffered serious leg injuries in a February car crash, would love to be involved but is recovering at home after that brush with disaster and hopes to play competitive golf again.

The American superstar became the first player since the 1960s to win all four of the sport's majors in his career when he landed the Open title in 2000 at St Andrews.

With 15 career majors, Woods is unmistakably an all-time great, and McIlroy would become just the sixth player to achieve the modern Grand Slam should he land green jacket glory. Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player are the players who achieved the feat before Woods came on the scene.

Speaking about the absent Woods ahead of Thursday's opening round, former world number one McIlroy said: "Hopefully, if his recovery goes well, who knows, he could be back in 12 months' time.

"He's always missed when he doesn't play in these big events, and that doesn't change this week, whether it's to do with his back or his leg or whatever it is.

"I know he's at home and he's fully focused on the recovery process, and I feel like he's mentally strong enough to get through that. And once he does, broken bones heel, and he's just got to take it step by step.

"I'm sure he's going to put everything he has into trying to be ready to play here next year. I went over and saw him, spent a couple hours with him, which was nice. It was good to see him. It was good to see him in decent spirits.

"When you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, you think he's going to be in a hospital bed for six months. But he was actually doing better than that. A few of us that live down in South Florida went to see him. I'm sure he appreciates that.

"I think myself, JT [Justin Thomas], Rickie [Fowler], DJ [Dustin Johnson], Brooks [Koepka], all those guys down there, we all have a responsibility to try to keep his spirits up and keep him going and try to get him back out here."

Nothing would give McIlroy more pleasure than being able to visit Woods as a Masters champion, with that Grand Slam monkey off his back. He has six top-10 finishes at the event in the last seven years, which shows what he has to offer.

The Masters is the mountain he has been unable to quite climb, meaning the 'Rory Slam' has yet to be completed.

"If I were able to do it, I'd join a very small list of golfers in history that have been able to do it. So I know where it would put me in the game and how cool it would be, and I would love to do it one day," McIlroy said.

"But for me to do that, I just have to go out and try to play four good rounds of golf on this golf course. I've played a bunch of really good rounds on this golf course before, but just not four in a row."

McIlroy revealed his visit to Woods' home in late March was an eye-opener, in terms of learning how his friend and rival has approached competing over the years.

"In his family room he's got his trophy cabinet and it's his 15 major trophies. I said, 'That's really cool. Where are all the others?'," McIlroy said.

"He said, 'I don't know'. I go, 'What?'. He said, 'Yeah, my mom has some, and a few are in the office and a few are wherever'."

It struck McIlroy, as he was driving home from that visit, that the majors were the be-all and end-all for Woods.

"I'm just thinking to myself, how easy must that have felt for him if all he cared about were four weeks a year. The other stuff must have been like practice. So that's like a really cool perspective to have, right," McIlroy said.

"That's all I could think about on the way home. And I was glad he was OK, too."

McIlroy has been working with coach Pete Cowen on simplifying his technique, saying he is "just at the start of a journey here that I know will get me back to where I want to be".

Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson is also taking part this week, the 50-year-old being a U.S. Open short of a Grand Slam himself.

His prospects of completing the full set look to be slim given he is not the force he once was, but Mickelson has the capacity to surprise and would love another Augusta challenge.

Many consider McIlroy's game to be well suited to The Masters, and Mickelson always knew his own skillset was perfect for the course.

"I never really doubted that I would end up winning this tournament," Mickelson said on Tuesday. "This is a course that is very well suited for the way I grew up playing, but that joy of winning it for the first time, finally breaking through, it's beyond belief."

Tiger Woods is "bummed" to be missing The Masters after his car crash in February, friend and practice partner Justin Thomas has revealed.

Five-time Augusta champion Woods will be watching from home this week rather than taking to the course he knows so well.

The golf great was involved in a single-vehicle incident six weeks ago that saw his car roll "several hundred feet".

Woods required surgery on serious leg injuries, while an officer from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in the aftermath the 45-year-old was "very fortunate" to survive.

It was just the latest setback in a superstar career and means Woods is absent from The Masters for the fourth time in eight years, although he did win the tournament in 2019.

There had been appearances from Woods at each of the prior 19 editions of The Masters, while he was the last man to retain the green jacket with back-to-back triumphs in 2001 and 2002 and is one of only five to have celebrated a career Grand Slam, this week marking 20 years since his 'Tiger Slam'.

Woods posted on Twitter on Tuesday: "I'll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA's bill at the Champions Dinner tonight. It's still one of my favorite nights of the year."

Thomas, who regularly practises with Woods and Fred Couples ahead of the Augusta major, said at a news conference: "I went over and saw him a couple times last week and try to go over a couple times during the week whenever I'm home and see him.

"We texted Friday morning, and he said it's kind of starting to set in. He's bummed he's not here playing practice rounds with us, and we hate it, too.

"I'm very, very lucky that I somehow got thrown into that practice-round group with Tiger and Freddie the last four years or whatever it is, especially around this place.

"I just follow them around like puppy dogs. Wherever they go, that's where I go after it. If they hit chips from somewhere, I go hit chips from there.

"It's no coincidence they have been so successful here, but they are also just great guys to be around. I definitely miss that part."

Thomas added: "[Couples] didn't feel like getting up in the early cold weather this morning, so I made sure to give him some grief.

"I don't know if he would have bailed on me if Tiger was with me, but he did on me."

Couples posted on his own Twitter page: "Thinking of my guy @tigerwoods during this week @themasters. I'll miss you tonight at dinner. Not the same without you."

Thomas, who has improved his Masters finish every year since his 2016 debut and came fourth last year, has been grouped with Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen for a 13:48 EDT start on Thursday.

Couples will play with Francesco Molinari and amateur Charles Osborne, teeing off at 12:24 EDT.

Rory McIlroy can snatch his next big chance to win The Masters and will "undoubtedly" one day triumph at Augusta, according to British golf great Laura Davies.

This week gives McIlroy another chance to land a first green jacket, and it marks 10 years since the Northern Irishman squandered a golden opportunity on the final day.

In the 2011 Masters, McIlroy led by four shots going into the closing 18 holes but then produced an 80 to slump into a tie for 15th place.

McIlroy has since won four majors, but his wait for a fifth has lasted since 2014, despite being a regular presence high up the leaderboard.

The Masters is the one major that McIlroy has yet to win, although six top-10 finishes in the past seven years points to his liking for the course.

"I always thought that Greg Norman would win The Masters and he never did. But I would say undoubtedly McIlroy will win The Masters," Davies, a four-time women's major champion, told Stats Perform News.

"His game's too good and he'll have a chance and maybe next time he'll take it for sure because you can't keep players like that down."

McIlroy has endured a rocky start to this year, however, missing the cut in two of his past four strokeplay events, including The Players Championship.

"Rory's game has gone downhill quite rapidly from the heights he had just more than a year ago, but he can turn it on a sixpence, he can turn it around," said Davies.

"I wouldn't have a bet on Rory McIlroy this week for The Masters, but you wouldn't want to bet against him. He can turn up and turn it on at any time. He loves Augusta, he's not won but it's a course that I think suits his game. I wouldn't fancy him this week, but he’s such an exceptional talent and something could click at any time."

If McIlroy does put himself into contention on the final day, Davies feels it would be a major test of character to ignore those memories of blowing up on the back nine 10 years ago.

"He'd be very strong mentally if it didn't come into play. I can really only speak for myself and I would definitely have been thinking about it," Davies said. "But that's where the great ones come through and win because they can put that aside and still produce the goods."

Speaking on Tuesday, U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau said it felt "pretty cool" and also surprising that McIlroy had made a recent attempt to follow his long-hitting game.

McIlroy has said he perhaps needs to "rein it back" to regain a more comfortable swing, rather than looking to match DeChambeau's distance off the tee, but he sees the American's power as a major asset.

"I knew there was going to be people trying it. I didn't know who was going to try it. But it's not an easy task," DeChambeau said.

"You have to have four or five things go right in order for you to accomplish hitting it farther and hitting it straighter and implementing it on the golf course in a tournament round. And I appreciate Rory's words.

"From my perspective, I wasn't trying to change anybody else's game. I was just trying to play the best golf I could.

"I knew there would be people there to be influenced. I didn't think it would be Rory. I think he's a pretty smart, talented individual that knows how to play the game potentially better than me. It's honouring and humbling hearing him say it's a difficult task.

"Not everybody can do it all the time, and from my perspective, I don't know what else to say other than it's pretty cool."

Reigning Masters champion Dustin Johnson has been grouped with two-time runner-up Lee Westwood to begin his title defence on Thursday.

Johnson returns to Augusta just five months on from a dominant triumph, his second major triumph after the 2016 U.S. Open.

The world number one, who has finished in the top 10 in his past five Masters appearances, set a scoring record with his sensational 20-under 268 for the week back in November.

As Johnson aims to become the first man since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002 to win consecutive green jackets, he will start alongside Englishman Westwood and, as is tradition, U.S. Amateur Championship winner Tyler Strafaci.

The groupings and tee times were confirmed on Tuesday, with Johnson's trio going out at 10:30 EDT.

Jordan Spieth, who ended a 1,351-day wait for a PGA Tour victory at the Texas Open last week, will be in the final group to tee off at 14:00 EDT, along with US PGA Championship victor Collin Morikawa and Cameron Smith.

Rory McIlroy's latest bid to become the sixth golfer to claim a career Grand Slam sees him start straight after Johnson at 10:42 EDT.

McIlroy has finished in the top 10 at Augusta in six of his past seven appearances but is famously still waiting for a first victory, while his major drought stands at 22 events.

An intriguing group has the Northern Irishman playing alongside Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele.

Brooks Koepka will play with Bubba Watson and Viktor Hovland, while Bryson DeChambeau joins Adam Scott and Max Homa.

Justin Thomas has Tony Finau and Louis Oosthuizen for company, Sergio Garcia starts alongside Webb Simpson and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, and Patrick Reed will measure himself against Paul Casey and Daniel Berger.

Phil Mickelson, the man with the most major titles (five) in the field as Woods is absent, will appear alongside Tommy Fleetwood and Scottie Scheffler.

Honorary starters Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Elder will get the tournament under way, with twosome Michael Thompson and Hudson Swafford the first competitors involved.

Jordan Spieth returned to the winners' circle and just in time for the upcoming Masters after celebrating a drought-ending Texas Open victory.

Not since winning the 2017 Open Championship had former world number one Spieth claimed a title on the PGA Tour.

But American star Spieth – tied for the lead at the end of the third round – ended his agonising wait at TPC San Antonio on Sunday following 1,351 days.

Spieth snapped a slump that lasted almost four years, posting a six-under-par 66 and seven birdies for a two-stroke victory ahead of Charley Hoffman (66) at 18 under overall.

Three-time major champion Spieth will now return to Augusta – the scene of his 2015 triumph – on April 8 with renewed confidence after emerging from the wilderness.

Spieth – who threatened to break through this year, having either been leader or co-leader at the Phoenix Open and Pebble Beach Pro-Am before finishing tied for fourth and third respectively – earned his 12th PGA Tour title.

The 27-year-old and 2015 Texas Open runner-up became the 92nd player in Tour history to reach 12 wins and moved into a tie for 82nd on the all-time list.

Five players in the last 40 years have earned 12 titles before turning 28 – Phil Mickelson (27 years and 209 days), Tiger Woods (23 years and 243 days), Rory McIlroy (27 years and 124 days), Justin Thomas (26 years and 251 days) and now Spieth (27 years and 251 days).

Hoffman – the 2016 champion – threatened to derail Spieth's bid to end his long wait, having moved within a shot of the lead before the latter birdied the 17th hole.

Spieth made Hoffman settle for back-to-back runners-up cheques after he finished second in 2019 prior to the 2020 event being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Matt Wallace (70) finished outright third and four shots adrift of Spieth, two strokes better off than Lucas Glover (66).

Billy Horschel held off Scottie Scheffler to win the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play for the first time in his career.

Horschel was the last man standing in Austin, where the American outlasted 2020 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Scheffler in Sunday's final 2 and 1.

It was a Horschel and Scheffler showdown after the former had beaten Victor Perez 3 and 2 in the semis, while the latter advanced 1up against 2013 champion Matt Kuchar.

Horschel – the 32nd seed – secured his sixth PGA Tour title at the 17th hole following almost four hours on the course, with the final only featuring two birdies between the pair.

Kuchar, meanwhile, clinched third place by beating Perez 2 and 1 in the play-off.

"I got lucky that I had two guys that were like me, that didn't have their A game today or even maybe their B game," Horschel said. "We didn't hit very good golf shots this morning or even this afternoon and that allowed me to just be smart and not have to be aggressive and try and make birdies.

"Now, if Scottie would have got hot with some iron shots and started making birdies that puts a little bit of pressure on me. But it was just a tough day with this wind, trying to get close to some of these pins and the greens firming up as we played.

"So I'm fortunate. I had two guys today that missed some putts from inside 10 feet that they probably would make the majority of the time and that's obviously why I'm standing here as a champion."

Scheffler – the 30th seed – added: "I'm proud of the way I fought all week. My game was trending in the right direction pretty much the entire time, and this afternoon was really the first time I didn't play my best.

"I think this afternoon was probably my worst round out of the last four. So I grinded it out. I fought really hard and I just wasn't able to make the putts this afternoon."

Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Scottie Scheffler and Victor Perez are all vying for a spot in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play final after a day of upsets in Austin.

Stars Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia surprisingly crashed out in the quarter-finals as the underdogs ruled on Saturday.

The unpredictable tournament continued on the weekend after world number one Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed were unable to advance beyond the group stage.

Spanish third seed Rahm topped Erik van Rooyen 3 and 2 in the last 16 before being upstaged by Scheffler 3 and 1 in the quarter-finals at the Austin Country Club.

"I felt like I played some really good golf," said Scheffler, who will meet Kuchar in an all-American clash for a spot in Sunday's decider. "I think I kept things bogey-free and I got some early leads and made sure that I kept the pressure on those guys and made them feel like they had to do something special to beat me, which they weren't able to do."

Fleetwood – the 21st seed – succumbed to Horschel after 19 holes, while former Masters champion Garcia was beaten by 31st seed Victor Perez 4 and 3.

American golfer Horschel and France's Perez will do battle in the semis.

Englishman Fleetwood was sent packing after hitting a hole-in-one during his last-16 victory – a drive out of bounds at the 12th seeding him come unstuck in the quarters.

It was a big day for 2013 champion Kuchar, who eliminated former world number one Jordan Spieth 1up before defeating Brian Harman 2 and 1.

Kuchar – the 52nd seed – was runner-up in 2019, with last year's event cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Certainly golf's a funny game and I think there are times as a professional where you can feel so far away, you think, golly, I don't have it," Kuchar said.

"I'm racking my brain trying to find it, but then you plug in the right ingredient, the right key, and then all of a sudden it snaps back, and thankfully it's been working and I'm seeing progression. It's just finally now it's clicked and it's a lot more fun this way, I assure you."

Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau were among those to pack their bags as the field was cut to 16 at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play on Friday.

Top-seeded Johnson lost to Kevin Na, who finished birdie-birdie to turn the match and eliminate his fellow American from Group 1 on day three in Austin.

Scotland's Robert MacIntyre progressed out of the group after a tie with Adam Long, having landed one of the shots of the week with a spectacular drive on the 18th which ended up inside three feet and ultimately got him through.

"I had probably one of the best and one of the luckiest golf shots I've hit in my life," the Scot said.

"I had a bit of bad luck here and there and managed to turn it around right at the end there, and it's one of them things, you've just got to keep fighting until the end, and it just shows anything can happen in this game."

Johnson and Na's match was not without tension, with the 28th-seeded American tapping his opponent on the shoulder on the 11th green to warn him about collecting his ball before concession had been verbalised.

In a mildly tense exchange, Johnson appeared to apologise but walked away less than impressed.

DeChambeau, the fifth seed, bowed out at the hands of Tommy Fleetwood, who topped Group 5.

Fleetwood had established a 4up advantage through seven holes but stumbled, allowing DeChambeau back in the match. The Englishman finished with a par on the 18th to win.

"It turned really scrappy for a lot of the back nine," Fleetwood said. "He started coming back and on the last an unlikely par. Match Play is that funny all week. There are guys who have played better than me for three days who are going home and I'm going through."

World number two Justin Thomas was another casualty, despite defeating 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen 3 and 2.

There were eight playoffs required, with Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia among those winning to join the likes of Jordan Spieth in the last 16.

Garcia delivered an incredible shot to beat Lee Westwood, making a hole-in-one at the fourth hole.

Rory McIlroy was also eliminated, tying with Cameron Smith as Ian Poulter finished top of Group 11 after three wins.

Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau stayed alive at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where world number one Dustin Johnson showed why he is golf's top-ranked player.

McIlroy extended his campaign at the Austin Country Club with a confidence-boosting 4 and 3 win over Lanto Griffin on Thursday.

Four-time major champion McIlroy endured a forgettable opening day in Austin on Wednesday, playing a tee shot into a swimming pool during a shocking 6 and 5 humbling at the hands of Ian Poulter.

But McIlroy – who missed the cut at The Players Championship – bounced back on day two, though the Northern Irishman still has his work cut out in the round-robin group phase after Poulter defeated Cameron Smith.

In order for McIlroy to advance from Group 11, the former world number one must beat Smith in the final match while also requiring leader Poulter to lose to Griffin.

"That was big," said McIlroy. "Obviously winning the match today keeps me in the tournament and gives me hope for tomorrow. It looks like Lanto is going to have to do me a favour and beat Poults.

"I hit a couple of destructive shots yesterday, but overall both of us played well, and I didn't feel the scoreline matched up with how I felt like I played. And then the same thing today. I played solid. Lanto didn't have his best stuff, but I played solid and kept it in play and holed some good putts when it mattered."

U.S. Open champion DeChambeau also breathed life into his campaign as the American star narrowly avoided elimination.

After suffering an upset at the hands of unheralded Frenchman Antoine Rozner on day one, DeChambeau was forced to dig deep against Kim Si-woo.

Down one, fifth seed and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner DeChambeau prevailed 2 and 1 after Kim's tee shot on 17 found the penalty area.

DeChambeau needs to beat Group 5 leader Tommy Fleetwood to have a chance to qualify for the weekend.

Top seed Johnson flexed his muscles as he came from behind to deny rising star Robert MacIntyre.

MacIntyre was on the verge of a prized scalp before Johnson rallied to tie the Group 1 showdown, having been two down with two to play.

The pair have one and a half points from two matches heading into their final matches.

World number two and Players Championship winner Justin Thomas, meanwhile, crashed out following a 2 and 1 defeat to defending champion Kevin Kisner.

Rory McIlroy played a tee shot into a swimming pool during a shocking start to his WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play campaign, where he was hammered 6 and 5 by Ian Poulter.

The Northern Irishman has had well documented issues with his swing in recent weeks and has linked up with renowned coach Pete Cowen for the tournament at the Austin Country Club.

But McIlroy struggled badly during his round-robin opener against fellow Europe Ryder Cup star Poulter and was already two down by the time he pulled his tee shot wildly left at the fifth tee, with his ball sinking into the pool at a nearby house.

He managed to claw within one by the eighth, but Poulter then won five holes in a row to condemn McIlroy to a heavily opening defeat in Group 11, where Cameron Smith beat Lanto Griffin in the pool's other opener.

Dustin Johnson had no such woe as he started with a 2 Up win over Adam Long in Group One, while Jon Rahm defeated Sebastian Munoz 1 Up (Group 3), and Bryson DeChambeau overcame Antoine Rozner 2 Up (Group 5).

Justin Thomas was beaten 3 and 2 by Matt Kuchar (Group 2), though, while Jordan Spieth outclassed Matthew Fitzpatrick 3 and 1 (Group 15) despite a comedy moment when he drove the 15th green…but from the 13th tee.

Matt Jones eased to victory at The Honda Classic by five strokes for his first PGA Tour title in seven years.

Not since the 2014 Houston Open had Jones won on the PGA Tour, but the unheralded Australian golfer ended his agonising drought on Sunday.

Jones carded a final-round 68 to reach 12 under overall and tie the largest margin of victory at The Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

The 40-year-old mixed five birdies with three bogeys as he claimed his second Tour title after taming PGA National, while booking a spot at next month's Masters.

"I've had some tough times between that and now," a tearful Jones said after finishing ahead of Brandon Hagy. "It's pretty emotional… seven years.

"I just worked hard, working out with my coach back in Australia and it's paid off.

"It was probably the calmest I've been at a golf tournament for four straight days. You can't get a tougher golf course to win on than this one, in these conditions.

"To be able to do that is something that I can build on for the rest of the year hopefully."

Hagy's runner-up finish capped a memorable week for the 30-year-old California native, who closed out the tournament with a four-under-par 66.

The American entered the field on Wednesday as second-to-last alternate when Kramer Hickok withdrew and then shot a career-low 62 on Friday.

Hagy secured his first top-two finish and second career top-10 performance in his 81st start on Tour.

Chase Seiffert (64), Brendan Steele (65), Denny McCarthy (67), Russell Henley (68) and C.T. Pan were tied for third, six shots adrift of Jones.

Defending champion Im Sung-jae posted a 70 in the final round to finish seven strokes off the pace.

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