AUSTIN — Charles Howell III didn’t have the best match play record before his third-round match on Friday morning.
The first eight times he played in the WGC-Dell Match Play, he didn’t make it to the weekend. But that streak ended with a 2-and-1 win against Satoshi Kodaira, who had already been eliminated after losses on Wednesday and Thursday.
It was interesting playing a guy that had nothing to lose, and I knew he would be quite aggressive and could make me work for it a bit,” Howell said. “Towards the end of the day I was watching the Mickelson matchup and it’s nice to avoid a playoff. That’s just sometimes a boxing ring you don’t want to jump into more than you have to.”
After the early round on the final day of pool play, Brain Harman and Bubba Watson will face off, while Howell will meet Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the Round of 16 with the tee times yet to be determined.
Howell, meanwhile, birdied the opening hole to take a 1 up lead against Satoshi Kodaira. Howell had three birdies on the back nine, highlighted by hole-wining putts on par-4 14th and par-4 16th to win the match.
Phil Mickelson, who won the first WGC event in Mexico earlier this year, was eliminated after Howell’s win despite beating Rafa Cabrera Bello 1 up.
Julian Suri eagled the par-5 sixth to take an early 1 up lead. Watson birdied two of the first three holes on the back nine to his first lead, but Suri won three of the next four holes to take a 2 up lead.
Watson birdied the final two holes of his match to rally from 2 down to halve his third-round match against Suri and qualify for the Round of 16.
“It means I make it to Saturday,” Watson said. “It was a great match. He didn’t make a bogey all day. I made one. The greens were a lot slower, a lot softer than what I expected. I couldn’t get used to anything.
“Luckily I made a couple birdies coming down the stretch.”
Seventh-ranked Rory McIlroy, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, was eliminated after falling 5-and-3 to Harman, who had three birdies and an eagle in the shortened match.
“Especially after what happened last week, that takes it out of you being in contention and all that mental energy,” McIlroy said. “So I wish I was hanging around for the weekend. But I’ll rest up and get a little bit of work in before going to Augusta.”
McIlroy failed to make a birdie and had two bogeys and won hole — Harman conceded after hitting his second shot in the water on the par-5 12th — in the lopsided match.
“I played extremely well,” Harman said. “I’m proud of the way I came out. Rory is an intimidating guy. He hits it a mile. Especially what he did last week. I had this circled last week and I”m glad I came out and played well.”