Rory McIlroy found himself quickly taking on water Wednesday morning at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play event in Austin, Texas.
The four-time major champion’s tee shot on the fifth hole sailed wide left at Austin Country Club, bounded off the cart path and bounced over a fence before resting in a nearby swimming pool. He eventually went 3 down after five holes and dropped a 6-and-5 decision to England’s Ian Poulter.
“I got 3 up in that match early,” Poulter said, per the Golf Channel. “So being in that position against Rory, you kind of don’t want to let him back in the match because if he gets any kind of flow, he’s going to be a really tough opponent to shrug off.”
McIlroy declined to speak with the media after his round.
McIlroy, 31, has plummeted from No. 1 to No. 11 in the official world golf rankings. The Northern Ireland native revealed on Monday that he is working with swing instructor Pete Cowen as he attempts to get his game back on track ahead of the upcoming Masters.
McIlroy is scheduled for a Round 2 meeting with American Lanto Griffin, who dropped a 1-down decision to Australian Cameron Smith in another Group 11 match.
Trailing by two with three holes to play, Smith birdied the 16th hole and benefited from a errant tee shot by Griffin on 17 before winning with a par on 18.
Also on Wednesday, Matt Kuchar made six birdies on the front nine to go 5 up on second-seeded Justin Thomas, then held on for a 3-up victory in Group 2.
“I’m not sure that many people have been picking me this week and certainly after the last few weeks, I mean, there’s no chance you would pick me,” Kuchar said. “But big thanks to (instructor) Chris O’Connell, we have been working hard the last kind of month or two and continue refining being continue tweaking and kind of stayed the course and thankfully things kind of came together the last few days.”
Top-seeded Dustin Johnson birdied the final hole to close out a 2-up win over Adam Long in Group 1.
Third-seeded Jon Rahm of Spain took the lead over Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz on the 16th hole and emerged with a 1-up win in Group 3.
Fourth-seeded Collin Morikawa finished level with J.T. Poston, who gained the tie with an 18th-hole birdie in Group 4.
Fifth-seeded Bryson DeChambeau led nearly start to finish in a 2-up win over France’s Antoine Rozner in Group 5.
Sixth-seeded Xander Schauffele benefited from birdies on Nos. 11, 12 and 16 before picking up a half point for a tie after England’s Andy Sullivan was unable to sink a short putt on No. 17. Scottie Scheffler posted a 2-up win over Australian Jason Day in the other match in Group 6 play.
Daniel Berger, the 14th seed, showed no ill effects of a recent rib injury while competing in Group 14 play. He recorded five birdies on the front nine en route to posting a 6-and-4 decision over Erik van Rooyen of South Africa.
-Field Level Media