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Spieth, McDowell into quarters at Match Play
Marana, AZ (SportsNetwork.com) - Jordan Spieth continued his stellar play, while Graeme McDowell escaped once again as both won their third-round matches at the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship on Friday.
Spieth earned a hard-fought 2 & 1 win over 2013 champion Matt Kuchar, while McDowell rallied to beat 2012 winner Hunter Mahan in 21 holes. McDowell has come back from deficits in each of his first three matches.
Spieth, the third seed in the Gary Player bracket, moves on to face eight- seeded Ernie Els. The South African held on to beat Jason Dufner, 1-up, on Friday.
McDowell, who is seeded fourth in the Sam Snead bracket, will battle seventh- seeded Victor Dubuisson in the quarters. Dubuisson never trailed as he beat Bubba Watson, 1-up, at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain.
Jason Day, the two seed in the Bobby Jones bracket, is the highest remaining seed. Day never trailed en route to beating George Coetzee, 3 & 1.
Day will battle eighth-seeded Louis Oosthuizen. The former British Open champion ran away from Webb Simpson with six wins in an eight-hole span to walk off with a 5 & 4 win.
In the Ben Hogan bracket, fifth-seeded Jim Furyk and 14th-seeded Rickie Fowler both earned 1-up wins. Furyk rallied from a 3-down deficit to beat Harris English. Fowler never led against Sergio Garcia until making birdie at the 18th to win 1-up.
Kuchar made a 15-footer for eagle at the second, but Spieth birdied three and four. Kuchar squared the match with a par on the fifth, but Spieth took the sixth to regain a 1-up lead.
Spieth pushed his advantage to 3-up with wins at nine and 10. Kuchar took the 11th and got up and down for par on No. 12 to get within 1-down. After four halves in a row, Spieth buried a 12-foot birdie try at 17 to seal the match.
"I was out of play on 11 and plugged it in a bunker of 12, so I kind of gave him two to get back in it, and you don't want to do that with him because he can take advantage of it," Spieth said of Kuchar.
Dufner and Els split the front nine, as each won three holes and the other three were halved. Els finally took control when he was conceded the 10th and won No. 12 with a par.
Dufner took the 13th and parred 17 to square the match. However, Els stuffed his approach inside three feet at the 18th. After Dufner missed a 20-foot birdie effort, Els knocked in his birdie putt for the win.
McDowell and Mahan both had two wins in the first five holes. Mahan drained a 12-footer for birdie on No. 6 after McDowell stuffed his tee shot inside two feet and was conceded birdie. That was the first of five straight halves. They traded wins at 11 and 14, then Mahan made a 3-foot birdie putt on 15 to go 1- up. McDowell missed a short par putt at 16 to fall 2-down.
McDowell got up and down for par on 17 and trimmed his deficit to 1-down when Mahan's par effort slid by the right edge. After Mahan missed a birdie try from about 15 feet out, McDowell drained a 6-footer for birdie to force extra holes.
They halved the first and ninth, which were the 19th and 20th holes, with McDowell pouring in a 20-footer on the 20th to extend the match. The Ulsterman made birdie there to complete the improbable rally.
"It's entertaining for sure, but I'd rather have it much easier," McDowell joked. "I can't get my head around it. I was sure I was beat against Gary Woodland (in the first round). Yesterday, I felt I had a chance and today, walking off 16, I thought I was beat again. The par save on that second playoff hole was ridiculous. I just robbed three players at this tournament and I can't believe I'm still in it."
Dubuisson won three of the first five on Watson, but Watson claimed the third and sixth and was just 1-down. They traded wins at 10 and 11, then Dubuisson took the 12th with a birdie.
After moving 3-up with a par on 14, Dubuisson found a bush with his tee ball at 15. He would later concede the hole to Watson, who birdied the 17th to push the match to the 18th. Dubuisson lagged his birdie try to tap-in range, then Watson missed his birdie chip to lose the match.
Day led 1-up after 10 holes and remained there until he parred the 14th to move his lead to 2-up. He later drained a birdie on No. 17 to beat Coetzee.
Oosthuizen was 1-down after Simpson birdied the fourth and fifth, but ran off five wins in a six-hole span from the sixth. He moved his lead to 5-up with a 5-foot birdie putt at the 13th. At the 14th, Oosthuizen lagged a huge right-to-left breaking putt to tap-in range. Simpson was unable to hole out from a greenside bunker for the halve and the match was over.
"I played really solid," Oosthuizen said. "I made an 18-footer for par on 10 and that was big. I'm just trying to give myself as many birdie chances as possible."
Garcia was 2-up after five on Fowler, then took a long time on No. 6 with a pair of drops away from group of bees. He eventually got up and down for par, and Fowler missed a birdie try from inside 10 feet.
The Spaniard then conceded Fowler's 18-foot par putt on the seventh out of courtesy because he felt he took too long to play the sixth.
"I liked to be as fair as possible, and I felt like on six after he hit such a great shot, I took a lot time with the drop, and I felt like I took too much time and that might have made a difference on his putt," Garcia explained. "I felt on seven, anything could happen, but it was to feel good with myself."
Garcia bounced back with a birdie on No. 8, but Fowler rallied with birdies on nine and 10. After five halves in a row, Fowler drained a 12-footer for birdie to square the match. After Garcia missed from about 12 feet out, Fowler knocked in a short birdie putt to win the match.
"Obviously, I'd be stupid not to take the half. It could have gone both ways," Fowler said of the seventh. "Nine was a big putt for me. It was easier going to the back nine 2-down instead of 3-down."
Furyk was 3-down after six holes against English, but rallied to square the match on the 12th. They traded wins on 14 and 15 before Furyk chipped in for birdie at the 16th to go 1-up. He won the match after they matched pars on the last two holes.
NOTES: Despite moving into the quarterfinals, Els is 7-over par through three matches ... Els is the only former World Golf Championship winner left in the field, while there are four former major champions left -- one in each of the four brackets ... No player has won a World Golf Championships event in his first WGC start.
02/21 20:09:22 ET