Min Woo Lee’s Masters hopes have been given an early boost thanks to a stunning fightback on day one of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Texas.
Lee, Lucas Herbert, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Kiwi Ryan Fox were all victorious in the first round of the group stages as Cam Davis went down to a rampant Xander Schauffele in his opening match.
Currently ranked No.47 in the world, Lee has two extra carrots dangling in front of him this week.
Advancing out of the group stage will not only secure Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour, it will almost certainly wrap up a return visit to Augusta National next month.
But he left it late against Sahith Theegala to start his week on the right note.
After Theegala’s birdie on the par-3 fourth, Lee hit the green with a 365-yard drive on the par-4 fifth, draining the putt for eagle to tie the contest.
The best match in round one featured a combined 13 birdies and two eagles and a potentially life-changing comeback from the West Australian.
One-down with two to play, Lee coaxed his birdie putt in the side door on 17, Theegala missing from five feet to retain his advantage.
Lee’s up-and-down from the front bunker at the short, par-4 18th, and his final birdie putt from just inside three feet, ended it at 1 up.
“I mean, it was a highlight reel all day,” said the 24-year-old, who holed a bunker shot to birdie the par-3 seventh and chipped in at the par-4 10th.
“It sucked that one of us had to win and one of us had to lose. It was such a special match. No one got to 2 up, no one got to 2 down; it was back and forth.
“He had it in the palm of his hand, I had it pretty close, and then it just flipped so quick.”
The spectacular to-and-fro made it hard to pick the most jaw-dropping shot. Despite Lee’s two hole-outs and his driving of the fifth green, it might have been his 224-yard second shot from the fairway bunker at the par-5 12th hole. His ball stopped just five feet from the pin for what turned out to be a conceded eagle.
Lee is set to play US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick, a first-round loser to JJ Spaun, in the second round of group matches.
Smarting from a disastrous showing at THE PLAYERS, Lucas Herbert bolted out of the blocks in his match with No.31-seed Russell Henley.
Herbert stormed out to a 5 up advantage through nine holes on the strength of five birdies. Henley responded with six birdies on the back nine, including a 17-footer at the par-3 17th to extend the match as Herbert also made birdie from three feet.
Henley had 20 feet for birdie on 18 to tie the match, but couldn’t get it to drop.
Day and Scott both stormed home late to turn narrow deficits into round one wins.
Trailing Canadian Adam Svensson early in the back nine, Day made birdie on the par-3 11th, the first of six straight birdies to win 4 up.
Scott, too, had to pull something from the fire to record a victory in round one.
Conceding the par-5 12th to Ireland’s Seamus Power after finding the water with his second saw Scott fall to 2 down with just six holes to play.
The pair halved the par-4 13th with pars before Scott conjured birdies at 14, 16 and 18 to win 1 up, rolling in a birdie from 26 feet on the final hole to take the lead for the first time all day.
Despite being two-under himself, Cam Davis found himself 3 down through seven holes of his match with Xander Schauffele. After another birdie on the ninth, Schauffele was 4 up, leaving Davis to just try to extend the match as long as he could. Schauffele hit an approach inside three feet on the 15th hole to end it after making eight birdies on the day.
Round 1 results
Min Woo Lee def Sahith Theegala 1 up
Xander Schauffele def Cam Davis 4&3
Lucas Herbert def Russell Henley 1 up
Ryan Fox (NZ) def Harris English 2&1
Adam Scott def Seamus Power 1 up
Jason Day def Adam Svensson 4 up
Round 2 draw
1.53am Ryan Fox (NZ) v Andrew Putnam
3.32am Adam Scott v Sam Burns
4.27am Jason Day v Victor Perez
5.44am Min Woo Lee v Matt Fitzpatrick
6.17am Cam Davis v Tom Hoge
6.28am Lucas Herbert v Tyrrell Hatton