There was plenty of wishing for a Scottie Scheffler vs. Rory McIlroy championship match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play 2023 event in Austin, Texas, on Sunday afternoon.
We got it, but it was in the consolation match. After knocking off Scheffler, the defending champion, in a playoff in one of the semifinal matches, Sam Burns faced off with Cameron Young, who beat McIlroy in the other semifinal, for what appears to be the final-ever championship in this event under the World Golf Championships name.
After finishing sixth in his effort to three-peat at the Valspar Championship last week, Burns got his first won of 2023 in his first attempt at the Match Play tournament by cruising past Young 6-and-5.
Winning the final in short order was a blessing for Burns, who was playing his seventh round of the event and just went 21 holes against Scheffler before beating the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world on the third playoff hole.
“What a week; I’m so tired,” Burns said after winning for the fifth time on the PGA Tour. “I feel like I gained a little bit more confidence as each match went on.”
After winning three times last season, Burns had a best finish of sixth so far this season (last week at Innisbrook and at the WM Phoenix Open). But he’s now up to eighth in the FedEx Cup standings after starting the week outside the top 50.
Young, who also needed extra holes to defeat McIlroy in the semifinal, was going for the first win of his PGA Tour career. Instead, last year’s rookie of the year ended up with his sixth runner-up finish.
“It’s easy to think you’re so close,” Young said. “There’s one guy standing between you and winning the tournament. And that one guy is Sam Burns playing really well.”
In the consolation match, McIlroy ended up with third place after defeating Scheffler, 2-and-1. Even though it wasn’t for the title, the Northern Irishman said that the one-on-one matchup is helpful for the experience, especially given that the next time they will compete will be two weeks from now at The Masters.
“For both Scottie and I, if we’re both playing this well, fast forward to a couple weeks’ time, two Sundays from now, it’s probably not bad preparation,” Rory McIlroy said. “More likely than not, one of us is probably going to be in contention going into that final round, so to play a round like this is incredibly helpful.”
Both Scheffler and McIlroy had exciting wins in the quarterfinal round on Saturday. Scheffler beat Jason Day, 2-and-1, as Day was looking for this third win in this event. McIlroy topped Xander Schauffele, 1-up. Burns defeated Mackenzie Hughes, 3-and-2, while Young topped Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Kurt Kitayama, 1-up.
Most of the top-ranked golfers will rest this week before heading to Augusta. Others will head to TPC San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open looking to build momentum for the first major of the year or, in Rickie Fowler’s case, to try and qualify for it. J.J. Spaun is the defending champion and is entered in the event.
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