Bubba Watson Cruises to Match Play Title in Texas

Rory McIlroy

If not for missing a 4-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole of the championship match, Watson would have won the first seven holes. The Floridian's win at Riviera CC, which ended a two-year drought, was followed by a T9 in Mexico and a T66 at last week's Arnold Palmer.

Actually, Watson is among the favorites for the year's first major, listed on one website at 16/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas Superook, just behind the likes of Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.

Where Kisner seems to be made in a lab to play match play (Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, following victories for Kisner this week over match play "ninja" Ian Poulter and Alex Noren you may want to have him fitted for a team uniform now), Watson's relationship with the format is something of a mixed bag. "But I'm just anxious about trying to beat Bubba Watson tomorrow".

"Kisner has been playing well all week but you could tell the energy was gone after his match this morning", said Watson, who moves from 39th in the world up to 21st.

Noren led Smith, the only debutant in the last eight, after every hole. "I'm looking forward to it".

"I need to figure out what happened this afternoon and work on that".

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"Going from winning on Sunday to travelling on Monday and getting an early practice on Tuesday to play on Wednesday, I didn't have a lot of time to sort of recharge the batteries".

Watson delayed a planned vacation after reaching Sunday's semifinals, and he will continue to climb up the U.S. Ryder Cup team points after contemplating retirement while battling an undisclosed illness past year. "I'm proud of the way I fought after I could have shot who-knows today", said the 2015 Masters champion. "And then, making the putts".

Noren beat Thomas in the consolation match, 5 and 3.

Only world No. 2 Justin Thomas, seeded second, and Masters champion Sergio Garcia (7) made it through the cut throat group stage. Instead, he had to settle for fourth place and extending his lead in the FedExCup race. "And that really sucked", Thomas said. "At the beginning of the week you don't know what's going to happen, because golf is very hard".

Thomas said he was too consumed with what was at stake in the semifinals. In doing so, he prevented Thomas from becoming the No. 1 golfer in the world. "I couldn't stop thinking about it", Thomas said. "It's much different than kind of how I would approach a stroke play round, so play him and most important just keep doing what I've been doing". "I feel like I've played well in the front, just a couple of mistakes here and there that I've been a little more punished by it, but mainly (it was) some strong playing from my opponents on the front nine".

Charles Howell III may have grown up on Augusta National's doorstep, but he has not qualified since 2012, and had to beat Kiradech Aphibarnrat if he was both going to progressand make it to the Masters, so no pressure there.

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