Holywood’s Rory McIlroy was a 3&1 winner against Smylie Kaufman at the WGC-Dell Match Play event on Thursday.
Defending champion McIlroy was one up after 14 holes against Kaufman, but Ryder Cup team-mate Martin Kaymer was thrashed 8&6 by Open champion Zach Johnson.
But a par on the 15th was enough for McIlroy to double his advantage and, when Kaufman found more trouble on the 17th, he conceded the hole to give McIlroy a 3&1 win which set up a group-three decider against Kevin Na today, the American beating Thorbjorn Olesen 3&2.
McIlroy admitted he felt fortunate to beat Olesen on Wednesday after the Dane squandered a two-hole lead with five to play, but told Sky Sports: “I played much better today.
“There were still a couple of mistakes in there but for the most part I hit better shots.
“I think I made four birdies in the first six holes and a couple on the back nine as well so the quality of golf was much better and I needed it to be because Smylie played quite solidly.”