Van Rooyen gets to knockout stages of Match Play

Erik van Rooyen joined countryman and friend Dylan Frittelli as the two lowest seeds to advance to the knockout stages of the World Golf Championships- Dell Technologies Match Play Championship on Friday at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.

He took over a close match against American Brendon Todd in the middle of the back nine, winning the par-five 12th with a par and the par-five 16th with a birdie (two putts from 49 feet) to go 2-up. Todd birdied the opening hole, but was able to add only two more. The victory earned van Rooyen a spot in a play-off against Daniel Berger to decide a group winner.

“After losing my first match to Daniel I knew I had a bit of a mountain to climb,” said Van Rooyen. “Things worked out great yesterday with me beating Harris (English) and then Brendon beating Daniel because that opened everything up for today. Just really excited to be here for the weekend.”

His weekend will start with a match against the number three seed, John Rahm of Spain. “I think the confidence will just kind of stay where it is,” he said. “It’s relatively high always. I’m happy to be playing well. I havent gotten off to the best of starts here on the PGA Tour this year, so I guess it’s a good time to play well, now more than ever.”

Frittelli is the 64th and last seed and will continue on despite losing on day three to Will Zalatoris. Having won his opening two matches Frittelli was sent through when Tony Finau beat Jason Kokrak. He now faces the second-highest seed left in England’s Tommy Fleetwood (21).

With his destiny in his own hands Frittelli had a terrible start and while he fought back against Zalatoris, his path forward was secured by the match ahead prior to the conclusion of this contest. From that point, perhaps with his opponent’s guard down, Zalatoris pounced. Frittelli bogeyed the first two holes to sit 2-down before his breakfast could digest. Needing only a tie to advance, the South African clawed back with wins on holes 12 and 14 to tie things up heading to the closing holes. But up ahead Finau closed out Kokrak and relieved any pressure. Zalatoris pounced and won the 16th and 18th holes to grab his first victory of the tournament.

In defeat, Frittelli, playing close to his home in Texas, had a word for the odds-makers: “If you had checked the betting odds, if those guys were doing their homework, I would figure they would put me in the top half, just having that sort of experience, hometown, sleeping in my own bed. I think that counts a lot. I’m not going to spout too much, but I definitely think it’s a huge advantage that at least puts me in the top half of the field.”

Christiaan Bezuidenhout was eliminated when he lost 5 & 3 to Bubba Watson. Not long after Sergio Garcia made an ace to advance, Watson almost clinched his match with a hole-out of his own. His 121-yard approach to 15 lipped out and the match was over when he holed his four-foot birdie putt. Bezuidenhout won just two holes the entire match – two and 12. Watson never trailed. He was 3-up after five holes and 4-up at the turn.

Louis Oosthuizen also departed after going down 3 & 2 to Justin Thomas. Thomas, the world number two, capped off a disappointing week by going out early on Friday and soundly beating the 2010 Open champion. Thomas finally found some form on the back nine, making three birdies and an eagle (13th hole, from 44 feet) starting at the par-three 11th, and he closed out the match on the 16th green.

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