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McIlroy, Stenson and Rose tumble out of WGC Match Play Championship
It was a KO for three more golfing heavyweights on Thursday as Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose were all eliminated from the WGC Match Play Championship.
Coupled with the shock exits of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald means there are no more top seeds among the final 16 players still in the competition.
Hats should go off to Harris English who weathered the storm created by Rory McIlroy which saw the pair all square after 18 holes. The Northern Irishman was two shots down after two penalty strokes on the eleventh, but managed to fight back with three birdies to take control of the lead.
Plucky English sank a 19-footer on the 17th to tie it up once again before McIlroy fell at the next hurdle, carding a double bogey after a wayward second shot on the extra hole.
McIlroy was upbeat about his performance despite not getting through the round. He said: "I'm very comfortable with my game. I don't feel in any way disappointed leaving early, because I feel like my game is there. I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks."
Louis Oosthuizen commanded control of Henrik Stenson from the get-go when he holed an 18-foot eagle putt on the second. He never looked back from then on, almost sauntering into the next round as he sank Stenson completely by delivering a 20-foot birdie on the 15th for victory.
Rose found himself on the losing end of things after a 20-hole ding-dong with four-time major winner Ernie Els. The South African was behind on the 17th but played some solid golf to make it all square with one to play. The pair halved the 18th and Els made a nine-foot birdie putt to match Rose on the first extra hole. From there both players found bunkers but it was veteran Els who landed his pitch to within three feet while Rose fumbled his shot, thus falling foul of his opponent.
Elsewhere, Graeme McDowell pulled off another great escape in the warm desert climate. The Northern Irishman was three down with three holes to play in round one, but rallied to overcome Gary Woodland. He said: "I'm really quite lucky to be standing here right now.
"Why do it the easy way when the hard way will do? I got off to a slow start again. I tried to execute my game, not make any mistakes and he kind of played the same."