By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Scottie Scheffler reached the championship round at the Dell Technologies Match Play for the second straight year, this time with a lot more at stake.
A year ago, he was trying for his first PGA Tour victory. On Sunday, holding on to beat Dustin Johnson put him one win away from going to No. 1 in the world.
Scheffler took advantage of Johnson’s mishaps and balky putter to go 5 up through 11 holes, then had to hold off a ferocious rally at Austin Country Club. He regained control when Johnson missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to fall 2 down, and then closed him out when Johnson’s 15-foot birdie putt caught the lip.
The path doesn’t get much easier for Scheffler. Next up Sunday afternoon was Kevin Kisner, who outlasted Corey Conners of Canada in a match so tight no one led by more than one hole.
Kisner joined Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy as the only players to reach the championship match at least three times since this World Golf Championship began in 1999. He lost in the final in 2018 and won the following year. His record is 22-6-1 on this Pete Dye design, a winning rate second only to Ogilvy.
Scheffler was solid as usual, and Johnson was the worst he had been all week, especially on the green where Scheffler twice missed putts inside 10 feet and still had a 3-up lead through seven holes.
He nearly holed out from the fairway on the 10th, Johnson missed another putt on the 11th and Scheffler was 5 up and on his way. And then it changed.
Johnson won the 12th with a birdie. Scheffler, despite leading 4 up, curiously went with driver on the reachable par-4 13th over a portion of Lake Austin and came up short in the water. Johnson hit it tight on the next two holes, making from 10 feet and 4 feet for birdies.
He was 1 down and had all the momentum when Scheffler hit his second on the par-5 16th, uphill and into the wind, to about 12 feet. He missed the eagle attempt. Johnson, who was in a bunker, blasted out to 4 feet. But his short putt spun out of the cup, and he never recovered.
Behind them, Kisner stayed 1 up by making a 25-foot par on the eighth hole, and Conners seized the momentum to start the back nine.
He was left of the 10th green, left of the cart path and on packed dirt when he bounced a pitch so perfectly that it rolled out to 5 feet for par to avoid going 2 down. Then, he holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-3 11th. Kisner went from bunker to water on the par-5 12th, and Conners had the lead for the first time.
Kisner squared the match with a par on the 14th, and the decisive moment came on the par-3 17th. Both were just off the green. Kisner lagged to a foot. Conners faced a downhill putt and hit it 8 feet by, missing the comebacker to fall 1 down.
On the 18th, Kisner from short of the green expertly used the ridge behind the hole, running it up 25 feet and watching it roll back to 4 feet. Conners, just left of the green with his drive, missed the eagle chip and the 10-foot birdie, conceding the match.
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