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Justin Thomas books WGC Match Play semi-final spot

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Highs and lows Ian Poulter lost heavily in quarter-final

In a rough day for the big names at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, Jordan Spieth, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson all tumbled out of the event Friday in Austin, Texas.

The four-time Major champion suggested tiredness played a part in his 5 and 3 defeat by Brian Harman at Austin Country Club on Friday, when Jordan Spieth, a three-time Major victor, was among the other big names eliminated.

And Bubba in good form is fun as hell.

"Brian played great today", McIlroy said. "I have to hope he doesn't have a hot day".

Watson had a dominating win over Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5&3, while Alexander Noren took down Kiwi Cameron Smith 2&1 in a highly contested match.

Justin Thomas and Sergio Garcia were among the 16 players who won their round-robin brackets to advance into the single-elimination portion of the tournament at Austin Country Club.

McIlroy said he never fully recharged after his emotional win at Bay Hill last week and will now prepare for the Masters with two social rounds in Augusta later next week.

"Team Kiz" could meet Thomas in Sunday's final, about 8 months after Thomas won the most recent major, the PGA Championship in Charlotte.

Kisner, the No. 32 seeded player, edged Matt Kuchar in a back-and-forth round of 16 match early Saturday before blowing past match play wiz Ian Poulter 8-6 in a surprisingly easy quarterfinal.

Meanwhile, Patrick Reed was 1 up through seven holes in a match that could not be described as aesthetically pleasing. I got off to a bit of a scrappy start today. "I made a lot of key putts, par savers, to keep me running smoother on the back nine. I'm excited about it - it should be good".

That kind of randomness can get to a player's head and brings out the odd in even the game's most grounded players.

Spieth made a poor start, double-bogeying the first two holes after losing balls to find himself two down before halving the deficit with a birdie at the fifth. With the match all square, Noren made a 10-foot birdie at the 17th to go 1 up, and then holed a 15-foot par putt on the final hole to avoid going to a playoff with Finau.

"Xander played unbelievable on the front nine, tricky conditions, and he kept making good putt after good putt on me", Garcia said. So next time I won't listen to other people, I'll do my bit and focus better. He burned the edges. "It could have gone either way and then I stepped it up at the end".

Poulter needed to reach the semi-finals to crack Monday's top 50 in the world rankings and book a spot at the Masters in two weeks.

Noren now has won seven of his last eight matches in his event, his only loss coming to Johnson in the quarterfinals past year.

"No, don't get me wrong", he said.

"I think my mentality fits the format well but I hadn't been playing well coming into it, so I did a lot of prep this week and starting to see some results out here". Still, a McIlroy win over Harman would have set up a play-off to reach the last 16.

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