Ryder Cup partners Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari renewed their love affair with match-play golf on the opening day of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Fleetwood was two down after six holes to Korea’s Byeong Hun An before rallying to win 3&2 at Austin Country Club, while Molinari thrashed Satoshi Kodaira 5&4.
Fleetwood and Molinari became the first European pair to win all four of their matches together in September’s Ryder Cup victory over the United States at Le Golf National, with Open champion Molinari finishing with a perfect 5-0 record.
“I’ve lost the first day and then won the group and I’ve won the first day and finished last in the group,” Fleetwood told Sky Sports. “But it’s great to have a good first day because once you lose you are behind the game and have to catch up.
“I had a good break around eight and nine. He had a three-putt on eight and missed a chance on nine and it kind of flipped the game around.”
Scotland’s Russell Knox faces a daunting task to reach the semi-finals and qualify for the Masters after suffering a 3&1 defeat to Bryson DeChambeau, but Paul Casey continued his superb recent form with victory over Mexico’s Abraham Ancer.
Casey, who successfully defended his title in the Valspar Championship last week, was one down after five holes but recovered to win 5&3, while Ryder Cup team-mate Alex Noren suffered a heavy defeat to China’s Li Haotong.
Tiger Woods, making his first appearance in the event since 2013, was two up after five holes of a scrappy contest with Aaron Wise, with Rory McIlroy one up on Luke List after three holes.
The 64 players are split into 16 groups of four, with only the group winners advancing to the knockout stages at the weekend.
Ian Poulter looked in danger of suffering another nightmare result at the hands of Kevin Kisner when the American birdied the 15th and then holed from 60 yards for an eagle on the 16th to get back to all square.
However, Poulter birdied the last two holes to exact a measure of revenge for his 8&6 defeat to Kisner in last year’s quarter-finals.
Poulter, who had been wrongly told that reaching the last eight would see him qualify for the Masters, said: “It was a different mindset last year, a little bit of a good news, bad news situation probably affected me and I didn’t want that to carry over today.
“He probably realised I wasn’t going to be as easy to roll over as last year. It was a good match and pivotal to birdie the 17th and get up and down on the last.”