Rory McIlroy produces more putting magic to reach Match Play semis in Texas

'Both ends of the bag are working pretty well, and the stuff in the middle is not too bad, either' - McIlroy

Rory McIlroy, right, is congratulated by Xander Schauffele, left, after their quarter-final round at the Dell Technologies Match Play Championship golf tournament in Austin, Texas

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy made his 16th birdie of the day at the 18th to beat Xander Schauffele 2-up and reach the semi-finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas.

Having been forced to make nine birdies to beat Australian Lucas Herbert 2-up in the round of 16, the four-time Major champion had to dig deep again in the quarter-finals and make seven more to see off Schauffele in a hugely impressive tussle that also went to the last.

It was another huge confidence boost for the Co Down man who recently changed driver, putter and lob wedge in preparation for the Masters and saw all three elements of his game come together on the first day of knockout combat.

“Both ends of the bag are working pretty well, and the stuff in the middle is not too bad, either,” said McIlroy, who will face Cameron Young in the semi-finals as world number one Scottie Scheffler takes on Sam Burns.

“Yeah, I putted well all day. I felt yesterday against Keegan I found something or I got a feel, and then putted really good this morning against Lucas, and then continued that this afternoon.”

He credited his razor sharp short game as a big key to his play.

“ I know even if I miss greens, I feel like I've got a really good chance to get them up and down,”’ he said. “To have that level of confidence in the short game can feed into the rest of your game and it can make you play a little freer.”

Schauffele was 2-up after seven holes, but McIlroy’s putting and short game kept him in the match and he would level matters with birdies at the eighth and 10th.

Schauffele edged ahead again when 2015 champion McIlroy bogeyed the 12th after driving .

But the Irish star birdied the 13th after Schauffele had found water with his tee shot to square the match again and set up a thrilling finale.

McIlroy made a 20-footer for birdie at the 15th, but Schauffele matched him from 11 feet.

Both men chipped close to share the par-five 16th in birdies before McIlroy went in front for the first time all day, rolling in a 12-footer for birdie at the 18th and the win after Schauffele had run his 36-footer a few feet past.

A Schauffele-McIlroy final would be the perfect appetiser for the Masters. Still, while the Holywood native did not want to get ahead of himself, he admitted the Masters champion was a formidable foe.

“I've got a match before I potentially get there… but Scottie has been unbelievable. He's been so dominant since this time last year, and what he's won and being No. 1 in the world for quite a big chunk of that time.

“I played the first two days with him at THE PLAYERS a couple of weeks ago, and just super impressive what he's doing.”

After coming back from two down with four to play to beat JT Poston in the 18th, Scheffler recovered from three down after six holes to beat Jason Day 2&1.

He meets Burns, who saw off Canadian Mackenzie Hughes 3&2 while on McIlroy’s side of the draw, last year’s Open Championship runner-up Young survived a back-nine rally to beat Kurt Kitayama 1-up.