Jordan Spieth’s exit on Saturday morning provided an opening for Jason Day to reclaim No. 1 in the World Ranking and he took advantage by defeating Brooks Koepka, 3 and 2, on Saturday afternoon to advance to the semifinals of the WGC-Dell Match Play.
Day’s semifinal opponent on Sunday morning at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas, will be Rory McIlroy, another former No. 1, who defeated Chris Kirk, 4 and 3.
Spieth had been eliminated by South African Louis Oosthuizen, 3 and 2, in the round of 16 on Saturday morning. Regardless of the outcome of the Day-McIlroy match Sunday, Day will take over the No. 1 spot in the World Ranking next week.
“It’s not so much about the number one rank that gets me excited, it’s more so the journey and the process it’s taken,” Day said. “For me it’s that delayed gratification I’m really thankful for, because I have been busting my butt and been doing the right things.
“The next step is try to get into tomorrow’s round. And I know I’ve got a really tough one tomorrow. I expect a really, really tough match in the morning against Rory. It seems like he’s playing some good golf now. And he has been number one in the world for a long period of time when he was up there. He’s a tough competitor.”
Day, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, took the lead over Koekpa with a birdie at the 10th hole and did not relinquish it.
McIlroy, meanwhile, led for all but one hole in his match with Kirk, the ninth, when his three-putt bogey allowed Kirk to pull even.
“I was a little annoyed going from the ninth green to the 10th tee, letting Chris get back in with a three-putt at nine,” McIlroy said. “After that I was four-under over the next six holes and that was enough to get the job done.
“I feel like each and every round you get through here the momentum builds and builds. To get through to the last day for the second year in a row is great for your confidence especially with the Masters only a couple weeks away.”
McIlroy needs only a victory in the Masters to complete the career grand slam.
In other quarterfinal matches, Rafa Cabrera Bello defeated Ryan Moore, 2 and 1, and Oosthuizen eliminated Dustin Johnson, 2 and 1.