WGC-Match Play

Lanto Griffin squandered a 2 up with three to play lead over Cameron Smith in absolutely brutal fashion


Michael Reaves

You're going to hear the phrase "the vagaries of match play" quite often this week. The vagaries were never more apparent than in the match between Lanto Griffin and Cameron Smith on Wednesday afternoon.

Griffin, who won the 2019 Houston Open and has since climbed inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, was in full control of his opening match against the 27-year-old Aussie. He led 2 up after nine holes, and after Smith cut it to 1 up on 11 he promptly won the 12th to get back to 2 up. They then halved the next three in a row, which meant Griffin led 2 up with just three to play. Not an insurmountable deficit for Smith, but he had work to do just to earn a halve. 

In a stunning turn of events, Smith wound up winning the match outright, some of that due to his solid play, but most of it due to Griffin squandering away the lead in absolutely brutal fashion. On 16, Smith made a clutch 13-footer for birdie, forcing Griffin to have to make his nine-footer to tie. He missed, which sliced his lead in half. 

At the par-3 17th, Smith hit his tee shot to 11 feet, putting some serious pressure on Griffin. Griffin pulled his tee shot, his ball hitting a rock, bounding up and coming to rest in a greenside bunker. From an impossible lie, Griffin left his ball in the bunker and eventually conceded the hole to Smith, whose par halved the match. 

At the short par-4 18th, Smith's drive found a bunker and Griffin's drive found the rough short and right of the green. Smith went first, hitting his bunker shot 25 feet past the hole and leaving him witha very slick birdie putt. Griffin, who had a straightforward chip shot, skulled his over the green, then proceeded to do something you or I might do at the local muni this weekend:

Gasp. According to shot tracker, that went all of two-and-a-half feet. That sound you hear is "I COULD DO THAT!" from dads across America. 

Yes, you could, and, like Griffin, you'd also probably lose your match if doing so. His fourth rolled about nine feet past the hole, and Smith two-putted to a complete theft of a win. That could prove to be huge, as Smith's fellow group member, Ian Poulter, won his first match over Rory McIlroy. Smith and Poulter will play on Thursday in a battle of the Day 1 winners.