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BC-GLF--Match Play,1st Ld-Writethru

March 31, 2019
AP Golf Writer

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Kevin Kisner made it back to the Dell Technologies Match Play final Sunday for the second straight year by outlasting British Open champion Francesco Molinari to reach the championship match against Matt Kuchar.

Kuchar made it an All-American final for the second straight year — and the ninth time since it began in 1999 — by beating Lucas Bjerregaard of Denmark in 18 holes.

Kisner is the fifth player in the 21 years of Match Play to get to the last round in consecutive years. Bubba Watson beat him last year at Austin Country Club in a match that lasted only 12 holes.

“I can’t finish worse than second,” Kisner said.

He won his semifinal match when Molinari three-putted from 25 feet above the hole with a helping wind, missing his par attempt from 8 feet.

Molinari had been the only player to not lose a match this week, and none of his five previous matches reached the 18th hole. He and Kisner played their best golf in the toughest conditions, with a strong wind making the temperatures feel like the upper 30s.

Each won three holes through the par-3 seventh, and Kisner took the first lead on the back nine when Molinari’s pitch to the green on the par-5 12th didn’t check up and rolled over the back and into the water.

Kisner appeared to seize control with another poor wedge shot from Molinari, this one from the back collar at No. 14 some 10 feet by the hole. But the Italian answered with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and a wedge to 3 feet for birdie on the 17th.

Both found tough spots on the 18th, Molinari in a bunker and Kisner in a slight divot hole. Molinari went long and left, leaving him a slick putt that he couldn’t afford to lag because Kisner had a good look from just inside 15 feet.

“I bogeyed 12, 14 18 from decent spots,” Molinari said. “So it’s not something really you’re allowed to do.”

The other semifinal was just as tight.

Bjerregaard, coming off an emotional 1-up win over Tiger Woods on Saturday afternoon to reach the final day, never led. He was never out of it, either, three times winning holes to tie the match.

Kuchar reached the green in two on the 16th and missed his eagle putt, going 1 up when the 27-year-old Dane missed his birdie putt from about 15 feet. Kuchar birdied the next, only for Bjerregaard to match him with a 10-foot birdie to send it to the 18th.

Needing a birdie to have any chance, Bjerregaard went some 35 feet long and missed the putt. Kuchar lagged his 15-foot birdie putt to the hole and the match was conceded.

Kuchar headed to the final for the second time, having won this World Golf Championship in 2013 over Hunter Mahan. Kuchar already is the only two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.

Kisner is the first player since group play began in 2015 to lose in the opening round and reach the final. Of the previous four players who made it to the championship match in consecutive years, only Paul Casey (2009-10) lost both times.

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