Francesco Molinari‘s 10-match unbeaten run came to a disappointing end as he lost out to Kevin Kisner in the semi-finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Molinari fought back from two down with three holes to play with birdies on the 16th and 17th, only to three-putt the 18th hole at Austin Country Club.
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It was the first time the Open champion had played the 18th in competition this week after enjoying five comfortable wins to reach the last four.
Molinari was thrashed 7&5 by Justin Thomas in his final group game 12 months ago, but became the first European player to compile a perfect 5-0 record in the Ryder Cup and had beaten Satoshi Kodaira, Thorbjorn Olesen, Webb Simpson, Paul Casey and Kevin Na to reach the semi-finals.
Kisner will contest the final for the second year in succession – he was thrashed 7&6 by Bubba Watson 12 months ago – and faces fellow American Matt Kuchar, who ended the brilliant run of Denmark’s Lucas Bjerreregaard with a hard-fought win.
There was never more than one hole between the pair and Bjerregaard, who got the better of Tiger Woods in the quarter-finals, got back on level terms four times after Kuchar edged in front.
Bjerregaard also crucially matched Kuchar’s birdie on the 17th to keep the match alive but was unable to repeat the feat on the last and Kuchar safely two-putted for par.
Molinari made an uncharacteristic error when he chipped into the water on the par-five 12th and also bogeyed the 14th before his brace of birdies kept the match alive.
I bogeyed 12, 14 and 18 from decent spots so it’s not something really you’re allowed to do.
“I just didn’t quite play my best,” Molinari said. “We played quite well on the front nine and then just dropped too many easy shots on the back nine unfortunately.
“I bogeyed 12, 14 and 18 from decent spots so it’s not something really you’re allowed to do. But it’s still a positive week.”
Bjerregaard also tried to take the positives away from his week in Austin, adding: “I can see from my Instagram and so forth that a few people have gotten to know my name from yesterday.
“So it’s been a great week, no matter what happens. But, yeah, it stings a bit now, I’ve come this far, and I’d love to have a chance in the final.
“Neither of us played really well on the front nine and I didn’t do much, made a lot of pars and he made a few birdies and a few bogeys.
“I had a few chances on the back nine, just didn’t putt well enough. Just didn’t put pressure on him when I needed to, which I succeeded with yesterday.”