A brilliant eagle helped Tiger Woods roar back from an early deficit to set up an eagerly-anticipated showdown with Rory McIlroy in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Woods found himself two down after eight holes of his must-win contest with fellow American Patrick Cantlay, but won five of the next six on his way to a 4&2 victory at Austin Country Club.
A par was enough to win the ninth hole after Cantlay was unfortunate to see his drive run through the fairway and into a hazard, but Woods then birdied the 11th and 12th before holing out from 80 yards for an eagle on the 13th.
A birdie on the 14th took Woods three up and he was conceded another on the par-five 16th to bring an end to the match.
Brandt Snedeker, who beat Woods on Thursday, would have won the group with a victory over the already-eliminated Aaron Wise, only for Wise to thrash his compatriot 6&4.
“I was fortunate enough to have things go my way,” Woods told Sky Sports. “I needed to win my match and have Aaron beat Sneds so (I’m) very fortunate to move through and potentially (play) Rory tomorrow morning.
“That’s going to be a lot of fun and both of us will be ready for it.”
Speaking about his eagle on the 13th, Woods added: “I thought I was going to need a three to halve the hole so I was trying to get it close enough to put a little bit of pressure on his chip shot and the next thing you know it goes in. That was a bonus.”
After comfortable wins in his first two group matches, McIlroy just needed to avoid defeat to Matt Fitzpatrick to qualify for the knockout stages and held off a brief fightback on the back nine from his Ryder Cup team-mate to also win 4&2.
“I think it’s really exciting for the tournament, it’s exciting for both of us,” McIlroy said of his last-16 clash with Woods. “I didn’t put up much of a fight in the Tour Championship last year (when paired in the final round) so hopefully I can give him a better game tomorrow.
“I feel like pretty much all of this year it’s been close to what I would think is some of my best golf. I feel comfortable with my game, I’m driving it as good as I ever have, I’ve tidied up my iron play and I’ve found something with the putter that feels really good. I feel like I can sustain this level.”
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson had become the first player into the last 16 after thrashing former Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk 5&4 for his third straight win in the so-called ‘Group of Death’, which included fellow major champions Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
“It was a big challenge and I managed to take it on,” Stenson said. “Today was the best round of golf I’ve played all year so very happy with that. I think I hit four iron shots to tap-in distance and almost had two holes in one.”
Stenson will face Lucas Bjerregaard in the last 16 after the Dane beat England’s Matt Wallace on the last to win his group.
And Tyrrell Hatton also reached the knockout stages with victory over fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, who at least had the consolation of making a hole-in-one on the 11th.
Hatton will face Matt Kuchar on Saturday after the American halved his match with Jon Rahm in a high-quality contest which saw the pair play the last five holes in a combined eight under par.
Masters champion Patrick Reed played his last eight holes in five under to beat Sergio Garcia, but Garcia still won the group thanks to Shane Lowry’s victory over Andrew Putnam and will face Branden Grace in the last 16.
Wins for Ian Poulter and Kevin Kisner meant the pair finished joint top of Group 14 and went into a play-off to decide the winner, with Kisner coming out on top thanks to a birdie on the third extra hole.
Kisner will face China’s Li Haotong on Saturday after Li defeated Alex Noren on the first play-off hole, while Ryder Cup team-mates Paul Casey and Francesco Molinari will face each other in the knockout stages after winning their respective groups.
Europe will have eight players in the last 16 after Justin Rose beat Gary Woodland in the last match of the day to set up a clash with Kevin Na.