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Jason Day in Match Play semis, will surpass Jordan Spieth for No. 1 in ranking

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 26:  Jason Day of Australia hugs his wife Ellie after winning his match against Brooks Koepka in the round of 8 in the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play at the Austin Country Club on March 26, 2016 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) 592306327

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 26: Jason Day of Australia hugs his wife Ellie after winning his match against Brooks Koepka in the round of 8 in the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play at the Austin Country Club on March 26, 2016 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) 592306327

AUSTIN, Texas — Jordan Spieth lost his match. Then he lost his No. 1 ranking.

Jason Day assured a return to the top of the world ranking Saturday when he advanced to the semifinals of the Dell Match Play. His reward today is to face Rory McIlroy, who ran his unbeaten streak to 12 matches in this event and needs two victories to join Tiger Woods as the only players to win in consecutive years.

"It's been a bit of an up and down week, especially emotionally," said Day, who considered withdrawing Wednesday when his back seized up. "It's been quite amazing to be able to start the week, not really thinking I'm going to be able to play with what happened Wednesday, and then turn around and I'm No. 1 in the world. It's a strange feeling. I'm glad I stuck it out."

Even with the local star gone —Spieth is a native Texan and former star at the University of Texas — Match Play has a heavyweight battle this morning. This is only the second time since the event began in 1999 that the No. 2 (Day) and No. 3 (McIlroy) seeds have met in the semifinals.

Day won two of the first three holes on the back nine to pull away from former Florida State standout Brooks Koepka, closing him out on the 16th hole to win 3 and 2. McIlroy ran off four birdies in six holes to oust Chris Kirk 4 and 3.

Louis Oosthuizen, who eliminated Spieth with a 4-and-2 victory in the morning, took advantage of Dustin Johnson's blunders in the quarterfinals to win 2 and 1. Rafa Cabrera Bello also reached the semifinals by beating Ryan Moore 2 and 1.

McIlroy and Day have never faced each other in match play.

"I've love to play Jason," McIlroy said. "I'd really relish it. He's playing really well at the minute, coming off a win last week. I'd be really up for it."

Spieth won't be around for all the excitement. He struck the ball poorly on the range, tried to find a quick fix on the course and never had a chance. He made putts of 12 feet and 25 feet on the opening two holes but couldn't keep that up.

"I didn't make it very hard on Louis (Saturday), which is unfortunate," said Spieth, who lost holes with three bogeys and a double bogey. "I was off from when I hit my first 10 shots on the range. I've had incredible control of the ball this week and of my wedges. I'm not exactly sure what happened."

Spieth led a trail of Americans to the airport. There were 11 Americans in the round of 16 at the start of the day, none at the end.

PGA: Ian Poulter shot 4-under 68 on a windy day to take the third-round lead at the Puerto Rico Open in Rio Grande. Playing the event for the first time after failing to get into the Match Play event, the Englishman got up-and-down for par from a greenside bunker on the par-5 18th, holing a 15-foot putt. He was at 11-under 205 total, a stroke ahead of Tony Finau, Jonathan Byrd and Steve Marino. Puerto Rico's Rafael Campos, who led after two rounds, had 72 to drop into a tie for fifth at 9 under.

LPGA: Top-ranked Lydia Ko made three straight birdies early on the back nine at the Kia Classic in Carlsbad, Calif., to finish with 5-under 67 to take a three-stroke lead. Ko birdied Nos. 11-13 and closed with five straight pars to reach 14-under 202 in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week in Rancho Mirage. The 18-year-old New Zealander saved par with a 10-foot putt on the par-4 18th, and has played bogey-free since her second hole in the first round. Sung Hyun Park (68), Brittany Lang (70) and second-round leader Jenny Shin (71) were tied for second. Second-ranked Inbee Park was 10 under after 70.

Jason Day in Match Play semis, will surpass Jordan Spieth for No. 1 in ranking 03/26/16 [Last modified: Sunday, March 27, 2016 12:12am]
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