Peter Uihlein of the United States shakes hands with Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland after defeating him 2&1 on the 17th green during the first round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. AFP

TEXAS: World number one Dustin Johnson and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy suffered surprise defeats on Wednesday as the WGC-Dell Match Play got off to a typically unpredictable start in Texas.

Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, seeded 52nd at the tournament, beat defending champion and top seed Johnson 3&1, while Peter Uihlein (57th) beat McIlroy (sixth) 2&1 at Austin Country Club.

In another surprise, American Julian Suri, the lowest ranked of the 64 men in the field, beat Australia’s world number 15 Marc Leishman 3&2.

McIlroy’s defeat came three days after he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a barnstorming final round.

“He turned it on finally,” a relieved Uihlien told Golf Channel after staving off a late McIlroy comeback. “I felt if I kept just trying to execute I’d get it done.”

McIlroy will get a chance to make amends over the next two days as the tournament no longer uses a knockout format until the weekend.

Dustin Johnson of the United States plays a shot to the 17th green during the first round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. AFP

The 64 players are divided into 16 groups of four, with everyone in each pod playing each other over the first three days. The winner of each group advances to the final 16 and the elimination stage.

American Suri, who plays mainly on the European Tour where he won the Made in Denmark tournament last August, said he liked playing the underdog.

“I like to think I play my best with a little chip on my shoulder,” he said after beating 11th seed Leishman.

“A lot of people are saying congrats on being in the field. I don’t think any other tournament they’d say congrats. I want to do more than just be here and take pictures.

“I played really solid today and pleased with the result. I feel like I have it in me. Winning’s winning, even if it’s elsewhere and not totally on the mainstream on the PGA Tour.”

Former champion Ian Poulter was among the winners on Wednesday.

“I felt nervous, which is nice, because it hasn’t happened for some time,” Poulter (58th) said after beating Tommy Fleetwood (ninth) in a match in which neither player putted well.

Two-times Masters champion Bubba Watson made a hot start to beat South African Branden Grace 5&3.

“It was perfect,” Watson said of his front nine, after racing to a 6-up lead at the turn.

“You couldn’t ask for better. He (Grace) was under par on the front nine and somehow I just made a few more. I felt like McIlroy on Sunday.”--REUTERS

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