March 23 (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy has been eliminated from the WGC-Dell Match Play after being comfortably defeated 5&3 by diminutive giant killer Brian Harman on Friday.
McIlroy needed to beat the American on the final day of round-robin play at Austin Country Club to have a chance of qualifying for the weekend, but it was all one-way traffic in Harman’s favour.
Despite being outdriven by 60 yards at times, 18th seed Harman proved steadier, losing only one hole.
Harman’s victory earned him the honour of being the first player in the 64-man field to advance to the knockout stage.
The winner of each of the 16 four-man groups qualifies for the weekend.
While Harman will carry on, Northern Irishman McIlroy heads home to regroup for the Masters in two weeks.
He is the betting favourite on some sites to win the April 5-8 event at Augusta National, where he will have a chance of becoming the sixth man to complete the calendar grand slam.
McIlroy won the Arnold Palmer Invitational last Sunday, but had less than 72 hours to celebrate before the Wednesday start of the Match Play.
His performance in Austin showed once again what a fickle game golf can be. (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina Editing by Christian Radnedge)