World Golf Championships: Rory McIlroy knocked out at group stage

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy had beaten Jhonattan Vegas to give himself hope of progressing on Thursday

Rory McIlroy's World Golf Championships came to an early end as the 2015 winner was knocked out at the group stage in Austin.

McIlroy had kept alive his hopes with Thursday's win over Jhonattan Vegas, but a 5&3 defeat by Brian Harman meant the American went through instead.

Harman topped group six above compatriot Peter Uihlein, who beat McIlroy on day one and Vegas on Friday.

Northern Irishman McIlroy will next be competing at the Masters in April.

A first title at Augusta would make him the sixth player to complete a career grand slam.

The 28-year-old came into the week following victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, and on Thursday said he had been feeling "flat" and "could have done with an extra day of rest".

Elsewhere, Ian Poulter took another step towards qualifying for the Masters as he progressed to the knockout stage.

Poulter, who was three up after eight holes when opponent Kevin Chappell withdrew with a back injury, needs to reach at least the quarter-finals to have a chance of breaking into the world's top 50 by Monday's deadline.

Fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton also reached the last 16 by beating Brendan Steele on the first hole of a play-off, but Paul Casey went out after losing to Kyle Stanley.

Justin Thomas, who can replace the eliminated Dustin Johnson as world number one with a victory, thrashed Francesco Molinari 7&5 to join Sergio Garcia, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Charles Howell III, Patrick Reed and Alex Noren in advancing to the knockout stage with perfect 3-0 records.

Reed went through at the expense of Jordan Spieth, beating his Ryder Cup team-mate 2&1.

Last-16 matches

B Harman (US) v B Watson (US)

S Garcia (Spa) v K Stanley (US)

M Kuchar (US) v K Kisner (US)

P Reed (US) v A Noren (Swe)

L Oosthuizen (SA) v I Poulter (Eng)

K Aphibarnrat (Tha) v C Howell III (US)

T Hatton (Eng) v C Smith (Aus)

J Thomas (US) v Si-Woo Kim (Kor)

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