In a rough day for the big names at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, Jordan Spieth, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson all tumbled out of the event Friday in Austin, Texas.
Noren also had little trouble. The lead changed hands several times before Thomas made a decisive move with three straight birdies starting from the 10th to give himself a 3 hole lead which he never relinquished, eventually winning 2 and 1 on the 17th.
Watson is seeded 35th despite his recent return to form highlighted by a victory at the Los Angeles tour stop at Riviera in February.
Dustin Johnson didn't win a match this week and will not get any world ranking points. Instead of crumbling to the match-play stalwart, Noren blitzed him from there on his way to a 5-and-3 win. Kisner was the closest to not advancing out of the Round of 16 among the eventual semifinalists. Kuchar was 2 down with four to go but managed to pull all square going to the last.
No. 45 Kyle Stanley def. The victor of each group after three days of round robin advances to the 18-hole single elimination matches.
Watson sank a 25-foot birdie putt to win the par-5 sixth but Thomas answered with a 10-foot birdie to claim the par-3 seventh and a 23-foot birdie putt to take the ninth and make the turn only 1-down.
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Kisner is looking for the biggest title of his career, having won PGA titles at Colonial past year and Sea Island in 2015, while Poulter must now win next week's Houston Open to qualify for the Masters.
Noren and Thomas are the only semifinalists who have not lost a match this week. He hit bad drives at the first two holes, losing both to dig a hole from which he never recovered.
But Kisner won five consecutive holes to go 5-up after seven and Poulter's misery ended at 12. Reed, the 19th seed, moved on to the round-of-16 knockout phase where he will face Swedish 13th seed Alex Noren on Saturday morning.
But how much was the pressure of getting to No. 1 weighing on Thomas? "Finally starting to make some birdies". "I kind of took advantage of some holes going out, some holes downwind, some par 5s, and then we were just trying to leave it in the right spot those last four or five holes".
He and Noren are the only players to sit undefeated and untied this week.
"His bad holes I didn't mess up and I made a few birdies to throw in there", Kisner said.