The world’s best players head for Austin Texas this week and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. World Number 1 Dustin Johnson will be the defending champion.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Preview, TV Times

Dustin Johnson will be looking to retain his crown in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play championship this week but he’ll be facing strong competition from many of the world’s very best, including World Number two Justin Thomas, Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Rory McIlroy and last year’s Match Play runner-up Jon Rahm.

The format for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play changed from straight knockout in 2015 and the round-robin system will be used again this season. 16 groups of four players will play each other between Wednesday and Friday with the winner of each four-man group going on to the knockout stages.

Related: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play betting tips

The top 16 seeds are allocated to each group and the remaining 48 players are placed into three pools (seeds 17–32, seeds 33–48 and seeds 49–64). Each group has one player randomly selected from each pool to complete the group. The leading players after the round-robin stages will go on to contest the knockout rounds.

59 of the top 64 players in the world will do battle for the Dell Technologies Match Play title and there are some interesting match-ups wet for the group stages:

Jordan Spieth will have a tough time to come through a group including the tenacious Patrick Reed while Tommy Fleetwood is in a group together with former champion and match play specialist Ian Poulter.

Englishmen Paul Casey and Matt Fitzpatrick have been drawn in the same group while group 14 looks to be one of the toughest, featuring Phil Mickelson and Rafa Cabrera Bello.

First contested in 1999, the Match Play is one of the most exciting and unpredictable tournaments of the year. This will be the 20th running of the event. Upsets are always possible and there have been some unlikely winners over the years – Jeff Maggert in the first year and Kevin Sutherland in 2002 for instance. In 2000, Darren Clarke secured a memorable 4&3 victory over Tiger Woods.

Clarke beat Tiger in 2000

Clarke beat Tiger in 2000

Last year, Dustin Johnson was the champion. He never trailed in any match, but Spaniard Jon Rahm pushed him to the line in the final. DJ prevailed on the 18th hole.

Austin Country Club in Texas is a historic club with origins dating back to 1899 but the course is a good deal newer than that – it’s a Pete Dye design that was completed in the 1980s. The course is split into two distinct nines – the front side is played over higher ground through Texas hill country while the run for home runs alongside Lake Austin.

Austin Country Club

Austin Country Club

The weather forecast looks a little mixed. It could get breezy as the week progresses with the chance of a few thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.

Venue: Austin Country Club, Austin, Texas
Date: Mar 21-25
Course stats: par 71, 7,108 yards
Purse: $10,000,000
Defending champion: Dustin Johnson

How to watch the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play

TV Coverage:

Wednesday 21 – Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 6pm, featured groups on Sky Sports Golf from 2.15pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 3.30pm

Thursday 22 – Sky Sports Golf from 6pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 10.30pm, featured groups on Sky Sports Golf from 2.15pm

Friday 23 – Sky Sports Golf and Sky Sports Main Event from 6pm, featured groups on Sky Sports Golf from 2.15pm

Saturday 24 – Sky Sports Golf from 2pm

Sunday 25 – Sky Sports Golf from 3pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 6.30pm

Not a Sky Sports customer and want to watch the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play?

Why not buy a Now TV pass? For £7.99 you can get a day pass if you wish to watch one of the rounds or, for just £12.99, you can get a week pass to see the whole tournament.

Buy a Now TV Sky Sports Day Pass for £7.99
Buy a Now TV Sky Sports Week Pass for £12.99

Players to watch:

Dustin Johnson – The defending champion enjoys this course and was never down in a match over this layout last year. He’ll be tough to beat this time out.

Thomas Pieters – The powerful Belgian showed his match play strength in the 2016 Ryder Cup. He’s a match for anybody and could sneak through his quarter of the draw.

Paul Casey – A former runner-up in this event, Casey is on great form following his win in the Valspar. He’ll come into this event with great confidence.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat – Another man on good form, he was tied for fifth in the WGC-Mexico Championship. He’s excellent at match play too – He won the Paul Lawrie Match Play in 2015 and this season’s World Super 6 Perth.

Key holes: The stretch from the 12th to the 14th can be crucial. The 12th is a reachable par-5 with water threatening, the next is a short par-4 that should yield birdies but, again, the water is a factor, then the 14th is a testing par-4 and we could see pars winning the hole on this one.