The best players in world golf head for Austin Country Club in Texas this week where Jason Day defends his WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play title.
A strong field has assembled to do battle for the second World Golf Championship title of the year. Jason Day is the defending champion and World Number 1 Dustin Johnson, on-form Rory McIlroy and two-time Major winner Jordan Spieth all start.
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.
There are some interesting match-ups in the group stages: Group 1 is made up entirely of Major winners – Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Martin Kaymer and Webb Simpson; Group 3 features defending champion Jason Day, last week’s winner of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Marc Leishman together with England’s Lee Westwood who will make his 17th start in the WGC-Match Play – he tops the all-time list for event starts. Group 6 could be a tough one with Justin Thomas the top seed, together with Matt Fitzpatrick, Kevin Na and Golf Monthly columnist Chris Wood.
First contested in 1999, the Match Play is one of the most exciting and unpredictable tournaments of the year. Upsets are always possible and there have been some unlikely winners over the year – Jeff Maggert and Kevin Sutherland for instance. Tiger Woods won three times and Geoff Ogilvy is a two-time winner.
Last year, Jason Day came through a great semi final match against Rory McIlroy and went on to see off Louis Oosthuizen in the final to claim his second Match Play title.
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.
The weather forecast looks relatively clear save for Friday when lightning is a possibility.
Venue: Austin Country Club, Austin, Texas
Date: Mar 22-26
Course stats: par 71, 7,108 yards
Purse: $9,750,000 Winner: $1,620,000
Defending Champion: Jason Day
Wednesday 22 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Thursday 23– Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Friday 24 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Saturday 25 – Sky Sports 4 from 2pm
Sunday 26 – Sky Sports 4 from 2pm
The top seeds will be big favourites but who might be a surprise package?
Tommy Fleetwood – The Englishman is on fine form and he played brilliantly in the last three rounds of last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational
Tommy Fleetwood swing sequence:
Thomas Pieters – One of the most powerful players out there, he proved in last year’s Ryder Cup that he is a great match player.
Jon Rahm – The Spaniard has burst on to the scene in recent months. He could continue his move toward the uppermost echelons of the game with a win here.
Marc Leishman – Last week’s winner, Leishman will look to continue that form into this week.
Key holes: The stretch from the 12th to the 14th could 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.