The best players in world golf head for Austin Country Club in Texas this week where Rory McIlroy defends the WGC-Dell Match Play title.

This year’s WGC-Dell Match Play is being contested at a new venue – Austin Country Club in Texas. It’s 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.

Unlike previous instalments of the Match Play, particularly those at Dove Mountain between 2009 and 2014, this course is not monstrously long. Just over 7,000 yards, the emphasis this week will be on placement from the tee to find the best areas to attack the tricky greens.

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

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. Darren Clarke famously beat Tiger Woods in the final of 2000.

Tiger Woods won three times and the only other player to win more than once is Geoff Ogilvy – 2006 and 2009.

Last year at Harding Park in San Francisco, Rory McIlroy came out on top. He squeezed past Billy Horschel to win his group before seeing off Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Jim Furyk and finally Gary Woodland to take the title.

Rory McIlroy defends the WGC-Dell Match Play title and will be up against Kevin Na, Smylie Kaufman and Thorbjorn Olesen in the group stage.

There are some interesting match-ups in the groups. World Number 1 Jordan Spieth is in group 1 together with his great friend Justin Thomas, while Jason Day will have renowned match players Paul Casey and Graeme McDowell to get past. Other interesting groups include Group 9 where Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson and youngsters Matt Fitzptarick and Daniel Berger will fight it out, and group 13 featuring Sergio Garcia, Marc Leishman, Ryan Moore and Lee Westwood.

Venue: Austin Country Club, Austin, Texas
Date: Mar 23-27
Course stats: par 72, 7,073 yards
Purse: $9,500,000    Winner: $1,620,000
Defending Champion: Rory McIlory

TV Coverage:
Wednesday 23 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Thursday 24 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Friday 25 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Saturday 26 – Sky Sports 4 from 2pm

Player watch:

Patrick Reed – A tenacious competitor, Reed showed his matchplay mettle in the 2014 Ryder Cup. If he gets his hackles up, he’s tough to beat over an 18-hole sprint.

Rickie Fowler – He’s another good match player and was third in this event two seasons ago. He was second in Phoenix, sixth in the Honda and eighth in the Cadillac Championship.

Rickie Fowler swing sequence:

Adam Scott – The Australian has been on superb form of late and there’s no reason to think this won’t continue this week.

Paul Casey – He’s also been on a decent run of form with top-10s in the Cadillac Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational. He’s enjoyed a good record in the Match Play. He was second in 2009 and 2010 and was a quarter finalist last year.

Click here for the betsafe guide to strategic golf betting written by Fergus Bisset

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.