McIlroy, Burns & Smith among those side-stepping Match Play

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McIlroy, Burns & Smith among those side-stepping Match Play

Rory McIlroy (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy, Players champion Cam Smith and new Valspar champion Sam Burns will be all noticeable absentees from this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

With the top-64 taking aim at Austin Country Club ahead of the first round of matches on Wednesday, McIlroy is one of six players from the rankings to opt out of the $12million, five-day Texas event.

In order to best prepare for another crack at the Grand Slam at next month’s Masters, McIlroy has elected to practice at home, not ruling out a possible recon mission to Augusta National before returning to action at the Valero Texas Open the week before the Masters.

It will be the first time in eight years that he will play the week prior to the year’s first major. McIlroy’s only other appearance at the Valero Texas Open came in 2013, when the tournament also was held the week prior to the Masters. He shot a final-round 66 to finish two shots back of Martin Laird, then went on to finish T25 at Augusta National.

Aussie Smith meanwhile decided that family comes first following his emotional Players victory at TPC Sawgrass where his Mam and sister were in attendance having been apart for more than two years due to Covid.

“We had a long extended week at The Players and I just needed a little break,” Smith said in a statement. “I’m enjoying my last week with Mum and my sister Mel prior to them departing home for Australia.

“Came down to more time practicing ‘or’ an extra couple days with my family. Easy choice.”

Another recent winner, Sunday’s Valspar champion Sam Burns also released a statement to announce he wouldn’t be competing in Austin, no doubt still amidst celebrating his third win inside 11 months and one that saw him bolt to number 10 in the world golf rankings.

“I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. After three long weeks of golf, I feel that taking this week to rest and prepare for the busy stretch ahead is best,” Burns said via statement. “I appreciate the support and look forward to seeing everyone soon.”

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, who also missed out at The Players due to a niggling back injury, is also absent as he begins to sweat ahead of hopefully achieving full fitness prior to his Augusta defence.

Harris English is another player on the side-lines through injury while Phil Mickelson’s absence goes on following the fall-out from his Saudi related comments.

Interestingly, Bryson DeChambeau’s name remains in the mix for the tournament despite the American’s injury-ravaged campaign to date. DeChambeau will be anxious for game-time having last appeared during the Saudi international where he withdraw after just one round with a wrist injury.

Billy Horschel is this week’s defending champion with the Irish duo of Shane Lowry and Seamus Power both eyeing big weeks. Lowry, off the back of his tied-12th showing at the Valspar, is drawn in a group alongside Brooks Koepka, Harold Varner III and Erik van Rooyen while Power, who sits in 48th place in the world charts ahead of the March 28th top-50 Masters cut-off, grouped with Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell.

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