Rory McIlroy tees-up over the opening three days of round robin competition in this week’s WGC – Dell Match-Play Technologies championship a likely favourite to win through to the final 16 in Austin, Texas.
The new World No. 7, fresh from a stunning Arnold Palmer Invitational success, has been drawn to first compete on Wednesday against American, World No. 57, Peter Uhlein before then facing another American in Brian Harman (World No. 18) on day two and then Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas (World No. 44) on Friday.
The top points scorer in each of the 16 groups will go through to the last 16 in a pure match-play format.
A year ago, McIlroy was both a shock first and second day loser and then ended-up playing a ‘nothing counts’ third day match to be unceremoniusly bundled out of the $1om event in the Texas capital.
The field of 64 has been split into 16 groups of four, with the players facing off over 18 holes of match play in a round robin over the first three days and the winner of each group advancing to the knockout stages at the weekend.
Defending Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood will come up against some serious match play experience in 2010 champion and Ryder Cup veteran Ian Poulter, with Group 9 completed by Americans Daniel Berger and Kevin Chappell.
“It’s a World Match Play, you’re not going to get any easy draws,” said Fleetwood. “I’m happy to play anyone. I know all three of the guys well and I’ve known Ian pretty well over the last couple of years so it will be nice to play against them.”
Austrian giant Bernd Wiesberger finds himself in the elite Group 1 facing defending champion and World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, and then American Kevin Kisner and Canada’s Adam Hadwin.
Last year’s runner-up, Jon Rahm, will face a fellow European Tour Member who has already tasted match-play glory this season in ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth champion Kiradech Aphibarnrat. American duo Chez Reavie and Keegan Bradley complete Group 3.
One of the standout matches on day one will be the all-Texas duel of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed and there is another all-Englosg affair in group 10 with g Paul Casey to face Matthew Fitzpatrick set to face-off against each other.
The first name in each group was determined by their world ranking. The other three were drawn randomly. Player seeds are in parentheses.
GROUP 1: Dustin Johnson (1), Kevin Kisner (32), Adam Hadwin (38), Bernd Wiesberger (52) … The defending champ gets a tough group that includes 2017 Presidents Cup teammate Kisner along with International member Hadwin. Wiesberger won two matches last year but failed to get out of group stage.
GROUP 2: Justin Thomas (2), Francesco Molinari (21), Patton Kizzire (48), Luke List (60) … For Thomas and List, it’s a renewal of their playoff at The Honda Classic, won by Thomas. Kizzire, like Thomas, has already won twice on the PGA TOUR this year. Molinari has struggled in this event.
GROUP 3: Jon Rahm (3), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28), Chez Reavie (43), Keegan Bradley (63) … “Certainly not an easy group,” said Rahm, last year’s finalist. Reavie is playing well on TOUR and Aphibarnrat recently won the World Super 6 Perth event.
GROUP 4: Jordan Spieth (4), Patrick Reed (19), Haotong Li (34), Charl Schwartzel (49) … Golf gods must have had some fun drawing Reed into the Spieth group, thus setting up a match between the two fiery American teammates. The veteran Schwartzel is always a tough out while Li is making his first appearance.
GROUP 5: Hideki Matsuyama (4), Patrick Cantlay (30), Cameron Smith (46), Yusaku Miyazato (53) … A very intriguing group. Matsuyama gets to play his fellow Japanese native in Miyazato. Cantlay and Smith are capable of big performances at any time. Will be a fun group to follow.
GROUP 6: Rory McIlroy (6), Brian Harman (18), Jhonattan Vegas (44), Peter Uihlein (57) … Fresh off his win at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, McIlroy should be flying high coming into this week. But Harman is fiesty and Vegas will have his fans as a former Texas player. Uilhein is making his Dell Match Play debut.
GROUP 7: Sergio Garcia (7), Xander Schauffele (20), Dylan Frittelli (41), Shubhankar Sharma (62) … The veteran Garcia, who now resides here with his wife and newborn child, will be tested by three young players — Schauffele, last year’s PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year; Frittelli, who won a NCAA title with the University of Texas; and Sharma, who played so well at the previous WGC event.
GROUP 8: Jason Day (8), Louis Oosthuizen (25), Jason Dufner (42), James Hahn (56) … This group is highlighted by the rematch of Day vs. Oosthuizen, who faced off in the 2015 final when the event was held in Austin for the first time. Day won that match 5 and 4.
GROUP 9: Tommy Fleetwood (9), Daniel Berger (26), Kevin Chappell (33), Ian Poulter (58) … Fleetwood failed to get out of group play last year and his road this year will be challenged by American President Cuppers Berger and Chappell along with match play demon Poulter. “It’s a good one, isn’t it?” Fleetwood said of his group.
GROUP 10: Paul Casey (10), Matthew Fitzpatrick (31), Kyle Stanley (45), Russell Henley (51) … Casey is a two-time runner-up in this event but playing great golf right now. Stanley is making his first appearance in this event since 2012 and Henley has an impressive match play record during his NCAA career. Fitzpatrick defeated Justin Thomas here last year.
GROUP 11: Marc Leishman (11), Branden Grace (23), Bubba Watson (35), Julian Suri (64) … Leishman and Grace are International Presidents Cuppers, while Watson has represented the U.S. multiple times. Suri is the last player in the field after Joost Luiten pulled out.
GROUP 12: Tyrrell Hatton (12), Charley Hoffman (22), Brendan Steele (36), Alex Levy (55) … Hatton and Levy have battled plenty of times on the European Tour, while Hoffman and Steele have done the same on the PGA TOUR. Hatton was T-3 in his last WGC start in Mexico.
GROUP 13: Alex Noren (13), Tony Finau (29), Thomas Pieters (39), Kevin Na (61) … Noren has a couple of heavy hitters in his group with Finau and Pieters. Na won his group last year, defeating Justin Thomas along the way.
GROUP 14: Phil Mickelson (14), Rafa Cabrera Bello (17), Satoshi Kodaira (40), Charles Howell III (59) … Mickelson had a good run last year before losing in the quarterfinals. Cabrera Bello is the highest-ranked Pool B player in the field and Kodaira is the second-highest ranked player from Japan. CH3 was knocked out in the Round of 16 last year.
GROUP 15: Pat Perez (15), Gary Woodland (24), Webb Simpson (37), Si Woo Kim (50) … Perez failed to get out of group stage last year and has friends Woodland (2015 finalist) and Simpson in his group, along with the reigning THE PLAYERS champion.
GROUP 16: Matt Kuchar (16), Ross Fisher (27), Yuta Ikeda (47) Zach Johnson (54) … The Kuchar-Johnson matchup will be a good match of the two longtime TOUR vets. Beware of Fisher, a group winner last year. Ikeda has yet to win a match in this eve