The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play returns to Austin Country Club for the second time, with Jason Day set to defend this particular title for the second time in his career. The rest of the PGA TOUR will head to Coco Beach Golf and Country Club for the Puerto Rico Open, where Tony Finau earned his first win a year ago.
We will get to the Puerto Rico Open on the final page, but the majority of our time will be focused on the WGC.
As this is a different format than we see any other week on the TOUR, this preview will be a bit different. It will take a look at each of the four-man groups for a snapshot analysis of the overall group. At the end, we’ll offer a top five in terms of those with a best chance to win taking into account their path out of the group format.
Last season was the first at Austin Country Club. The 7,108 yards of par-71 golf ended with Louis Oosthuizen coming up short in 5&4 fashion to Jason Day. Perhaps ironically, given the length of the course, bombers populated the final four which also included Rory McIlroy and Rafa Cabrera Bello. That should be considered when constructing this year’s brackets.
In addition to current form, overall match play pedigree in amateur golf, Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups and other match play events are a signal to a player’s ability to handle this format.
Here we go!
Group 1 – Dustin Johnson (1), Jimmy Walker (18), Martin Kaymer (41) and Webb Simpson (58)
Analysis: DJ is on fire and he advanced out of his pool last year. Kaymer went 2-1, but was unable to advance. While Walker is playing in his home state, he’ll have his work cut out for him against both DJ and Kaymer. Simpson is a bit of a wildcard.
Pick: Don’t overthink the obvious. Dustin Johnson
Group 2 – Rory McIlroy (2), Emiliano Grillo (26), Gary Woodland (33) and Soren Kjeldsen (62)
Analysis: Rory’s recent play suggests that he’ll be fine here, but Woodland is no slouch in match play and Grillo seemed to find his groove last week at Bay Hill. It would be a shock if Kjeldsen factored. This one should come down to the McIlroy v. Woodland match.
Pick: McIlroy, but not without stress.
Group 3 – Jason Day (3), Marc Leishman (28), Lee Westwood (43) and Pat Perez (56)
Analysis: It’s impossible to ignore how strong Day has been in this tournament, regardless of venue. He has plenty of match play experience in the Presidents Cup to boot. This group is sneaky, though. Leishman enters off a win, Westy will be a gritty veteran and Perez is playing the best golf of his life.
Pick: All of that said, I can’t imagine Day being knocked off unless his health comes into play.
Group 4 – Hideki Matsuyama (4), Louis Oosthuizen (23), Ross Fisher (47) and Jim Furyk (51)
Analysis: Jim Furyk is pretty tough for a D-Player. Matsuyama has had a few off starts of late, and he’s greeted by last year’s runner-up in Louis Oosthuizen. The Japanese star went 2-1 in pool play last year, but was ousted by Cabrera Bello.
Pick: King Louis wins it, but watch out for Furyk.
Group 5 – Jordan Spieth (5), Ryan Moore (32), Yuta Ikeda (37) and Hideto Tanihara (54)
Analysis: Spieth in a home game seems to be a no-brainer, but Moore is very dangerous in match play going back to his amateur days when he won a U.S. Amateur. Both made it to bracket play last year, with Spieth falling in the not-so-sweet 16 and Moore losing a round later.
Pick: Ryan Moore in the upset.
Group 6 – Justin Thomas (6), Matthew Fitzpatrick (27), Kevin Na (46) and Chris Wood (49)
Analysis: Na was the best of this bunch in this event last year, but didn’t make bracket play. JT and Wood both went 0-3 and Fitzpatrick was 1-2.
Pick: I’ll take my chances with Fitzpatrick, as this course clearly didn’t fit Thomas or Wood.
Group 7 – Sergio Garcia (7), Jon Rahm (21), Kevin Chappell (38) and Shane Lowry (53)
Analysis: The Garcia v. Rahm match will be one of the most anticipated of the entire tournament. Garcia is a known commodity in match play and Rahm is a stud from his native Spain. Chappell hasn’t played well since the birth of his child a few months ago, and Lowry isn’t in any sort of groove either.
Pick: Rahm has already been bursting onto the scene in 2017, so why not step it up another notch with the win!
Group 8 – Alex Noren (8), Francesco Molinari (25), Bernd Wiesberger (36), Thongchai Jaidee (57)
Analysis: This is our first look at a weak foursome. Anyone could win this one, but I’ll lean on the player with the most top-shelf experience.
Pick: Molinari (holding my nose)