The PGA Tour makes its first trip to Texas of 2021, for this week’s WGC Dell Technologies Match Play Championship at Austin Country Club.
Just over 12 months ago the Match Play was one of the first events to be called off due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
But while a number of tournaments were re-scheduled later in the year, the Match Play was cancelled completely.
This will be the fifth time Austin has hosted the event, which features a select 64-man field taken directly from the Official World Ranking.
What was originally a straight knock-out tournament, the format was changed in 2015 to incorporate a round-robin group stage during the early part of this five-day event.
Order of play
Competitors are divided into 16 groups of four and, over the first three days (Wednesday-Thursday-Friday), will play one 18-hole match against each of the other members of their group.
Matches during this section of the tournament can be halved and, on Friday evening, the 16 group winners go forward to contest a weekend of knock-out ties.
If two or more players finish tied top of any group, they will take part in a sudden-death shoot-out to decide who qualifies for the Last 16.
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These Last 16 games take place on Saturday morning, followed by the Quarter-Finals in the afternoon.
Semi-finals and Final are staged on Sunday, meaning the eventual champion and runner-up will have played seven matches over five days.
Austin Country Club sits close to the Colorado River, some seven miles north-west of Austin City Centre, and approximately 12 miles south of Round Rock, where Dell Technologies has its international headquarters.
Designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1984, Austin is an undulating parkland course with plenty of danger and five par-four holes of less than 400 yards.
As a match play venue, there are numerous risk-reward opportunities to tempt the world’s elite. Water comes into play on seven holes, most of it on the back nine.
On the tee
The world’s top-11 ranked pros are all in attendance.
The highest-ranked golfer not travelling to Texas is four-time major champion Brooks Koepka, who is one of five qualified players not teeing-up in Austin.
The others are Gary Woodland, Adam Scott and Justin Rose, who are having a week off, plus the injured Tiger Woods.
Scott hasn’t played since 2016, while Rose has only turned up once during the past three outings.
As ever, match play golf is as much about momentum as anything else. It plays a huge part of the Ryder Cup, as it does in this event.
Lose your first tie, and already your chances of progressing to the knock-out stages have been taken out of your own hands.
Of those taking part this week, only one player – defending champ Kevin Kisner – managed to reach the quarter-finals in each of the past two tournaments.
And only nine of this year’s 64 survived the group stages in both 2018 and 2019, such is the apparent random nature of match play golf.
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So who stands out from the crowd?
Bryson DeChambeau: The world No 5 is in excellent form right now and if he can harness his immense power on a course where there are some short par-fours, this could give him a huge psychological advantage over his rivals. Could be quite intimidating in this form of golf.
Paul Casey: Appears to be back to his consistent best. The 43-year-old Englishman has not finished outside the top dozen in six starts this year, highlighted by a victory in Dubai. Casey is a two-time runner-up in this event – although not on this course. And despite the vagaries of match play golf, he has still managed to reach the Last 16 in seven of his last 10 starts.
Louis Oosthuizen: Similar to Casey, is another golfer who’s high-level of consistency can wear-down opponents. In his last six WGC Match Play appearances, has reached the quarter-finals four times – unheard of in this event. Only once during this period did he fail to survive the group stages.
Jon Rahm: Runner-up to Dustin Johnson in 2017 and when the mood takes him, he can play inspirational and devastating golf.
Collin Morikawa: Making his tournament debut this week, so won’t – for the time being at least – be weighed down by the baggage of previous match play nightmares.
Course Form page:
RU – Runner-Up; SF – Semi-Finalist; QF – Quarter-Finalist; L16 (beaten in last 16). Same applies for L32 and L64.
Gp-2 (finished second in group). Same applies for Gp-3 & Gp-4.
2016/19 – Austin; 2015 – Harding Park; 2011/14 – The Golf Club at Dove Mountain; 2010 – The Gallery GC at Dove Mountain.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
MC* – Missed Additional 54-Hole Cut
Note: List Contains Leading Reserves