Group previews, predictions for WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
March 20, 2018
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- March 20, 2018
Inside the PGA TOUR
WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play preview
AUSTIN, Texas -- A quick look at each of the 16 groups that will be in action for the first three days this week at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, along with the tournament records for each of the 64 players in the field.
In addition, seven members of the PGATOUR.COM team have predicted their group winners. The seven experts making predictions are staff writers Ben Everill, Sean Martin, Mike McAllister and Cameron Morfit; fantasy writers Rob Bolton and Mike Glasscott; and equipment writer Jonathan Wall.
Those 16 players who advance out of the group stage will play in single-elimination action this weekend, with the champion decided on Sunday afternoon.
Players are listed by their seed, with WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play record in parentheses.
1. Dustin Johnson, USA (14-9-0)
32. Kevin Kisner, USA (3-3-0)
38. Adam Hadwin, Canada (First appearance)
52. Bernd Wiesberger, Austria (3-6-1)
The move to Austin Country Club has been huge for defending champ Johnson; he's 10-2 in the two years here after a middling record of 4-7 in his seven previous appearances on other courses. He never trailed at any point last year and in fact led after 94 percent of the holes he played. Kisner and Hadwin have Presidents Cup experience but it'll be a big surprise if DJ doesn't emerge from this group.
7 votes for Johnson (Bolton, Everill, Glasscott, Martin, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
2. Justin Thomas, USA (1-5-0)
21. Francesco Molinari, Italy (2-10-0)
48. Patton Kizzire, USA (1-1-2)
60. Luke List, USA (First appearance)
Thomas' lone win in six matches in Austin came last year against Chris Wood. Of course, he's never been in the kind of form he's displayed since then and already has two wins this season, as well as a playoff loss to Phil Mickelson at the World Golf Championships event in Mexico. Kizzire also has won twice this season, and Thomas and Kizzire rank 1 and 2, respectively, in the FedExCup standings.
5 votes for Thomas (Bolton, Everill, Glasscott, Martin, McAllister)
1 vote for Molinari (Wall)
1 vote for List (Morfit)
3. Jon Rahm, Spain (6-1-0)
28. Kiradech Alphibarnrat, Thailand (2-2)
43. Chez Reavie, USA (First appearance)
63. Keegan Bradley, USA (1-6)
Rahm reached the finals in his first appearance last year before losing to Johnson 1-up after a tremendous rally. He obviously has good vibes around this place, and has three group members with little success in this event. Incidentally, Rahm needed just 90 holes to win his first six matches last year, and his 7-and-5 win over Soren Kjeldsen was the biggest margin of victory in any match a year ago.
7 votes for Rahm (Bolton, Everill, Glasscott, Martin, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
4. Jordan Spieth, USA (9-4-1)
19. Patrick Reed, USA (6-5-1)
34. Haotong Li, China (First appearance)
49. Charl Schwartzel, South Africa (13-9-0)
Will the showdown between Team USA teammates Spieth and Reed on Friday - perhaps the most anticipated group match after Monday's random draw - actually mean something? Both will need to avoid stumbles in their first two matches. Schwartzel, however, has never made much noise in his nine Match Play appearances, and Li is making his debut in this event.
5 votes for Reed (Bolton, Glasscott, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
2 votes for Spieth (Everill, Martin)
5. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan (6-5-1)
30. Patrick Cantlay, USA (First appearance)
46. Cameron Smith, Australia (First appearance)
53. Yusaku Miyazato, Japan (First appearance)
Matsuyama has failed to get out of group play in his two starts in Austin and has never made much noise in his first Match Play appearances. He has three Match Play rookies in his group, but Cantlay and Smith already have had success on TOUR.
5 votes for Cantlay (Glasscott, Martin, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
2 votes for Smith (Bolton, Everill)
6. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland (22-8-1)
18. Brian Harman, USA (First appearance)
44. Jhonattan Vegas, Venezuela (2-1-0)
57. Peter Uilhein, USA (First appearance)
McIlroy is usually a force in this event (he won in 2015, was runner-up in 2012, and reached the semifinals in 2016) and obviously comes in with momentum from his win at Bay Hill. Harman and Uilhein had match play success during their amateur days, and perhaps can draw on that this week to knock off one of the heavy favorites.
7 votes for McIlroy (Bolton, Everill, Glasscott, Martin, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
7. Sergio Garcia, Spain (19-17-1)
20. Xander Schauffele, USA (First appearance)
41. Dylan Frittelli, South Africa (First appearance)
62. Shubhankar Sharma, India (First appearance)
In his 15 previous Match Play appearances, Garcia has made a deep run just one time (2010 when he reached the consolation finals). He's failed to get out of group play since the format change in 2015, but now he has local ties, is a major champion - and has three players in his group who have never played this event. He has to be the favorite on paper, but it may not be that easy against three young players all eager to take down the Masters champ.
4 votes for Garcia (Martin, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
2 votes for Schauffele (Bolton, Everill)
1 vote for Sharma (Glasscott)
8. Jason Day, Australia (21-9-0)
25. Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa (17-8-0)
42. Jason Dufner, USA (4-9-1)
56. James Hahn, USA (First appearance)
Day and Oosthuizen battled in the 2016 championship match when Austin Country Club hosted the event for the first time. Day won 5 and 4, and it won't be a surprise to see those two battle for the group title on Friday. Day won all seven matches during his romp to the title two years ago, and only played six holes in his first match last year before withdrawing to deal with family issues.
7 votes for Day (Bolton, Everill, Glasscott, Martin, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
9. Tommy Fleetwood, England (4-4-0)
26. Daniel Berger, USA (1-5-0)
33. Kevin Chappell, USA (1-2-0)
58. Ian Poulter, England (23-14-0)
Poulter is the lowest seeded player in the group but he has the most skins on the wall, having won the Match Play in 2010 and reached the consolation final in 2013. This will be his first appearance in Austin, though. This group could be the most intriguing of all, given Fleetwood's form and President Cuppers Berger and Chappell. "It's a brilliant group," said Paul Casey.
4 votes for Fleetwood (Glasscott, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
2 votes for Chappell (Bolton, Martin)
1 vote for Berger (Everill)
10. Paul Casey, England (20-12-1)
31. Matthew Fitzpatrick, England (3-3-0)
45. Kyle Stanley, USA (1-1-0)
51. Russell Henley, USA (2-3-0)
Casey certainly goes in as the favorite in this group due to his track record in this event (two championship appearances, albeit on a different course) and his form (recent win at Valspar Championship). Casey won all three matches in group stage last year in Austin, so he seems to be warming to the course. "I've avoided sort of a monster group," Casey acknowledged. Stanley is making his first start here in six years.
7 votes for Casey (Bolton, Everill, Glasscott, Martin, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
11. Marc Leishman, Australia (5-6-1)
23. Branden Grace, South Africa (5-7-0)
35. Bubba Watson, USA (14-8-2)
64. Julian Suri, USA (First appearance)
Leishman and Grace have both shown their mettle at the Presidents Cup, but that success hasn't translated to this event. Watson reached the consolation finals in his first appearance in 2011 but hasn't done much in his six appearances since then, although he did win his group last year. Suri is the last player in the field, a late entry after Joost Luiten withdrew.
3 votes for Leishman (Everill, Martin, Morfit)
3 votes for Grace (Bolton, McAllister, Wall)
1 vote for Watson (Glasscott)
12. Tyrrell Hatton, England (2-1-0)
22. Charley Hoffman, USA (3-4-0)
36. Brendan Steele, USA (1-1-1)
55. Alexander Levy, France (0-3-0)
A wide-open group on paper, although Hatton certainly comes off a strong performance in Mexico with a T-3 finish. But none of the four have substantial success or experience in this event. This will be Hoffman's first match play tournament since appearing in the Presidents Cup last year, so it will be interesting to see if that experience will help him this week.
3 votes for Hoffman (Bolton, Glasscott, Martin)
2 votes for Hatton (Everill, Wall)
2 votes for Steele (McAllister, Morfit)
13. Alex Noren, Sweden (5-3-0)
29. Tony Finau, USA (First appearance)
39. Thomas Pieters, Belgium (2-2-2)
61. Kevin Na, USA (3-4-1)
Noren reached the quarterfinals last year before losing to eventual champion Johnson, and Na also won his group a year ago. In the last two years in Austin, Na has beaten Justin Thomas and halved with Rory McIlroy, so that could give him confidence. Finau and Pieters are big hitters, and seeing Johnson win last year may provide a gameplan for navigating Austin Country Club.
3 votes for Pieters (Everill, Morfit, Wall)
2 votes for Noren (Bolton, Glasscott)
2 votes for Finau (Martin, McAllister)
14. Phil Mickelson, USA (22-13-0)
17. Rafa Cabrera Bello, Spain (8-4-1)
40. Satoshi Kodaira, Japan (First appearance)
59. Charles Howell III, USA (7-10-0)
Mickelson won the most recent World Golf Championships event in Mexico to end his five-year drought, and he reached the quarterfinals last year after four dominant wins. Howell won his group last year, beating Cabrera Bello 1 up along the way, so the Spaniard gets a chance to avenge that loss on Thursday. Cabrera Bello reached the semifinals in 2016 before losing to Louis Oosthuizen.
6 votes for Cabrera Bello (Bolton, Everill, Glasscott, Martin, McAllister, Wall)
1 vote for Mickelson (Morfit)
15. Pat Perez, USA (3-3-0)
24. Gary Woodland, USA (7-5-0)
37. Webb Simpson, USA (7-7-0)
50. Si Woo Kim, Korea (1-1-1)
Perez's 2017 appearance was his first in this event in eight years, and he failed to advance out of group play. Simpson has failed to get out of group play in two appearances since the format change. Woodland reached the championship final in 2015, losing to Rory McIlroy, but did not get out of group play last year. Kim, the reigning PLAYERS champ, has not been in contention in his first five WGC appearances.
4 votes for Woodland (Everill, McAllister, Morfit, Wall)
3 votes for Simpson (Bolton, Glasscott, Martin)
16. Matt Kuchar, USA (21-8-2)
27. Ross Fisher, England (8-6-0)
47. Yuta Ikeda, Japan (0-4-1)
54. Zach Johnson, USA (14-14-0)
Kuchar won this event in 2013 when it was held in Arizona, but hasn't made a deep run since. Fisher reached the consolation match in his first appearance in 2009, and he made some noise last year before losing to the quarterfinals, so he has a tendency to make noise in this event. Johnson has won his group in each of the previous two years in Austin, so he'll look to extend that streak.
3 votes for Johnson (Bolton, Glasscott, Martin)
2 votes for Kuchar (Morfit, Wall)
2 votes for Fisher (Everill, McAllister)