Ranking the Round of 16 players
March 23, 2018
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
Highlights from Round 3 of Dell Match Play
AUSTIN, Texas — It's time to shuffle up and deal. With the Round of 16 set at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, PGATOUR.COM's Jonathan Wall ranked the 16 players left in the field based on current form and how they've fared after three days of play at Austin Country Club.
1. Alex Noren, Sweden: Last year's quarterfinalist has trailed for just two of the 48 holes he's played this week. Took out an in-form Tony Finau by making big putts down the stretch, including a 14-footer on the last to close it out. Leads the field in strokes gained: putting and has recorded just one bogey this week. Don't forget he already has a runner-up (Farmers Insurance Open) and third-place (The Honda Classic) finish this year.
Next opponent: Patrick Reed.
2. Justin Thomas, USA: Looks like a completely different player after only winning one match the last two years. Hasn't trailed this week in 48 holes and has form on his side with a win and runner-up finish in his last two starts. Match play is a different beast, but Thomas hasn't skipped a beat this season.
Next opponent: Si Woo Kim
3. Patrick Reed, USA: Reed's match play pedigree alone is enough to rank him inside the top-3. Went undefeated in group play and downed Jordan Spieth to make the knockout stage. Hasn't advanced beyond the Round of 16 since the event went to a round-robin format in 2015, but he's peaking at the right time.
Next opponent: Alex Noren.
4. Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thailand: Looks right at home in his second appearance and has only trailed for one hole (out of 49) this week. Was victorious earlier this year at the World Super 6 Perth that features a match play final round. Defeated last year's Match Play runner-up Jon Rahm to advance.
Next opponent: Charles Howell III
5. Ian Poulter, England: Thrives on the pressure of match play. Poulter's return to the Odyssey mallet he used to win the 2016 Ryder Cup has fueled an impressive run that's seen him win all three of his matches before the 18th hole.
Next opponent: Louis Oosthuizen
6. Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa: The 2016 runner-up advances to the knockout stage for the third time in four years. Ranks sixth this week in strokes gained: putting while recording 15 birdies. Made it through a tough group that included Jason Day, Jason Dufner and James Hahn.
Next opponent: Ian Poulter
7. Sergio Garcia, Spain: Has embraced the windy conditions at Austin Country Club. Leads the field in birdies (18) and ranks second in strokes gained: off the tee. Posted a spotless 3-0-0 record despite trailing after nine holes in all three matches.
Next opponent: Kyle Stanley
8. Bubba Watson, USA: Moves on to the knockout stage for the second straight year. Battled from 2-down with three holes to play to earn a halve against Julian Suri to advance. Game seems to be clicking on all cylinders since his Genesis Open win. Has the creativity to deal with the blustery conditions.
Next opponent: Brian Harman
9. Matt Kuchar, USA: Kuchar needed just 14 holes to defeat Ross Fisher on Friday in a must-win situation. Qualified for the knockout stage for the second time in the last three years. Only player in the field who recorded a hole-in-one this week.
Next opponent: Kevin Kisner
Shot of the Day
Matt Kuchar's ace on No. 7 is the Shot of the Day
10. Charles Howell III, USA: Ended all three matches before the 18th hole while going 3-0-0 in a group that included Phil Mickelson and Rafa Cabrera Bello. Second consecutive year he's made the Round of 16 despite recording just eight birdies.
Next opponent: Kiradech Aphibarnrat
11. Si Woo Kim, Korea: THE PLAYERS Championship winner gets a red-hot Justin Thomas after getting through Group 15. Tends to play well on Pete Dye golf courses. Has yet to trail in the 51 holes he's played. Recorded 15 birdies so far this week.
Next opponent: Justin Thomas
12. Cameron Smith, Australia: Smith has gone the distance in all three of his matches this week. Made it out of the group stage in his first Match Play appearance.
Next opponent: Tyrrell Hatton
13. Kevin Kisner, USA: Trailed for just two holes in the three matches he's played. Ranks fourth in driving accuracy. Defeated Dustin Johnson to move to the next round.
Next opponent: Matt Kuchar
14. Brian Harman, USA: Defeated Rory McIlroy to make the Round of 16 in his first Match Play start. Faces another fellow left-hander in Bubba Watson.
Next opponent: Bubba Watson
15. Kyle Stanley, USA: Two of his three matches went the distance. One of the best ball-strikers on the PGA TOUR, Stanley has the game to give Sergio Garcia a tough match.
Next opponent: Sergio Garcia
16. Tyrrell Hatton, England: Recorded the fewest birdies (6) of any player who advanced. Managed to move on despite leading for only four holes (out of 32) in his last two matches.
Next opponent: Cameron Smith
THREE MATCHES TO WATCH
Alex Noren, Sweden vs. Patrick Reed, USA
Based on the way Noren and Reed have played, this feels like a championship match. Both moved their way through group play without losing a match and have been making big putts when it counts. Expect a tightly contested battle that likely goes down to the last hole.
Bubba Watson, USA vs. Brian Harman, USA
The former Georgia Bulldogs square off in a match between the only left-handed players remaining in the field. Harman comes in with six top 10s in his last 10 starts while Watson recorded a win last month at the Genesis Open. Given their current form, it's difficult to pick a favorite between these two. Watson obviously has the length advantage, but Harman was able to take out Rory McIlroy on Friday with relative ease.
Justin Thomas, USA vs. Si Woo Kim, Korea
Neither player has trailed at any point this week, so something has to give. Thomas is playing like the second-ranked player in the world this week and disposed of Francesco Molinari without breaking a sweat during their winner-take-all match. Kim has the game to hang with Thomas, but he'll need to make sure it stays tight on the front nine. If Kim has something going for him, it's that he seems to play his best golf on Pete Dye courses.