Depending on the perspective, the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play presents either the shortest or longest wait that many in the field of 64 will experience in an event like it.
For one, the scheduled Wednesday start reduces the time off for anyone who competed on Sunday by one day. Naturally, anyone who put himself in this position knew in advance that this was going to be a reality when he arrived at Austin Country Club in Texas, but it's still an adjustment. At the same time, nowhere else are match-play opponents identified as many as two nights prior to the competition. The additional time can at least give good friends an opportunity to double down on smack talk for the head-to-head matchups.
It's within the playful spirit of the latter in which this Power Rankings is crafted.
It can be folly to slot golfers individually in the format of the Match Play, so the ranking itself has been simplified as a logical determination from the four I have emerging from each bracket in pursuit of the Walter Hagen Cup. For example, because Alex Noren is slotted fourth (or lowest among the semifinalists), Charley Hoffman is ranked fifth (or highest among the quarterfinalists) because they would meet in the quarterfinals. Similar, No. 8 Zach Johnson (lowest among the quarterfinalists) would meet No. 9 Dustin Johnson (highest of the eight who wouldn't advance from the round of 16). Golfers numbered 17-64 represent my subjective ranking of those who fail to advance from pool play.
Beneath the ranking, you'll find details about the course and numerous other nuggets covering the competition.
Power Rankings: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 16 Kevin Chappell 15 Branden Grace 14 Xander Schauffele 13 Patrick Reed 12 Cameron Smith 11 Webb Simpson 10 Rafa Cabrera Bello 9 Dustin Johnson 8 Zach Johnson 7 Jon Rahm 6 Justin Thomas 5 Charley Hoffman 4 Alex Noren 3 Paul Casey 2 Rory McIlroy 1 Jason Day
Power Rankings Continued
17. Louis Oosthuizen 18. Jordan Spieth 19. Brian Harman (first-timer) 20. Pat Perez 21. Phil Mickelson 22. Kiradech Aphibarnrat 23. Marc Leishman 24. Sergio Garcia 25. Bubba Watson 26. Tony Finau (first-timer) 27. Tommy Fleetwood 28. Charles Howell III 29. Dylan Frittelli (first-timer) 30. Luke List (first-timer) 31. Tyrrell Hatton 32. Alexander Levy (first-timer) 33. Hideki Matsuyama 34. Matt Kuchar 35. Adam Hadwin (first-timer) 36. Kevin Na 37. Kyle Stanley 38. Kevin Kisner 39. Charl Schwartzel 40. Brendan Steele 41. Daniel Berger 42. Peter Uihlein (first-timer) 43. Jhonattan Vegas 44. Patrick Cantlay (first-timer) 45. Jason Dufner 46. Ross Fisher 47. Russell Henley 48. Gary Woodland 49. Matthew Fitzpatrick 50. Francesco Molinari 51. Thomas Pieters 52. James Hahn (first-timer) 53. Keegan Bradley 54. Ian Poulter 55. Shubhankar Sharma (first-timer) 56. Satoshi Kodaira (first-timer) 57. Si Woo Kin 58. Patton Kizzire 59. Bernd Wiesberger 60. Yusaku Miyazato (first-timer) 61. Chez Reavie (first-timer) 62. Hao Tong Li (first-timer) 63. Yuta Ikeda 64. Julian Suri (first-timer)
As expected when it debuted as host of the Dell Technologies Match Play in 2016, the Austin Country Club has been a hit. Complete with a drivable par 4 (No. 13), it's scenic, playable and fun. On the scorecard, the par 35-36=71 tips at just 7,108 yards, which is to say that all shapes and sizes have a chance. However, while confident putters always demand respect in this format, long hitters thrived in the first two editions in Austin. This is why my bracket tilts toward that skill set.
With no intermediate rough and the thickest stuff measuring just two inches, prototypical ball-strikers will be pressured to volley with crisp approaches. Greens will run at about 12 feet on the Stimpmeter, which is quicker than many international non-members see regularly, so they'll be tested early and often on the TifEagle bermudagrass targets.
Each of the 64 in the field is guaranteed one match against each of the other three in his pool of four. The best record of the group advances to Saturday's fourth round, which begins the traditional knockout portion of the tournament. Pool play was introduced in 2015, but matches were not allowed to end in a tie until the tournament moved to Austin. Since, 14 golfers have opened 3-0-0, nine went 2-1-0 and survived, seven advanced after going 2-0-1 and two (both in 2016) wiggled free with records of 1-0-2.
In terms of seeds, 13 of the aggregate 32 survivors of pool play in the last two years emerged from the top layer of 16. Seven from the second layer advanced and six from both of the remaining two played on. No opening layer of 16 has been shut out and seven of the eight sets (four each in 2016 and 2017) yielded at least three survivors. Oddly, the only golfer to advance from those seeded 33-48 in 2016 — Ryan Moore — is also the only man to go 0-0-3 in either edition, as he did last year. Of the four who survived pool play both times, only the unrelated Johnsons — Dustin and Zach — are in this week's field.
The decision by six not to compete contributed to the fact that one-quarter of the field is making its tournament debut. Notables of that subset include 2016-17 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Brian Harman and Patrick Cantlay — all worthy of playing the role of spoiler from the second layer in their respective pools, albeit relatively speaking.
It wouldn't be a tournament in central Texas without wind. After Wednesday's mostly calm conditions when anyone thinking of pulling an upset is advised to capitalize, gusts upwards of 25 mph winds dent the forecast on Thursday and Friday. The remaining field of 16 will be greeted to a little more heat and humidity on Saturday morning when the threat of rain enters the picture. Similar conditions will sustain into Sunday when the daytime high will flirt with 90 degrees.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton covers numerous angles in between tournaments. Look for his following contributions this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings (Corales)
TUESDAY*: Power Rankings (Match Play), Fantasy Insider, One & Done (Match Play), Facebook Live
WEDNESDAY: One & Done (Corales)
THURSDAY: Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.