Storylines from Austin Country Club
First look at the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play
March 18, 2016
By Jeff Shain , PGATOUR.COM
- March 18, 2016
- Rory McIlroy looks to defend his title against a field featuring all but two of the top-50 players in the world . (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
• BRACKET CHALLENGE: Fill out your bracket when they're announced Monday, March 21. Sign up today.
• COURSE: Austin Country Club, 7,073 yards, par 71. Founded in 1899, Austin CC is believed to be the oldest golf club in Texas, though it has relocated twice since the end of World War II. Its current site overlooking Lake Austin has been home since 1984, when Pete Dye completed a design featuring two markedly different nines. The front nine is on higher ground and typical of the surrounding Texas hill country, while the “lowlands” nine runs alongside Lake Austin and should provide a spectacular backdrop for finishing matches. The WGC Dell Match Play is the first TOUR-related event in Austin since a PGA TOUR Champions stop from 2003-09. The city also was the original site of the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge from 1978-94.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 550 points.
• CHARITY: The First Tee is the primary beneficiary of World Golf Championships events. Four local charities also have been named as beneficiaries: The Austin Parks Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, Helping Hand Home for Children and Keep Austin Beautiful.
• FIELD WATCH: World No.1 Jordan Spieth, not far from his college stomping grounds, and defending champion Rory McIlroy head the brackets as all but two of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking head to Texas. … World No. 7 Henrik Stenson will sit out rather than play a fourth straight week, while Jim Furyk continues to recover from wrist surgery last month. Their absences open the door for Patton Kizzire and Thorbjorn Olesen. … Lee Westwood, who scraped into the field at No. 63 in the ranking, makes his 16th Match Play start to break a tie with Furyk atop the all-time list.
• LARGEST MARGIN OF VICTORY: 9 & 8, Tiger Woods def. Stephen Ames (1st round, 2006 at La Costa Resort & Spa).
• LONGEST MATCH: 26 holes, Mike Weir def. Loren Roberts (1st round, 2003 at La Costa), Scott Verplank def. Lee Westwood (1st round, 2006 at La Costa).
• LAST YEAR: McIlroy became the first No.1 seed since 2008 to win the Match Play, though he had to survive a trio of elimination scares before a relatively easy 4&2 win over Gary Woodland in the final. Though McIlroy trailed three times as he stood on TPC Harding Park’s 17th tee, he managed to escape each. He recovered from 2-down to beat Billy Horschel in 20 holes to advance from his group, took advantage of a Paul Casey error to win a 22-hole quarterfinal and finished birdie/birdie/eagle to beat Jim Furyk 1-up in the semifinals. The win was McIlroy’s 10th on the PGA TOUR, joining Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only men to reach double digits before age 26.
• STORYLINES: Spieth comes to familiar territory in something of a lull, now without a top-10 finish on U.S. soil since winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He reached the Match Play quarterfinals in 2014, but didn’t make the knockout stage last year. … McIlroy will try to join Woods (2003-04) as the WGC Match Play’s only back-to-back champions. He’s now 18-6 in the event, having also reached the final in 2012. … Each of the top 16 in Monday’s world rankings will be placed atop a group, with the other slots filled via blind draws from players ranked Nos. 17-32, Nos. 33-48 and the remainder. … A new tweak to the format will allow matches to be halved in the group stage, possibly creating fewer ties in the group standings.
• SHORT CHIPS: Unless there’s a last-minute withdrawal, the brackets won’t include former Match Play champion and Ryder Cup firebrand Ian Poulter. The Englishman hasn’t recorded a top-40 finish since January and now stands No. 67 in the rankings. … Kizzire, the Web.com Tour’s top player in 2015, is the only man to make his WGC debut here. Fourteen others will tee it up in their first WGC-Match Play.
• TELEVISION: Wednesday-Friday, 2-8 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (GC), 2-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (GC), 3-7 p.m. (NBC).
• PGA TOUR LIVE: Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. ET (featured groups), 4-8 p.m. (featured holes).
• RADIO: Wednesday-Friday, 2-8 p.m. ET. Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, noon-7 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com).