One of my favorite events on the PGA Tour takes place this week with the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
The event has a new name, a new venue (a spectacular one at that) and a new format.
Unlike past years where the tournament featured a lose-you-go-home format from the start, this year will be different, with each of the 64 players in the field assured three matches apiece in the 16-group round robin.
The player with the best record after group play will advance to Saturday's Round of 16.
TPC Harding Park, which hosted the Presidents Cup in 2009 and will host the 2020 PGA Championship and 2025 Presidents Cup, takes over as the home of the Match Play Championship, which had been played at Dove Mountain in Tucson since 2009.
Here are the five players you'll want to keep an eye on at TPC Harding Park this week.
5. Paul Casey
Best finish in 2014-15 season: T2 at Northern Trust Open (playoff)
Reason to watch: Casey has steadily been rising in the Official World Golf Ranking this season, entering this week at No. 37. A runner-up in 2009 and 2010 at the Match Play, Casey is riding the confidence of consecutive top-10 finishes, including a T6 at the Masters, this week. In group play, Casey will square off against Chris Kirk, Adam Scott and Francesco Molinari. I like Casey to come out on top of that group and perform well on the weekend.
4. Henrik Stenson
Best finish in 2014-15 season: Second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Reason to watch: Stenson won the Match Play in 2007 and finished third in 2008. Since then, however, the towering Swede has struggled mightily in this particular event, making it to the second round just once since 2008 (in 2014). Stenson should embrace the new format. This will be Stenson's first start since his T19 at the Masters, where he fought off the lingering effects of the flu the first couple of days. Presumably healthy now, Stenson heads into this week having finished in the top 4 in three of his last four starts. The only thing he's missing this year is a win. This could be the week. Stenson gets John Senden, Brendon Todd and Bill Haas in group play. (UPDATE: Reports out of San Francisco from GolfChannel.com say Stenson has dropped 20 pounds and still recovering from a second bout of the flu after returning home from the Masters. He hadn't picked up a club since the Masters until this past weekend.)
3. Patrick Reed
Best finish in 2014-15 season: Won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Ever since his outstanding individual performance in an otherwise forgettable 2014 Ryder Cup for the U.S. -- Reed, a rookie, went 3-0-1 -- I've been fired up to see Reed in the match play format again. Well, this is the week. Andy Sullivan, Ryan Moore and Danny Willett will square off with Reed in group play. Moore -- a former U.S. Amateur champ and two-time U.S. Amateur Public Links champ -- could be a problem. Assuming Reed advances through his group, who wouldn't love to see this on the weekend?
2. Jason Day
Best finish in 2014-15 season: Won the Farmers Insurance Open
Reason to watch: The defending champ after outlasting Frenchman Victor Dubuisson in an epic final a year ago, Day has been outstanding thus far in the new season, racking up four top-10 finishes in eight starts, highlighted by his win at Torrey Pines. Before his win a year ago in the Match Play, Day finished third in 2013. Charley Hoffman, Zach Johnson and Branden Grace are all standing in Day's way for group play. It certainly won't be a walk in the park to get through, but if he does -- look out.
1. Dustin Johnson
Best finish in 2014-15 season: Won WGC-Cadillac Championship
Reason to watch: In the prior Match Play format -- and it's almost impossible for me to believe -- Johnson played on six occasions, making it out of the first round just once when he was eliminated in the Round of 16 in 2012. Like Stenson, I have a feeling Johnson will embrace this new format. With his mind-blowing power, you'd think Johnson would do better in this format, which demands one take chances. With top-10 finishes in five of his eight starts this season, I love the way Johnson is playing these days. The biggest issue I see in group play for Johnson is Dubuisson (he'll also face Matt Jones and Charl Schwartzel). As we saw in 2014, Dubuisson can be Seve Ballesteros-like when his back's against the wall.
5. Billy Horschel -- T48
4. Justin Thomas -- T12
3. Seung-Yul Noh -- W/D
2. Dustin Johnson -- T43
1. Justin Rose -- Winner