In WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, look out for groups featuring Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas
By Suzanne Halliburton
The WGC-Dell Technology Match Play championship sports a wonderful format.
The best golfers in the world will be on hand at Austin Country Club. And they'll play one-on-one against each other, starting Wednesday. There's no need to peak at what everyone else is doing. The field doesn't matter. You either win the hole or you don't.
"Players can be more aggressive," said Pat Perez, who is seeded 15th for the tournament. "You can really go for it. Before, it could cost you by missing a cut. Here, it'll just cost you a hole."
The 64-man field was divided into 16 groups, or pods, Monday night during a draw show at Hotel Van Zandt in downtown Austin. Local celebrities -- ranging from Michael Dell to Mack Brown to actor Luke Wilson -- helped with the draw. Each player, based on their world ranking, was assigned to an A, B, C or D pool.
Starting Wednesday morning, each of the groups plays a round robin format Wednesday through Friday. The winners of each pod move on to the round of 16 on Saturday, with quarterfinals following in the afternoon. The semifinals and finals are Sunday.
Dustin Johnson, the defending champion and world No. 1, is set to tee off Wednesday at 12:48 p.m. He'll meet Austria's Bernd Wiesberger, who is seeded 52nd. Johnson never trailed last year in his seven rounds, with his eventual victory in the finals over Jon Rahm.
Justin Thomas, who ranks second in the world, will meet Luke List, who is seeded 60th. Thomas already has won twice this season. The only other golfer who can make that claim is Patton Kizziere, who Thomas will play Thursday. Kizziere ended last season ranked 121 in the world. He's now up to a very deceptive 52nd.
There are other intriguing matchups for the tournament which features players from 19 countries and six worldwide pro tours.
Jordan Spieth, the former Texas Longhorn who is ranked fourth in the world, will play Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion. But his toughest match may come Friday when he takes on Patrick Reed, his Ryder Cup teammate. Haotong Li, the first golfer from China to compete in Austin, is the fourth member of the pod. He finished third at last year's British Open, two spots behind Spieth.
The group led by Sergio Garcia, the defending Masters champion and part-time Austin resident, also will include former Longhorn Dylan Frittelli, who is seeded 41st.
Jason Day, who won the tournament in 2016 when it made its Austin debut, drew a tough opening group. He's seeded eighth in Austin. His pod includes Jason Dufner, who won the 2013 PGA Championship, and Louis Oostheizen, who Day beat in the finals here in 2016.
Rory McIlroy, who won the event in 2015 when it was played in San Francisco, is seeded 11th. But McIlroy is riding high off his comeback win at last weekend's Arnold Palmer Invitational, his first victory since 2016. His group also includes Jhonattan Vegas, a former Texas star. McIlroy earned a spot in the semifinals in Austin in 2016, but didn't make it out of group play last year.
Tommy Fleetwood, who is in his first full season on the PGA Tour after excelling in Europe, is the top player in his group that also features Kevin Chappell, Daniel Berger and Ian Poulter.
Poulter is seeded only 58th in this week's tournament. But his nickname is the "Match Play Ninja" because he's so good at the format. He's played in five Ryder Cups.
Fleetwood joked that he needed to take a quick Karate course.
"Brilliant. Great," he said. "I've never played a Ninja in my life."
This article is written by Suzanne Halliburton from Austin American-Statesman and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.