Match Play the format that makes every day feel like a Sunday

Austin, Texas – Jordan Spieth has only been in serious competition once this year and he is certain that will change in the Dell Technologies Match Play.

He doesn’t even have to wait until the weekend.

Golf’s most unpredictable format begins Wednesday at Austin Country Club, starting with 16 groups of four before a winner advances to the knockout stage over the weekend. Still, every game feels important, and that’s what excites Spieth.

“You have more opportunities to play under pressure, especially if you go out in every game,” Spieth said.

“When you start hitting 13, 14 in a tight game, it feels like you’re trying to win a golf tournament against the person next to you and those feelings that you don’t usually have until Sundays,” he said. “The further you progress, the more you play almost Sunday rounds in competition, and these are priceless.”

Whether at his best or looking for his way back, Spieth has never made it to the quarter-finals. It could be worse. Xander Schauffele has never gotten out of group play in the three matchplay games.


Jon Rahm is number 1, which doesn’t guarantee much. Since matchplay began in 1999, only three No. 1 seeded players have won – Dustin Johnson in 2017, Rory McIlroy in 2015 and Tiger Woods all three wins (2003, 2004, 2008).

The most famous moment for Woods came in 2006, his last year at La Costa, when Stephen Ames, last in the 64-man field, thought he had a chance against Woods, jokingly adding: “Especially where he hits the ball. “Woods won, 9 and 8, still the largest margin in tournament history.

The story gets better. In Arizona the following year, Ames opened with Robert Karlsson and the match was over after 11 holes. Ames defeated him by 8 and 7 points for the second-largest loss in tournament history. He called home in Canada after the game and his wife was surprised to hear from him so soon. Imagine her surprise when she found out he wasn’t coming home.

This is nothing like March Madness. Anyone can be St. Peters and no one would call it a fuss.


“There will be a lot of people out there who will probably be thinking after Friday, ‘I didn’t play bad at all.’ And they don’t get through,” said Rahm.

Patrick Cantlay can attest to that. He had 14 birdies and two eagles in two matches last year, both over the distance. He lost in the third round and had to face Brian Harman, whom he had beaten on day one, in a sudden death to win the group. Harman hit him.

There are still a few interesting matches over the next three round-robin days, like Rahm versus Patrick Reed on Friday. Spieth belongs to a group of great champions – Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship), Adam Scott (Masters) and Justin Rose (US Open).

And then there’s Scottie Scheffler, the runner-up in his matchplay debut a year ago. Most recently, he was in matchplay at the Ryder Cup six months ago, where he won 2-0-1. Over the next three days he plays European members Ian Poulter, Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.


Revenge on the Ryder Cup?

“I hope not,” said Scheffler. “That would be bad news for me.”

Scheffler faced Poulter in the fourth round last year and defeated him in 14 holes. Alongside beating Rahm in the quarterfinals, it was a feat highlighted by Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker, who used his final wildcard pick against Scheffler.

Does this week really matter? Probably not. Scheffler isn’t sure anyone can declare a player a matchplay specialist simply for surviving the seven matches required to win.

“I just think you see the guys play well in stroke play events, they’ll probably play well here too,” Scheffler said.

Dustin Johnson is an example of this. He beat Rahm in the 2017 championship game for his third straight win, two of them at golf world championships. Nobody played better. He was the big favorite at the Masters, except for sliding down the stairs of his Augusta, Georgia rental home, twisting his back and never getting to the first tee.


The Masters is two weeks away, and this is the final week for players who haven’t already made the top 50 to earn a trip to Augusta National.

The calendar is also a reason why not all of the top 64 in the world are in Austin. Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns and Cameron Smith chose not to play. McIlroy didn’t want Match Play to be his last start before the Masters, while Burns and Smith wanted to pick up wins and rest. Two others, Hideki Matsuyama and Harris English, are recovering from injury. Phil Mickelson is recovering from his Saudi comments and won’t even play the Masters.

In their place are six equal players.


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Joel McCord

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