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Can Australian success continue at WGC Dell Match Play

Day is a former winner (Photo: Gettys )
It may be a new venue and a new naming rights sponsor but the WGC Dell Match Play Championship is essentially the same event that came into being in 1999 when it began its existence with a rather low key entrance.

Jeff Maggert defeated Andrew McGee that year and many were already wondering if such a format might work given the possibility of two relatively low profile golfers making the final.

Things have changed since then however with Tiger Woods a three times winner and once runner-up and Henrik Stenson, Jason Day and Matt Kuchar and Rory McIlroy amongst the more recent winners, providing the tournament with a real level of credibility.

The format was changed in 2015 with the 64-man field divided into four groups of 16 allowing for the possibility of the better player to survive longer into the tournament. Each group plays round-robin matches within their group on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The player with the best record in each of the four player groups advances to the Round of 16 for single-elimination match play (in the event of a two-way tie in a group, head-to-head match results are used as the tiebreaker; a three-way tie would require a sudden-death stroke play hole-by-hole-playoff).

The Round of 16 is played Saturday morning, followed by the Quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon. The Semi-finals were played Sunday morning, followed by the Championship Match and Consolation Match on Sunday afternoon.

The format reduces to some extent the chance of a 'bolter' winning given that he can only advance to the round of 16 after a gruelling three match contest to win his group.  

This year the event moves to Austin in Texas for the first time having been played in Marana and Tucson in Arizona, Carlsbad in California, San Francisco in California and Melbourne Australia since its inauspicious start.

The Austin Country Club is a Pete Dye designed layout in the City of Austin which is the capital of Texas.

Australians have won this title on three occasions, Geoff Ogilvy, twice, in addition to a runner-up finish also and two years ago Jason Day defeated Frenchman Victor Dubuisson.

Five Australians have made the field this year with Jason Day, Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Marcus Fraser and Matt Jones earning their way into the field by being inside the top 64 in the World Ranking.

Day heads group two where he will face Paul Casey, Thongchai Jaidee and Graeme McDowell and should get through although Casey has proven himself to be a very good match player in this and other similar events in the past with five top tens in his last six starts in this particular championship including being twice runner-up.

Day not only won in 2014 he made the semis a year earlier so this format has no real concerns for him.

Adam Scott, who has not reached the round of 16 in any of his last nine starts in this event after reaching the semis earlier in his career, heads group six and takes on Bill Haas and Europeans Chris Wood and Thomas Pieters.

Leishman, who advanced to the round of 16 last year, will face Sergio Garcia, Ryan Moore and Lee Westwood in his Round Robin series.

Fraser, who recently won the Malaysian Championship to essentially secure a place in this event, is ranked 60th in this week’s field and is up against Zach Johnson, Shane Lowry and Martin Kaymer.  

Defending champion Rory McIlroy should advance from his group of Kevin Na, Thorbjorn Olesen and Smylie Kaufman although it would be fair to say he was in slightly better form ahead of last year’s win than is the case this year. McIlroy has also finished runner-up in this event in 2012.

Jordan Spieth reached the quarter finals two years ago and then last year did not advance to the round of 16 from his round robin group. Spieth’s form of late has been below his best so his chances seem a little remote.

Louis Oosthuizen has reached the quarter finals in each of the last two years and given his recent form might well be one for longer odds.

Oosthuizen’s fellow countryman, Charl Schwartzel, has also played this event well enough making it to the round of 16 last year and generally making it well into the event in previous years also. His recent form has been very good so like Oosthuizen he might do well at longer odds.

As mentioned earlier, if Paul Casey is to continue his very impressive record here he will need to knock Jason Day out of the event before the weekend but don’t be surprised if he does. He has found some good form in recent weeks.

The event offers a fascinating departure from the norm as far as tournament golf is concerned and there is something about the knockout format that offers a point of difference that appeals to many.

The new format has eliminated to a large extent the chances an outsider winning the tournament but it is still a very wide open an intriguing contest.  








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