Queenslander Adam Scott joins Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose as notable absentees from the US$9.75 million event, with most citing scheduling issues and a desire to play next week’s Houston Open instead where they are guaranteed at least two rounds of competitive stroke-play golf ahead of the Masters the following week.
Two-time WGC-Match Play winner, Jason Day, and the most recent winner on the PGA Tour, Marc Leishman, will fly the Australian flag this week.
Defending champion Day will look to join Tiger Woods as the only three-time winner of the event when he tees it up in round one and while he will be playing only his 6th event of 2017 and is currently playing below his best, his penchant for match play could well assist him in kick-starting his season.
Last year, Day defeated Louis Oosthuizen to win the title after defeating Rory McIlroy in the semi-final and, in 2014, he overcame a determined Victor Dubuisson to win the event for the first time.
The former World No. 1 also finished 3rd in the event in 2013 and made it to the round of 16 on debut in 2011.
Interestingly, despite Day's record, it is another Australian who has an even better one. Geoff Ogilvy has won this event twice and finished runner-up on one other occasion although Ogilvy will not be in this week’s field as he is outside the qualifying criteria.
Leishman will be playing the event for just the fourth occasion with his round of 16 appearance two years ago his best effort to date. The 33-year-old carries a lot of momentum into this week so his performance will be watched with interest ahead of a return to Augusta National.
The Australian chances are hampered somewhat by the fact that both Leishman and Day are in the same group and so with one only getting through from their group of four that means either Day and/or Leishman will be eliminated before the Round of 16.
World No. 1, Dustin Johnson, carries tremendous form but has generally struggled in this event having been knocked out in the first round in five of his eight appearances with his best effort being a quarter-final appearance last year when he lost to Oosthuizen.
Rory McIlroy must start as one of the favourites after his 4th place finish in Orlando last week which suggests he is playing close to his best and his record at the WGC-Match Play is very impressive.
The Northern Irishman has been a winner, runner-up and 4th place finisher in this event from eight previous starts.
Hideki Matsuyama currently leads the FedEx Cup standings in 2017 and has played reasonably well in his previous three starts in the WGC-Match Play including a round of 16 showing in 2015.
Jordan Spieth has made it to the quarters and the round of 16 in two of his three appearances in the event and is in the middle of a very consistent run of form. His Texan background might assist if things get windy as they can sometimes do in the state so look for him to be a factor.
The volatility of 18-hole match play contests where the leading 64 available players from the world rankings do battle can throw up some interesting results at any stage of the week. Any one of those in the field is capable of beating another on any given day and, to a large extent, is one of the attractions of the event.
There are often David and Goliath match-ups and some of the most notable have included Australians; Peter O’Malley, in 2002, and Nick O’hern, in 2005 and 2007, who each defeated Tiger Woods in his prime.
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