We return to Austin Country Club in Texas for the WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay. Sixty-four of the world's best will line up in 16 groups of four, with the world golf rankings determining the top 16 seeds and who will join them in each pot.
It's a Round Robin format beginning Wednesday with the top player from each group advancing to the round of 16 knockout stages. It was Jason Day - 17.00 - who emerged victorious in 2016 off the back of a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Day will be looking to find top gear again in the lead up to The Masters.
WGC Dell Technologies betting market
Local man Jimmy Walker - 67.00 - describes Austin Country Club as a track with a lot of fun holes with potential for birdies to be made. Jimmy has played this track more than most including some US Open qualifiers and junior events. Jordan Spieth - 11.00 - is the other notable with home ties having attended college nearby. Jhonattan Vegas - 150.00 - also attended the University of Texas and tees it up in Austin. Big names missing from this year's field are Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Rickie Fowler.
2016 semi-finalist Rory McIlroy leads the market at 7.50, while Dustin Johnson - 8.50 - bids to make it three wins in a row and also back-to-back WGC titles. Jon Rahm - 26.00 - is a superstar in the making and after such a strong amateur career could be one to watch in the Matchplay. Phil Mickelson is on record as saying he won't even play Rahm in a practice match! The Spaniard has been drawn with compatriot Sergio Garcia which is a match to whet the appetite.
The course - Austin Country Club
Austin CC plays just over 7,100 yards to a par of 71 after some minor tweaks since last year's renewal. It's a Pete Dye design described as a "complex challenge", with deep pot bunkers. Undulating terrain is a feature. Lake Austin is in play or in view on half the course. Fairways are narrow in spots and last year we saw some sticky Bermuda rough, while greens were rolling pure. There's no real premium in terms of attributes but it's more accuracy over power this week, with emphasis on shot making, and blue numbers should be plentiful. Wind was also a factor last year as it always is in Texas.
The Draw and seedings
Group 1: Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker (18), Martin Kaymer (41), Webb Simpson (58)
Group 2: Rory McIlroy, Emiliano Grillo (26), Gary Woodland (33), Soren Kjeldsen (62)
Group 3: Jason Day, Marc Leishman (28), Lee Westwood (43), Pat Perez (56)
Group 4: Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen (23), Ross Fisher (47), Jim Furyk (51)
Group 5: Jordan Spieth, Ryan Moore (32), Yuta Ikeda (37), Hideto Tanihara (54)
Group 6: Justin Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrick (27), Kevin Na (46), Chris Wood (49)
Group 7: Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm (21), Kevin Chappell (38), Shane Lowry (53)
Group 8: Alex Noren, Francesco Molinari (25), Bernd Wiesberger (36), Thongchai Jaidee (57)
Group 9: Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka (20), Kevin Kisner (34), Jason Dufner (59)
Group 10: Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera Bello (22), Jeunghun Wang (40), Charles Howell III (61)
Group 11: Danny Willett, Russell Knox (17), Bill Haas (42), K.T. Kim (64)
Group 12: Paul Casey, Charl Schwartzel (24), Byeong-Hun An (45), Joost Luiten (60)
Group 13: Bubba Watson, Thomas Pieters (30), Scott Piercy (39), Jhonattan Vegas (55)
Group 14: Phil Mickelson, J.B. Holmes (31), Daniel Berger (35), Si Woo Kim (63)
Group 15: Branden Grace, Brandt Snedeker (19), William McGirt (48), Andy Sullivan (52)
Group 16: Matt Kuchar, Tommy Fleetwood (29), Zach Johnson (44), Brendan Steele (50)
Potential Ones to watch
Matt Kuchar - 51.00 or 11.00 - has won both the WGC Matchplay and US Amateur; he has a stellar Matchplay record throughout his career. Last season at Austin CC he pulled out 2 wins and 1 half, beating Justin Rose, and hammering Anirban Lahiri. He came unstuck in the round of 16 but here's his take on the course and event:
“You can kind of trick it up and it's just a one on one thing where if you make a triple bogey on a tricked up hole, it's not that big of a deal,” he said. “But Austin Country Club had a lot of fun holes, a lot of fair holes, and really didn't suit any particular style of play, so it was a good course for everybody. “I think I've certainly done very well in match play formats but it’s hard to put a finger on why. I think I just do my best not to give up holes, not to give a guy a free hole, and I think in the long run that's proved successful.”
As he implies, Kuchar doesn't make many mistakes and it's this consistency that makes him a top matchplay player. He comes into the WGC Dell Technologies simmering off the back of three top 25s.
San Antonio, Texas, man Patrick Reed - 41.00 or 9.00 - blitzed his group last season with convincing defeats of Phil Mickelson and Matt Fitzpatrick and a 1-up win vs Daniel Berger. Reed is fast becoming renowned as one of the best matchplay players in the game. “Captain America” has a 6-1-2 record at the last two Ryder Cup competitions.
He also owns a 1-2-1 record in his lone Presidents Cup appearance in 2015. Reed's excellent short game and, most importantly, his mentality is what makes him such a tough matchplay opponent. He thrives in adversity: “It’s always fun to play something different”.
“I thought Austin Country Club was a great match play course because there’s a lot of risk/reward shots.” The best thing, though, were the fans at Austin Country Club, they got pretty rowdy, especially when we made birdies". Reed will have the home support backing him in Austin.