The PGA Tour goes to one of the most unique events on the Tour calendar this week for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
This event has seen some venue changes and format alterations in recent years. The tournament has been in Los Angeles, Australia, Tucson, and San Francisco, but seems to have found a permanent home as it enters the second year of being contested at Austin Country Club.
Despite being a World Golf Championship with a hefty purse, many of the top players would skip this event in the past. With the single-elimination bracket format, many players did not like the idea of simply showing up for a tournament for one day.
Television did not like the format either because there was no guarantee that marquee names would make it to the final rounds and fans were often left watching mediocre final matches like Kevin Sutherland vs. Scott McCarron and Jeff Maggert vs. Andrew Magee.
While the new format does not fully prevent similar dud championship matches, it is a vast improvement and the first two years have seen Rory McIlroy and Jason Day take home the title so the format aloows the cream to rise to the top.
The new format, which was enacted in 2015, utilizes a pod system for the first three days of the event. The pods consist of four players chosen depending on their world ranking and the player with the most points in the pod advances to the single elimination round of 16 that begins Saturday.
The points system consists of one point for a win, 1/2 point for a halve, and zero points for a loss.
Another unique aspect of this event is that the competition begins Wednesday.
Austin Country Club is a scenic track along the Colorado River and its back-nine provides the perfect stretch for match play.
The second nine is littered with signature holes, but the two that often have a huge say in the outcome of a match are 12 and 13.
The 12th is a downhill, 535 yard par-5 that is reachable by every player in the field. The green is surrounded on three sides by water and requires a player to be precise with their long irons. No. 12 is the consummate risk-reward hole that is positioned perfectly for match play.
No. 13 is probably the most scenic hole on the course as is the entire left side of the driveable par-4 is encompassed by the Colorado River. Although the yardage is only 305 yards, going for the green off the tee is not always the right play.
Because of the angle of the tee shot and green, players have a difficult time holding the green with a drive and are often better off laying up to a full wedge shot.
The entire course received rave reviews from the players last year and it is the perfect setting for a match play event.
Last Year’s Event:
After emerging from his pod, Jason Day was able to defeat Brandt Snedeker, Brooks Koepka, and Rory McIlroy before downing Louis Oosthuizen 5&4 in the championship match. The victory was Day’s second in a row and second WGC-Match Play victory.
Most Memorable Moment:
Before 2014, there was not an epic championship match. In fact, the most memorable moment prior to 2014 was Tiger defeating Stephen Ames 9&8 in the first round of the 2006 tournament. Tiger had extra motivation heading into the match because Ames, correctly, poked fun at Tiger’s erratic driving.
However, all Tiger needed was a shred of something he could manufacture into extra motivation and he made Ames pay.
The 2014 event finally gave this tournament a signature moment. This was Jason Day’s first match play victory, but it did not come easy. Day and Frenchman Victor Dubuisson staged an epic championship match that went to extra holes.
Once the duo reached the extra holes, Dubuisson converted two of the most amazing up-and-down you will ever see.
The theatrics of Dubuisson stands out in everyone’s mind, but Day was able to finally best the Frenchy on the 21st hole and clinch the victory.
Louis Oosthuizen: Oosthuizen was the runner-up in this event a year ago and with this season being a Presidents Cup year, the South African will want to showcase his match play prowess for International Captain Nick Price
Otter Room Pick:
Patrick Reed: Reed has had a fairly quiet start to the 2017 season, but after his match play display at last year’s Ryder Cup, how can you bet against him in a mano a mano format?
Stay tuned to The Otter Room Sunday for a complete recap of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.