Matchplay golf provides an exciting and fresh dynamic to the standard strokeplay tournaments that dominate both the US, European and Asian Tours – with the World Matchplay bringing together the worlds best to determine who will be crowned World Matchplay Champion.
The Austin Country Club, Texas, will play host to the 2019 renewal, played over March 27-31.
The format, over the years, has changed – going from a straight 64 man knockout event to an initial group stage followed by single elimination. The reasons are quite obvious….primarily to give the big names more chance and scope to make the latter stages. So the 64 players are now broken down into an initial 16 groups of 4, where they play each other, with the top player of each group proceeding to the round of 16. The top 64 ranked players in the world get invited to play, based on rankings as at March 24th. This year, of the 64 players, almost half (29) hailed from the USA, with 10 Englishmen. No other country had more than 3 players in the field.
Bubba Watson (above) won the 2018 World Matchplay Championship, seeing off Kevin Kisner in a one sided final, winning 7&6. Watson is expected to go well again, although he has been drawn in a tough all American group, facing off against Billy Horschel, Kevin Na and, most notably, Jordan Speith.
The ‘Group of Death’ title however would go to group 12 – with four huge golfing names that would grace the semi finals, let alone the preliminary round. Australian Jason Day, a past winner of this event squares up to another past winner, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, as well as two great American players, being Jim Furyk and ‘Lefty’ himself, Phil Mickleson.
Tiger Woods is in the field, and he will feel comfortable enough with his group draw of fellow Americans Patrick Cantlay, Brandt Snedeker and Aaron Wise. Woods has never been the greatest matchplay player – as his record in the Ryder Cup shows – but as always he will draw plenty of attention from the crowds and TV cameras.
Picking a winner of this event is like trying to pick one yellow Smartie out of a tub inhabited by 63 other red ones…but we like Sergio Garcia to give us a good run and fly the European flag high. He will do battle with US Masters Champion Patrick Reed, but if he can overcome him, as well as Shane Lowry and Andrew Putnam, we feel he has the game, temperament and birdie making ability to win this. Yes, we know Garcia also has the ability to take 8 on a hole – but that’s the beauty of matchplay – you just lose the one hole for the aberration….not the tournament. He could square up against Rory McIlroy in the Quarter Finals….but we will side with the Spaniard who looks full of confidence after finally picking up that elusive Major win. Lets also remember how well he does in the Ryder Cup, which is primarily a matchplay format.