The second World Golf Championship event of the year is almost underway at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with, bar a few exceptions, the world’s best players all hitting the tee; but golf fans worldwide are desperate for Rory McIlroy vs Patrick Reed 2.0.
After their fiery Ryder Cup battle last year, that resulted in a 1Up victory for Reed, the golfing community is yearning for a rematch of the showdown at Hazeltine that included exchanges of the lead, boastful celebrations and exceptional golf.
McIlroy undoubtedly heads into this event in better form with top 10 finishes in all of his last six starts and a tied fourth, tied seventh and second place finish in his three starts of 2016; whilst Reed has failed to make the top 10 in any of his last six starts with finishes as low as tied 59th and tied 61st.
The Northern-Irishman has played his part in building the hype of a potential rematch, saying “It would be nice to play Patrick again.
“There’s some unfinished business there that I would like to clear up. But we’ll see what happens. He’s played well in match play, especially in the Ryder Cup,” Sky Sports report he said.
“It is something I’d really look forward to, to try to beat him and beat him by more than one hole, just so I have a little bit of an edge.”
The pair will first have to get through tough pools with McIlroy pitted against Emiliano Grillo, Gary Woodland – who he beat 4&2 in the 2015 final – and Soren Kjeldsen, whilst Reed is up against Brooks Koepka, Kevin Kisner and Jason Dufner. The full groupings can be seen here.
The majority of the world’s top 50 are set to play, with the exception of Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler and Adam Hadwin who have expressed a dislike for the format or are targeting better preparation leading up to the Masters in two weeks.
The top 16 ranked players who are playing, Dustin Johnson through to Matt Kuchar, are placed in separate pools with the remainder of the 64-man field spread across. Players from each pool will play one another once from Wednesday through Friday with the top player from each pool progressing to the knockout stages beginning on Saturday; the round of 16 and quarter finals take place on Saturday and the semi-finals and final on Sunday.
Jason Day was victorious last year for his second WGC-Match Play title in three years, beating Louis Oosthuizen 5&4 in the final, which earned him the world-number-one spot that he held for almost a year. The Australian would become just the second player – after Tiger Woods in 2003 and 2004 – to defend this title. There are few other previous winners returning, though, as Hunter Mahan (2012), Luke Donald (2011) and Ian Poulter (2010) all fail to qualify and Stenson skips the event. Day and McIlroy are joined by Kuchar (2013) as the only other returning past winner.
Austin Country Club hosts the event for the second year running. Inspired by Royal Dornoch and Gullane Hill in Scotland, the par 72 course sits at just over 7000 yards with severe natural elevation changes on the 8th and the nerve-inducing 18th hole – sure to be the scene of drama in many matches.
The purse is just shy of $10m and the event offers significant FedExCup, Race to Dubai and world ranking points, but for eight players floating around the world’s top 50 there’s extra incentive to break through and earn an invitation to the Masters at the last hurdle.