By TOM LaMARRE
After three more memorable finishes in what is shaping up as a memorable season, the PGA Tour has moved on from The Florida Swing to the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, which begins Wednesday at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.
Unfortunately, the PGA Tour has announced that this will be the last edition of the WGC-Match Play, which was first played in 1999, when Jeff Maggert beat Andrew Magee on the 38th hole of the scheduled 36-hole final at La Costa Resort and Spa in Southern California.
One report claims it is a sponsorship issue, with Dell keen to team up with Intel for a five-year deal, while the PGA Tour, in an effort to counter LIV Golf’s huge purses, has only wanted to sign for only one year at a time.
“We’re formally announcing today that the 2023 World Golf Championship Dell Technologies Match Play will be the final playing of the event here at Austin Country Club, and not be included on the 2024 calendar or moving forward,” Jordan Uppleger, the tournament’s executive director said, according to Golfweek. “The event has had an incredible run here at Austin Country Club.
“I was told you had to have three main components to have a successful event, you had to have an active title sponsor, an engaging country club and a supporting community and client base. And there is no doubt that this event has exceeded all of those expectations as we’ve been here since 2016.”
So Uppleger is putting the blame completely on the PGA Tour and its pursuit of larger purses in order to deal with LIV Golf.
PGA Tour players seem to be sorry the WGC events are coming to an end.
“There for a while, that was a huge goal to get in those WGCs, a massive goal starting the year,” said 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland. “So it’s hard to see them go away, especially the Match Play, because it’s the only one we have. We do the same stuff every week.
“Obviously we’ve got big changes coming next year. And it sounds like it will replace that. At the end of the day, you want the best players in the world playing week in and week out, and those (WGC events) are going away right now.”
The WGC events once included, in addition to the WGC-Match Play, the WGC American Express Championship that was played in San Francisco, Atlanta, St. Louis plus Spain, Ireland and England in Europe; the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio; the WGC-World Cup in Australia and China, and the WGC-Champions in Shanghai, China.
And now it seems the WGC will become a thing of the past.
“I would never say anything has run its course,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. “But I think right now you see the direction the PGA Tour’s heading in. It is with these designated events, it’s with the concentration of the best players on the PGA Tour competing in them, and I really don’t expect that to change as we go forward.”
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler (pictured) is the defending champion in what could be the final WGC-Match Play, and other former champions in the field include Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner, Jason Day of Australia and Matt Kuchar.
The 64 players in the field are separated into 16 groups of four and will play a round-robin before the winners moved into the next round. Single elimination golf is played the rest of the way until the winner is determined.
1. Scottie Scheffler, United States – Not only is Scheffler ranked No. 1 in the world, but he is the defending champion in the WGC-Match Play and he has an 11-2-2 singles match play record in his career in the WGC and Ryder Cup. He beat Kevin Kisner, 4 and 3, in the final last year. In addition, he was 2-0-1 in the 2021 Ryder Cup, defeating Jon Rahm of Spain, 4 and 3 in singles.
2. Jon Rahm Spain – The second-ranked Rahm holds a 13-8-3 singles match play record, with his best result in the WGC-Dell Match Play second, when he lost to Dustin Johnson, 1-down, in the championship match. In addition, he has lost twice to Scottie Scheffler in this tournament, in the round of 16 in 2021, 3 and 1, and also in the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits, 4 and 3.
3. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Rory, ranked third in the world, has an impressive 34-18-4 match-play record, and defeated Gary Woodland, 4 and 2, in the final of the 2015 WGC-Match Play, in addition to losing to Hunter Mahan, 2 and 1, in the 2012 final. McIlroy also beat Henrik Stenson of Sweden, 1 up, in the final to win the 2009 Golf de Saint-Nom-la-Breteche in France.
4. Kevin Kisner, United States — Don’t overlook Kisner, whohas a record of 22-7-2 in match- play events, and won the 2019 WGC-Dell Technologies title with a 3-and-2 victory over Matt Kuchar. Kisner went to the final before losing to top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, 4 and 3. last year, and was in the final match for a third time in 2018 when Bubba Watson routed him, 7 and 6.
5. Patrick Cantlay, United States – The fourth-ranked Cantlay has an 8-4-2 career singles record in match play, including a 4-and-2 victory over Shane Lowry of Ireland in the 2021 Ryder Cup and a 3-and-2 win over Joaquin Niemann of Chile in the 2019 Presidents Cup. He finished 1-1-1 in pool play during in the WGC-Dell Match Play last season and failed to move on.
6. Jordan Spieth, United States – Even though he is playingclose to the top of his game again after a tie for third in the Valspar Championship, Spieth has been only so-so in match play with a 15-15-4 overall record. However, in 2016 he beat Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson and Justin Thomas in the WGC-Match Play before falling to Louis Oosthuizen, 4 and 2, in the quarterfinals.
7. Viktor Hovland, Norway – The ninth-ranked Hovland is only 3-3-1 in match play as a pro, but he won the 2018 U.S. Amateur Championship by routing Devon Bling, 6 and 5. In the WGC-Dell Match Play last year, he beat Sepp Straka of Austria and Cameron Tringale, before being ousted by Will Zalatoris, 1 down. He halved with Collin Morikawa in the 2021 Ryder Cup.
8. Xander Schauffele, United States – The seventh-ranked Schauffele has a 6-5-3 record in match-play singles in his career, including losses to Lucas Herbert and Tony Finau last year in the WGC-Dell Match Play. However, in 2021 he beat Jason Day of Australia and halved with Scottie Scheffler and Andy Sullivan of England. He beat Adam Scott in the 2019 Presidents Cup.
9. Collin Morikawa, United States – Morikawa has dropped out of the top 10 in the World Golf Rankings, only to No. 11, and can climb back in this week. He has a 2-3-3 match-play record, beating Robert McIntyre of Scotland and Jason Kokrak in addition to halving with Sergio Garcia of Spain in the WGC-Dell Match Play last year, before being eliminated by Abraham Ancer.
10. Tyrell Hatton, England – After beating Christian Bezuidenhout of South Africa, Si Woo Kim of South Korea and Daniel Berger in the WGC-Dell Match Play last year, Hatton was ousted by Seamus Power of Ireland. He has a 12-10-2 match play singles record and also won three matches in the 2015 Paul Lawrie Match play before Marc Warren of Scotland beat him.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jason Day, Australia; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Max Homa, United States; Tom Kim, South Korea; Tony Finau, United States; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Will Zalatoris, United States; Matt Fitzpatrick, England; Cameron Young, United States; Corey Conners, Canada.
1. Justin Suh, United States – This is the pro match play debut for Suh, former No. 1 amateur in the world thanks to 12 victories. He also won the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Championship.
2. Sepp Straka, Austria – Two-time winner as a pro was 1-2 in WGC-Match Play debut last year. Won singles match as Continental Europe beat Great Britain and Ireland in 2023 Hero Cup.
3. K.H. Lee, South Korea – Six-time winner as a pro went 2-1 in match play in 2022 Presidents Cup, beating Billy Horschel in singles. Lee is making his debut in the WGC-Dell Match Play.
4. Aaron Wise, United States – 2019 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, a two-time pro winner, beat Brandt Snedeker, lost to Tiger Woods and Patrick Cantlay in WGC-Match Play debut last year.
5. Cam Davis, Australia – Four-time pro winner made his pro match-play debut in the 2022 Presidents Cup, posting a 2-3 record, including a 4-and-3 defeat to Jordan Spieth in singles.
For first-round tee times and brackets, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard