the 10 best group pairings matches to watch this week
The best of the PGA Tour – 64 of the top 77 players in the world – are at the Austin Country Club this week for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, which features 48 winners on the PGA Tour combined with 13 Match Play rookies.
For those unfamiliar with the format, here’s how: The 64 players are seeded and divided into 16 different groups. Golfers play matches against everyone in their group Wednesday through Friday, earning a point for a win and half a point for a tie. The 16 group winners with the most points then advance to the knockout stages with the round of 16 on Saturday morning, the quarter-finals on Saturday afternoon, the semi-finals on Sunday morning, the final and the third-place games on Sunday afternoon.
The 10 best group games to watch:
Scottie Scheffler vs. Tom Kim (Group 1): Let’s start with Scheffler, the defending champion. The world No. 1 also finished second in Austin 2021 and starts the week with a win at the Players Championship. His top challenger in the group is Kim, the 20-year-old rising star ranked 19th in the world who already has two PGA Tour wins under his belt. Kim welcomed the moment as a member of the international team at last fall’s Presidents Cup.
Jon Rahm vs. Billy Horschel (Group 2): Both are known for showing their emotions openly, which could spark off fireworks given the volatility of matchplay. Horschel took home the trophy in 2021 while Rahm, currently world No. 2, finished second in 2017.
Keith Mitchell vs. Rickie Fowler (Group 2): This is a must-have for several reasons, the first being solely because of the contrasting aesthetic of Cashmere Keith vs. Highlighter Rickie. Second, they both play pretty good golf. In 10 starts this season, Fowler has six top-25 finishes, including a trio of top-10s and a T-2 at the Zozo Championship. Across 12 starts, Mitchell also has three top-10 finishes, including two tight calls at the West Coast Swing at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (T-4) and Genesis Invitational (5th).
Rory McIlroy vs. Keegan Bradley (Group 3): World No. 3 McIlroy is on schedule TV these days alongside Scheffler and Rahm, not to mention his history at the event, which includes a win in 2015 and a runner-up finish in 2012. Bradley won the Zozo last fall and so far this year he has placed second at the Farmers Insurance Open and a top 10 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Max Homa vs Kevin Kisner (Group 5): This might be one of the funnest matches in the pool game. Both are fan favorites, but Kisner could only have the advantage at Austin Country Club. The matchplay expert was runner-up in 2022 and 2018, and won in 2019. Homa has finished no better than T-18 on matchplay, but he went 4-0 unbeaten at the 2022 Presidents Cup, including a loss by Tom Kim in his singles match on Sunday. So far this season, Homa has two wins at the Fortinet Championship and the Farmers Insurance Open.
Max Homa vs. Hideki Matsuyama (Group 5): See above for reasons to watch Homa, but let’s focus on Matsuyama here. After two wins last season, he has struggled with his high standards so far this season and has not advanced to the Round of 16 Match Play since 2015. But as he gears up to have another run at Augusta National after his Masters win in 2021, don’t be surprised if a match with Homa gets Matsuyama’s competitive juices flowing.
Collin Morikawa vs. Jason Day (Group 9): Jason Day has been back in action lately on the PGA Tour with five top 10 finishes from 12 starts this season and could be a fun challenge for the top finisher in Group 9. Not only that, Day has a track record of winning at the Match Play, where he won freshman year at Austin Country Club in 2014 and 2016.
Jordan Spieth vs. Shane Lowry (Group 12): Ryder Cup preview, anyone? None of the players have a great track record in this event, but this is not a prediction of winners. The pair are separated by just nine spots in both the seedings and the world rankings, making for one of the closest matches in pool on paper.
Tyrrell Hatton vs everyone else in Group 14: Hatton is looking to push for a third Ryder Cup appearance and has a strong match play history, having reached the knockout stages in three of his last five appearances in Austin. Also, the fact that he’s close to losing his temper at 70% idle makes him a must-have in matchplay. Whether Russell Henley, Lucas Herbert or Ben Griffin.
Cameron Young vs. Davis Thompson (Group 15): The most stoic game on the board. You won’t know who’s up or down in the game as neither tends to show any emotions, positive or negative, on the golf course. Thompson, a PGA Tour rookie, finished second at the American Express and finished ninth at the Fortinet Championship to start the season. Young, the reigning Rookie of the Year, finished T-35 in his matchplay debut last year and had five second-place finishes. So far this season he has finished in the top 25 in four out of eight starts, with one top 10.
Group draw on Monday
How the field will be divided up in this week’s group game after Monday’s draw. The numbers in parentheses indicate that player’s total exposure.
Group 1 – (1) Scottie Scheffler, (17) Tom Kim, (38) Alex Noren, (54) Davis Riley
Group 2 – (2) Jon Rahm, (22) Billy Horschel, (39) Keith Mitchell, (49) Rickie Fowler
Group 3 – (3) Rory McIlroy, (20) Keegan Bradley, (48) Denny McCarthy, (52) Scott Stallings
Group 4 – (4) Patrick Cantlay, (25) Brian Harman, (35) KH Lee, (55) Nick Taylor
Group 5 – (5) Max Homa, (18) Hideki Matsuyama (18), (42) Kevin Kisner, (63) Justin Suh
Group 6 – (6) Xander Schauffele, (23) Tom Hoge, (40) Aaron Wise, (64) Cam Davis
Group 7 – (7) Will Zulatoris, (29) Ryan Fox, (37) Harris English, (56) Andrew Putnam
Group 8 – (8) Viktor Hovland, (28) Chris Kirk, (34) Si Woo Kim, (59) Matt Kuchar
Group 9 – (9) Collin Morikawa, (32) Jason Day, (44) Adam Svensson, (51) Victor Perez
Group 10 – (10) Tony Finau, (19) Kurt Kitayama, (45) Adrian Meronk, (60) Christiaan Bezuidenhout
Group 11 – (11) Matt Fitzpatrick, (26) Sahith Theegala, (41) Min Woo Lee, (61) JJ Spaun
Group 12 – (12) Jordan Spieth, (21) Shane Lowry, (47) Taylor Montgomery, (50) Mackenzie Hughes
Group 13 – (13) Sam Burns, (30) Seamus Power, (33) Adam Scott, (53) Adam Hadwin
Group 14 – (14) Tyrrell Hatton, (31) Russell Henley, (46) Lucas Herbert, (62) Ben Griffin
Group 15 – (15) Cameron Young, (27) Sepp Straka, (36) Corey Conners, (57) Davis Thompson
Group 16 – (16) Sungjae Im, (24) Tommy Fleetwood, (43) JT Poston, (58) Maverick McNealy