WGC-Dell Match Play
Here's where all 16 groups stand as we approach a frantic Friday at WGC-Match Play
AUSTIN — The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play group format is designed so that no player can clinch their group before Friday (although being elimintated is very much possible). The structure succeeds at preserving drama up and down the leaderboard as players vie for a precious spot in the weekend knockout rounds. Sixteen players will make it, but it's still anybody's guess as to who those 16 will be, and on Frantic Friday, the one sure bet is mayhem. (To add to the allure, the schedule has the top two seeds in each group facing off.) To guide you through the chaos, here's a brief, group-by-group glimpse at where everyone stands, and what players must do to survive and advance to Saturday at Austin Country Club.
Group 1: It would have been a dream to have Scottie Scheffler and Tom Kim roll into their Friday match at 2-0 each, but alas, the Match Play has a way of foiling our best-laid plans. Scheffler managed to get the job done, while Kim fell to Davis Riley on Thursday. Still, Kim can tie Scheffler by beating him outright, and Riley, should he beat 0-2 Alex Noren, would force a three-way playoff if Kim also won. The headline here, though, is that the World No. 1 and defending champ goes through with a win or tie.
Group 2: Billy Horschel always has a little something special in store at the Match Play, and he showed it in wearing down Rickie Fowler to lead the group at 1-0-1. Still, Fowler and Jon Rahm, both at 1-1, are very much in the mix. Rahm and Horschel meet Friday, and both control their own destiny; Rahm makes at least a playoff with a win, while Horschel advances with a win or tie, and Fowler has to beat Keith Mitchell (eliminated) and hope Rahm wins too.
Group 3: Rory McIlroy's 18th-hole eagle closed out Denny McCarthy, leaving him 2-0 and needing a win or a tie versus Keegan Bradley on Friday to advance. Bradley, who has struggled so mightily for so long at this event, got a massive 6-and-5 win over Scott Stallings on Thursday, eliminating Stallings in the process. McIlroy-Bradley becomes an interesting rematch of their 2012 Ryder Cup singles bout, McIlroy winning at Medinah despite nearly missing his tee time.
Group 4: Here we have the simplest of scenarios: Patrick Cantlay and Brian Harman are both 2-0, and will face off for the group win. Winner advances and if they tie, it's an instant sudden-death playoff. There's history here too—in 2021, Cantlay beat Harman in group play in a red-hot match for both, but then lost to him in a playoff on Friday. The revenge narrative is real. Needless to say, K.H. Lee and Nick Taylor are both eliminated at 0-2.
Group 5: Presidents Cup star Max Homa continues to prove his match-play chops, taking down a giant of the format in Kevin Kisner on Thursday to hold the group lead at 2-0. In what feels like his marquee event, it's something of a shock that Kisner is already eliminated; Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Suh, both 1-1, still can advance with a win and some help, but Matsuyama will have to get past Homa first, who's through with a win or tie.
Group 6: In a Thursday battle of 1-0 players, Xander Schauffele seized the initiative with a win against Aaron Wise, and in a battle of 0-1 players, Cam Davis staved off elimination by beating Tom Hoge. That means Schauffele not only makes it through with a win or tie, but gets the added benefit of playing an eliminated Hoge. Davis and Wise have to win their match and pray for a Hoge miracle just to force a playoff with the X-Man.
Group 7: Here we have a group with just one player at 2-0, and that player is Andrew Putnam (56), the lowest seed of the lot. Win or draw against Harris English, and he's through to the weekend. At 1-1, Ryan Fox (facing a lame duck in 0-2 Will Zalatoris) and English need to win and hope; both could win outright or meet each other in a playoff if Putnam stumbles.
Group 8: This is a classic "not how we drew it up!" situation, where the two lowest seeds, Si Woo Kim and Matt Kuchar, are the only two left alive. Kuchar had a brilliant chance to join Kim at 2-0, but blew it on the last hole against Chris Kirk to settle for a tie. Nevertheless, he's in with a win over Kim on Friday in their head-to-head battle, while Kim goes through with a win or a tie.
Group 9: It's another terrific showdown, this time between a resurgent Jason Day, 2-0, and Ryder Cup juggernaut Collin Morikawa, also undefeated but at 1-0-1. That means Day can go through with a win or tie, while Morikawa has to win outright. Adam Svensson and Victor Perez are both eliminated, and there can be no playoff in this group.
Group 10: Tony Finau sits in prime position as the only player at 2-0, and will advance with a win or a draw against Kurt Kitayama. Kitayama needs to win, and if he does, he'll either win the group outright or find himself in a playoff against Adrian Meronk, should Meronk beat the already eliminated (and perhaps motivation-less?) Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
Group 11: If you had 61-seed J.J. Spaun absolutely rolling Matt Fitzpatrick (5 and 3) and Sahith Theegala (5 and 4) in consecutive days to seize control of the group, well ... congratulations, because nobody else did. Still, Spaun is the alpha here, and has guaranteed himself a spot in a playoff at worst. If he beats or ties Min Woo Lee, he's through to the weekend, while Lee and Fitzpatrick both have to win and then fight through a playoff. This is Spaun's group, and we're all just living in it.
Group 12: Jordan Spieth let a golden opportunity slip through his fingers Thursday, and Taylor Montgomery was the beneficiary, moving to 2-0 in the group. Montgomery goes through with a win or tie against Mackenzie Hughes, but the good news for Spieth is that he's pitted against a seemingly lifeless Shane Lowry. Win, and he can reach a playoff with Hughes if Hughes can beat Montgomery.
Group 13: Sam Burns had everything he could handle in Adam Scott Thursday, and though he never trailed, he needed a Scott bogey on 18 to win 1 up. Now Burns is 2-0 and master of his own destiny, with a win or tie against Seamus Power seeing him through. Power and Scott have a chance with wins, Adam Hadwin is eliminated, but it's Burns the top seed who has the best look at reaching Saturday.
Group 14: Russell Henley recovered from a tough loss to Lucas Herbert to annihilate Ben Griffin, himself 1-0 coming into Thursday, but the bad news for everyone in this group is that Herbert won again, topping Tyrrell Hatton, 3 and 1. That means he controls his own destiny, will make a playoff at worst, and more or less has to lose twice on Friday, first to Griffin and then in a playoff, to give up his prime spot atop the group.
Group 15: Cameron Young finished eagle-birdie to turn a 1-down deficit into a win over Corey Conners, and that makes him the only player in the group at 2-0. You know what happens next; he wins or ties against winless Sepp Straka, and he's in, while Conners and Davis Thompson, both 1-1, play with a prayer to get that second point and meet Young in a playoff if he loses. This has the added uniqueness of Young securing a victory no matter what if Conners and Davis tie.
Group 16: After being absolutely waxed by Sungjae Im on Wednesday, Maverick McNealy fought tooth and nail against Tommy Fleetwood, but was eliminated on the 18th hole when Fleetwood's last putt fell. That means that 2-0 J.T. Poston will advance with a win or tie against McNealy, or if Im can't beat Fleetwood. Even if Im wins and Poston loses, the worst the Postman can do is a playoff.