The vagaries of the format revealed themselves in the opening round of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play on Wedensday, when several of the game’s elite failed to post victories at Austin Country Club in Austin, Tex.
Dustin Johnson, No. 1 in the World Ranking, was not among them; Johnson won handily, defeating Webb Simpson, 5 and 4. Justin Thomas (No. 7 in the ranking) was the only other player in the top 10 in the World Ranking to prevail. Thomas defeated Chris Woods, 2 and 1.
Henrik Stenson (fifth in the World Ranking), Adam Scott (No. 8) and Rickie Fowler (No. 9) did not enter the tournament.
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy (No. 2), was felled by Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark, 2 and 1.
Jason Day (No. 3), made an emotional exit, conceding his match after six holes to Pat Perez. Day cited his inability to focus on golf, while revealing that his mother, Dening, has lung cancer, was given 12 months to live, and will undergo surgery on Friday.
Hideki Matsuyama (No. 4) came away with a halve in his match with Jim Furyk, Jordan Spieth (No. 6) lost to Hideto Tanihara of Japan, 4 and 2, and Sergio Garcia (No. 10) halved his match with Shane Lowry.
Fortunately for those who lost, they remain in the competition. The format, for the third straight year, is pool play, ensuring all competitors are guaranteed three matches.