After playing in Florida for three of the last four weeks, the PGA Tour heads west again to Texas for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
An all-star field, led by world top four Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth, have made the trip to Austin Country Club, where of the world’s top 64, only Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Joost Luiten have opted not to tee it up.
But who should you be keeping your eye on in particular? We've selected these five players...
Revered for his matchplay prowess given his performances in the past two Ryder Cups – his record is 6-1-2 – it’s a surprise that Patrick Reed hasn’t ventured beyond the last 16 stage in the three years the tournament has had the group stage format. What the 27-year-old is bringing to Austin this week, though, is some great form, with a runner-up finish at the Valspar Championship two weeks ago and a T7 showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Mind you, standing in his way is none other than Ryder Cup partner Jordan Spieth, which is certainly the pick of the group stage matches. The other players in Reed’s group are debutant Haotong Li and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
It’s impossible to overlook Dustin Johnson in this event. After reaching the quarter-finals in 2016, the 33-year-old took down Jon Rahm in the final last year to capture what was his third title in a row. While he isn’t taking that same level of form to Austin this year, he does have a win and runner-up finish under his belt already in 2018 and, with a favourable group that includes Kevin Kisner, Adam Hadwin and Bernd Wiesberger, expect Johnson to sail through to the latter stages for the third consecutive year.
Another player in sneaky good form, Rafa Cabrera-Bello hasn’t finished worse than T29 in seven events on the PGA Tour this season, with his best performance T3 in his most recent start at the WGC-Mexico Championship. Reached the semi-finals at Austin Country Club in 2016 and beat Rory McIlroy in the third-place play-off before going onto impress on his Ryder Cup debut, with him unbeaten in his three matches. His opposition? Phil Mickelson, who is making his first start since his win in Mexico, Sotashi Kodaira and Charles Howell III.
Cabrera-Bello hasn’t yet broken through for his first PGA Tour win – and neither has our next player to watch: Alex Noren. The Swede, like Cabrera-Bello, has impressed Stateside, losing out in a play-off to Jason Day at the Farmers Insurance Open and finishing third at the Honda Classic. Last year, he won all three group matches and beat Brooks Koepka in the last 16 before running into eventual champion Dustin Johnson in the quarter-finals. He does have a tricky group, though, which features Tony Finau, Thomas Pieters and Kevin Na.
Making his first start in five weeks, this event perhaps carries more weighting for Alex Levy than most of his peers. Realistically, he is the only Frenchman that stands a chance of making the European Ryder Cup team later this year and, with captain Thomas Bjorn likely to be paying close attention, it is the perfect opportunity for Levy to stake his claim for a place in the 12-man side. On paper, the draw has been favourable to him, too, with Tyrrell Hatton, Charley Hoffman and Brendan Steele standing between him and a place in the last 16. Over to you, Alex…
The groups in full
GROUP 1: Dustin Johnson (1), Kevin Kisner (32), Adam Hadwin (38), Bernd Wiesberger (52)
GROUP 2: Justin Thomas (2), Francesco Molinari (21), Patton Kizzire (48), Luke List (60)
GROUP 3: Jon Rahm (3), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28), Chez Reavie (43), Keegan Bradley (63)
GROUP 4: Jordan Spieth (4), Patrick Reed (19), Haotong Li (34), Charl Schwartzel (49)
GROUP 5: Hideki Matsuyama (5), Patrick Cantlay (30), Cameron Smith (46), Yusaku Miyazato (53)
GROUP 6: Rory McIlroy (6), Brian Harman (18), Jhonattan Vegas (44), Peter Uihlein (57)
GROUP 7: Sergio Garcia (7), Xander Schauffele (20), Dylan Frittelli (41), Shubhankar Sharma (62)
GROUP 8: Jason Day (8), Louis Oosthuizen (25), Jason Dufner (42), James Hahn (56)
GROUP 9: Tommy Fleetwood (9), Daniel Berger (26), Kevin Chappell (33), Ian Poulter (58)
GROUP 10: Paul Casey (10), Matthew Fitzpatrick (31), Kyle Stanley (45), Russell Henley (51)
GROUP 11: Marc Leishman (11), Branden Grace (23), Bubba Watson (35), Julian Suri (64)
GROUP 12: Tyrrell Hatton (12), Charley Hoffman (22), Brendan Steele (36), Alex Levy (55)
GROUP 13: Alex Noren (13), Tony Finau (29), Thomas Pieters (39), Kevin Na (61)
GROUP 14: Phil Mickelson (14), Rafa Cabrera Bello (17), Satoshi Kodaira (40), Charles Howell III (59)
GROUP 15: Pat Perez (15), Gary Woodland (24), Webb Simpson (37), Si Woo Kim (50)
GROUP 16: Matt Kuchar (16), Ross Fisher (27), Yuta Ikeda (47) Zach Johnson (54)