World’s best ready for Match Play showdown

Jason Day defends WGC-Cadillac Matchplay, could we see a Rory/Jordan final?

Jason Day is defending champ at WGC-Cadillac Match Play
Jason Day is defending champ at WGC-Cadillac Match Play
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best players in the world have assembled at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco this week for the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. Jason Day of Australia is defending champion.

Lowdown: The best players in the world have assembled at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco this week for the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. Jason Day of Australia is defending champion.

The top-64 available players on the Official World Golf Ranking will tee it up this week and there’s a new format (as well as a new sponsor) for this year’s tournament. The players have been split into 16 groups of four – the first in each according to their seeding of 1-16, then a player drawn at random from each of three pools: Pool 1 – players seeded 17-32, Pool 2 – Players seeded 33-48 and Pool 4 – Players seeded 49-64.

Within each of the 16 groups, the four players will face each of the others in round-robin match play over the first three days of competition. The golfer who comes out of those contests with the best record in each group will go on to the round of 16 on Saturday morning, where elimination match play will establish the players going on to the quarter finals.

Those will be played on Saturday afternoon with the semi finals and finals to be contested on Sunday.

World Number 1 Rory McIlroy is top seed in Group 1 and he’ll face Jason Dufner on Wednesday, the others in his group are Billy Horschel and Brandt Snedeker.

Jordan Spieth will tee it up against late entrant Mikko Ilonen in Group 2. He’ll then face Matt Every and Lee Westwood in the round-robin stages.

If both McIlroy and Spieth men make it through the group stages and then the knockouts, they will face each other in the final.

Other intriguing groups include: Group 8 where powerhouse Dustin Johnson will face last year’s runner-up Victor Dubuisson, 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Matt Jones. Group 10 is an all European affair featuring Sergio Garcia, Jamie Donaldson, Bernd Wiesberger and Tommy Fleetwood. Match Play specialist Ian Poulter will have his work cut out to come through group 11, he faces Webb Simpson on day one, long-hitting Gary Woodland on Thursday and on-form Jimmy Walker on Friday.

The course at Harding Park has hosted a WGC event once before – The American Express Championship of 2005 in which Tiger Woods defeated John Daly in a playoff. It was also the venue for the Presidents Cup in 2009.

This event was first contested in 1999 when Jeff Maggert saw off Andrew Magee in the final. The fact they were the 24th and 50th seeds says something about the possibility for upsets in this tournament. Tiger Woods is the only man who has come into the event as top seed and gone on to win – he achieved that feat three times (2003, 2004 and 2008.) Last year, Jason Day came through an epic final against Frenchman Victor Dubuisson at the 23rd hole. Dubuisson twice saved par from the desert to keep the contest alive before the Australian finally secured the win with a birdie at the fifth extra hole.

There have been some unlikely winners of this event over the years, including Kevin Sutherland in 2002 – the 62nd seed and Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 – 52nd seed. However, the new format should lessen the chance of upsets, as the top seeds will have three matches to prove their superior ranking… It might not turn out that way mind you.

Venue: TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, California Date: Apr 29 – May 3 Course stats: par 71, 7,127 yards Purse: $9,250,000 Winner: $1,570,000 Defending Champion: Jason Day

TV Coverage: Wednesday 29 – Sky Sports 4 from 9pm Thursday 30 – Sky Sports 4 from 9pm Friday 1 – Sky Sports 4 from 10pm Saturday 2 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm Sunday 3 – Sky Sports 4 from 2.30pm

Player Watch: Clearly the top seeds like Rory and Jordan will be the big favourites this week, but who might spring a surprise from a little further down the seeding list?

Hideki Matsuyama – He’s been playing some supremely consistent golf of late and is currently ranked third on the PGA Tour on the “all-round” stats.

Louis Oosthuizen – The South African is coming into this event on a run of good form, he played solidly at Augusta then finished in a tie for 7th at Harbour Town the following week.

Ian Poulter – It doesn’t matter that Poulter has a tough draw, he can beat anyone at match play. He’s a former winner of this event and the fact this is a shorter course will suit him.

Paul Casey – The Englishman is almost back to his best. He’s twice been runner-up in this event and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go one better this time out.

Skills required – Winning matches. It doesn’t matter what you score in this event, you just have to outplay your opponent on the day. Having the tactical nous to do just what it takes will be the key this week.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?