The WGC Match Play is on the docket in the golf world this week and (most of) the top 64 golfers in the world will take on Austin Country Club over the next five days. Since the format of changed in 2015, the 64 golfers are divided into 16 groups of 4 with the winners of each group advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. Wednesday through Friday is the group play portion and the Sweet Sixteen kicks off the knockout stage on Saturday.
Some of these groups could easily take on the “Group of Death” moniker we hear during the World Cup while others may be a bit less exciting. Here’s how each group stacks up (along with the winners of each):
- #1 – Group 2: Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, Eddie Pepperell, Emiliano Grillo: The best group features one guy who looks unstoppable at times, another who is seemingly a Top 25 lock each week, another who shot a 67 at the British Open hungover, and a former PGA Rookie of the Year. That’s a combination that adds up to all six matches being must-watches. The winner: Justin Rose.
- #2 – Group 1: Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Branden Grace, Chez Reavie: Another group where all four names are guys who usually pop up in the mix with two of them holding the World #1 crown at some point (DJ currently holds the title). The DJ/Hideki match will likely be the deciding match but if Reavie pulls off an upset in the opening match, this group is wide open. Johnson either smokes the field (see ’17) or puts up a dud (see ’18) The winner: Hideki Matsuyama
- #3 – Group 12: Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk: Another group with very familiar faces across the broad, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Mickelson/Stenson match is a repeat of the 2016 British Open final round. Day should have this easily but every match should be entertaining. The winner: Jason Day
- #4 – Group 9: Xander Schauffele, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood: Schauffele and Cabrera Bello have been lights out recently and Tyrrell Hatton had one of the best years among Euros in 2018. Westwood is one of the bottom-ranked golfers but you can never count out the crafty vet. The winner: Xander Schauffele
- #5 – Group 5: Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley, Matt Wallace, Lucas Bjerregaard: Thomas and Bradley lead the charge here but Wallace and Bjerregaard are European Tour players who shouldn’t be disregarded. Both have wins in the last six months. Group 5 could vault a couple spots by week’s end. The winner: Justin Thomas
- #6 – Group 15: Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel, Kevin Na: Bubba won this event last year, Spieth is one of the biggest names in golf, both of those are enough to pull this group up. Horschel is one of those “guys you love to hate” and Na brings the commentary on the rough at every new course. This group mic’d up would be incredible. The winner: Bubba Watson.
- #7 – Group 14: Tony Finau, Ian Poulter, Kevin Kisner, Keith Mitchell: Possibly the deepest group in the field and definitely the most wide open. Kisner made a Cinderella run to the finals last year, Mitchell won the Honda Classic this year, and Finau and Poulter are household names at this point. I’m hoping Poulter gets smacked around to an 0-3 record and that history repeats itself. The winner: Kevin Kisner.
- #8 – Group 13: Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Brandt Snedeker, Aaron Wise: Tiger’s group. Cantlay will give Tiger the most trouble but I wouldn’t sleep on Wise making some noise. Snedeker doesn’t move the dial as much as used to. The winner: Patrick Cantlay
- #9 – Group 4: Rory McIlroy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Justin Harding, Luke List: Rory and Matty Fitz are European STUDS while Harding is a South African with a Euro Tour win earlier this month. Luke List snuck his way into the field thanks to Adam Scott not playing. The winner: Rory McIlroy
- #10 – Group 16: Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry, Andrew Putnam: Similarly to the last group, Reed and Garcia are the headliners and we can all remember their various highlights from Ryder Cups. Lowry and Putnam could make some noise in other groups but Reed/Garcia will be the marquee on Friday. The winner: Patrick Reed
- #11 – Group 7: Francesco Molinari, Webb Simpson, Thorbjorn Olesen, Satoshi Kodaira: Molinari has been one of the hottest golfers over the last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t have to play the 18th in any of his matches. Olesen could be a sleeper pick in this group but it’s Molinari’s to lose. The winner: Francesco Molinari
- #12 – Group 3: Brooks Koepka, Alex Noren, Haotong Li, Tom Lewis: Koepka and Noren bring all the noise in this group. Similarly to Group 16, the Koepka/Noren match on Friday will be the storyline to watch here. The winner: Brooks Koepka
- #13 – Group 8: Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Si Woo Kim: The group of guys who have a “thing.” Rahm is always on the edge of snapping, Kuch is cheap, Holmes is slower than molasses, and Si Woo won The Players. The winner: Jon Rahm
- #14 – Group 11: Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Kyle Stanley, Ben An: This is Tommy Fleetwood’s lose. If he doesn’t win, being shocked is understating how I’ll feel. The winner: Tommy Fleetwood
- #15 – Group 10: Paul Casey, Cameron Smith, Charles Howell III, Abraham Ancer: Casey just won last week and Ancer might be the second-most excited guy behind Casey. Gotta stay with the hot hand. The winner: Paul Casey
- #16 – Group 6: Bryson DeChambeau, Marc Leishman, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Russell Knox: On paper, this group should be better. DeChambeau didn’t impress at all in the Ryder Cup while Aphibarnrat and Knox don’t bring much either. Leishman shouldn’t have too much trouble. The winner: Marc Leishman
Sweet Sixteen (seeded by group):
#16 Patrick Reed over #1 Hideki Matsuyama: Gotta go with Captain America here.
#8 Jon Rahm over #9 Xander Schauffele: Rahm loves ACC.
#5 Justin Thomas over #12 Jason Day: One of the better matchups in this round, Thomas edges Day in the final holes.
#4 Rory McIlroy over #13 Patrick Cantlay: I’d like to remind everyone that we could have Rory vs. Tiger if Woods gets it going. Rory should easily take out Cantlay.
#3 Brooks Koepka over #14 Kevin Kisner: The clock strikes midnight on Kis.
#11 Tommy Fleetwood over #6 Marc Leishman: Fleetwood has proven to be one of the best match-play golfers on the planet. It’s his to lose.
#7 Francesco Molinari over #10 Paul Casey: Similarly to his group, this group is Molinari’s to lose.
#2 Justin Rose over #15 Bubba Watson: Possibly the best matchup in the round, if there’s a prop bet on extra holes it may have to place a bet for this match. Rose edges Bubba in extras.
Instead of picking the rest of the tournament, I’m going to come back and make my picks once the Knockout Bracket is set on Friday. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments.Follow @geordo9