With America currently in the grip of March Madness, three Australians are facing their own bracket challenges at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club in Texas.
Like the ‘Sweet 16’ in NCAA basketball’s annual extravaganza, Jason Day, Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman must first navigate three matches if they are to qualify for the 16-man knockout stage of the tournament.
Adam Scott was also eligible to take his place in the elite field but chose not to play for personal reasons.
For the fifth year, the Match Play tournament will be conducted first in a round robin format involving four players in 16 separate groups. The leading finisher in each group then advances to the knockout phase.
Two-time champion Jason Day will need to rediscover the form he displayed at THE PLAYERS Championship as he faces off against Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and the resurgent Jim Furyk in Group 12.
Day meets 2015 Match Play semi-finalist Furyk in his opening match then takes on 2007 champion and 2008 runner-up Henrik Stenson in his second match. His path to the final 16 might well be determined by the result of his final match against Phil Mickelson, who has a less than stellar Match Play record.
Currently ranked the No.17 player in the world, Marc Leishman opens his campaign against Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who showed his match play proficiency when he stormed through the field to win the 2018 World Super 6 Perth tournament.
The highest-ranked player in Leishman’s group is American Bryson DeChambeau who is making his first appearance in the event, Leishman twice qualifying for the final 16 in five previous starts.
Cameron Smith won three matches and halved one as he made it all the way to the quarter-finals last year and will call on his match play experience in winning the 2011 Australian Boys’ Amateur and 2013 Australian Amateur.
Fellow Presidents Cup hopeful and reigning Australian Open champion Abraham Ancer has also been drawn in Group 10 and will meet potential Internationals teammate Smith in the second of the round robin matches.
If the brackets otherwise go according to seedings, Day would play Justin Thomas in the round of 16, Marc Leishman would face England’s Tommy Fleetwood while Smith is facing a showdown with British Open champion Francesco Molinari should they advance.
Jason Day vs Jim Furyk
Marc Leishman vs Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Cameron Smith vs Charles Howell III
Jason Day vs Henrik Stenson
Marc Leishman vs Russell Knox
Cameron Smith vs Abraham Ancer
Jason Day vs Phil Mickelson
Marc Leishman vs Bryson DeChambeau
Cameron Smith vs Paul Casey
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