photo credit PGA Tour
The World Golf Championships, often shortened to WGC, are a series of four events that count towards all major professional golf tours, notably the PGA Tour, European Tour, Asian Golf Tour and the PGA Tour of Australasia. These events offer very large cash prizes to competitors, and are often seen as second only to the majors in their level of difficulty and prestige. The 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will be the second WGC of the year, taking place March 21-25 at the Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. This event is unique in the WGC because it is a match play, rather than stroke play, event. This means the golfers compete against each other to see who can win the most holes, rather than the fewest overall strokes. A hole is won by whichever golfer scores the lowest, resulting in one point, with ties resulting in half points. The field is also limited to 64, much smaller than more traditional tournaments. Thousands of spectators turn out for the event as the eyes of the golfing world turn to Austin.
Austin Country Club
Austin Country Club hosts the event for the third year in a row. Austin Country Club was first established in 1899 and is one of Texas’ oldest organized golf clubs. It has moved locations twice, landing in its current spot in 1984. The course was designed by Pete Dye and is a challenging hill country course. The course has a lot of elevation changes and Lake Austin features prominently on the front 9, leading some to make comparisons between the early holes and links courses. The course plays throughout canyonlands and requires some forced carries over the steep terrain. With match play events already providing heightened pressure, the difficulties of the course are sure to play an important role in deciding a winner.
The field of players is particularly strong at this year’s edition. Three of last year’s major winners, including British Open champion Jordan Spieth, PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas and Masters winner Sergio Garcia will be attending, with the sole exception being injured U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka. Defending champion and world number 1 Dustin Johnson is also committed to defending his title. Phil Mickelson, world number 18, Jason Day, world number 10, Jordan Spieth, world number 4, and Jon Rahm, world number 3, round out the list of favorites for this year’s event.
Practice rounds are Monday and Tuesday, with the proper tournament starting on Wednesday. Golfers will be put into small groups for “pool play” Wednesday-Friday. This consists of 16 groups of 4 golfers. Golfers are seeded according to their world golf ranking into 4 different pots (featuring golfers ranked 1-16, 17-32, 33-58, and 59-64), and then one golfer from each pot will be randomly drawn into each of the 16 groups. This ensure the strength of the groups remains fairly consistent. Each group will play round robin matches against each other with the 16 group winners facing off in a single elimination bracket beginning Saturday. The field will then be winnowed down to 4 golfers who will compete in the semifinals, finals, and consolation match on Sunday.
Spectators have multiple options if they want to view the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event. Tickets are available for the entire week with a Weekly Grounds Pass costing $405 or the upgraded Weekly Ultra Club Pass for $625. Individual tickets are now only available through the Official Ticket Exchange, with prices ranging from $75-$140 depending on the day. In addition, youth 18 and younger are free provided they are accompanied by a ticket holding adult. WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Event also provides complimentary tickets to active duty and reserve military members along with one guest. Military members and their family also have access to the Birdies for Brave Patriots’ Outpost, a chalet located on the 7th hole. There will also be plenty of food available on site at the Fan Village located on the 16th hole, with more beverages available at Grey Goose’s 19th Hole and Wine & Dine presented by William Hill Estate Winery. For the best views, head to the 15th hole to enjoy views of multiple holes or head to the 13th hole and watch golfers hit the green or water on this high risk/reward hole.
For those staying home, the Golf Channel and NBC will be providing television coverage. Golf Channel coverage will be from 3-7pm ET Wednesday-Friday, 9am-1pm ET Saturday and 9:30am-1:30pm ET Saturday. NBC will be providing primetime coverage Saturday and Sunday from 1-5pm ET.