Justin Thomas is skipping the WGC-Dell Match Play finale because he doesn’t like the course, but the field is still loaded
AUSTIN, Texas — The World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play returns to the Austin Country Club, albeit for the final time, this week and boasts its usual spectacular field paced by world No. 1 and favorite son Scottie Scheffler.
After a successful run since 2016, the PGA Tour and Austin Country Club failed to agree on an extension of their contract, which will expire with the final putt next Sunday. But it’s a strong field — 64 of the top 77 players in the official world golf rankings are expected to be on hand this week when the five-day tournament begins Wednesday.
The tournament carries a purse of $20 million with the winner taking home $3.6 million. The first three days are pool play with 16 separate pods of four golfers each; the winner of each grouping will advance to Friday’s playoffs. The draw will be held Monday morning.
“We have an incredible field coming to compete at Austin Country Club,” Dell Match Play executive director Jordan Uppleger said Saturday. “Great to have fan favorite Rickie Fowler and our first Austin Country Club champion Jason Day back in the field.”
The event is predictable mostly for its unpredictability. Of the seven previous winners — the 2020 tournament was canceled because of the pandemic — three were seeded 32nd (Billy Horschel in 2021) or lower.
Justin Thomas of the United States plays his shot from the first tee during the first round of the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club on March 21, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
Only two-time PGA champion Justin Thomas, who did play in this weekend’s Valspar Championship, is missing from the top 10 in the eligible competitors although Cam Smith, at No. 5, is one of a dozen players ineligible for the tournament because of his contract with LIV Golf.
Thomas said he just hasn’t ever developed an affinity for the Pete Dye ACC course with its rolling terrain and two vastly different nines even though he has excelled in other match-play events like the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup where he has scored 17½ points.
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“(Innisbrook) is a place I love. I really, really love the golf course,” Thomas said. “I just I feel like I have a really good chance to win there if I go play. I just, I simply don’t feel that way about Austin Country Club. It’s nothing against the course. I’ve just, I’ve played it six times and I’ve played it really bad five of them.”
Thomas said he didn’t want to risk any negative momentum before he attempts to win a major besides the PGA Championship and the Masters in three weeks. He made it out of the round-robin stage only once in six Dell events.
Scheffler will be here, however, and he returns as the hottest golfer in the world with victories in the Players Championship and the Phoenix Open, which he won for the second consecutive year.
Besides regaining the top spot in the rankings when he dominated at The Players, Scheffler has won six times in the last year-and-a-half as well as last year’s Masters. A year ago, he came in as the fifth seed and beat former Dell champion Kevin Kisner, 4 and 3, for the title. Scheffler and Kisner were both runners-up the year before they won the big prize.
Scheffler successfully defended his title in Phoenix and will attempt to do the same in his adopted hometown of Austin, where he played for Texas. His fellow Longhorn, three-time major champion Jordan Spieth, also will be on hand to try to capture the Dell title.
Other former Dell champions competing will be Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner and Jason Day.
Among their rivals will be Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris and Viktor Hovland. Justin Rose, the 32nd-ranked player in the world, also chose not to participate in the Dell along with Thomas.
Included in the field are a number of international players from 16 different countries.
The field is comprised of 48 PGA Tour winners with a collective 207 wins to their credit. Thirteen players will make their tournament debut, including Tour winners Cam Davis, Tom Kim, J.J. Spaun, Nick Taylor and Justin Suh, the last player to qualify. Tickets can be purchased at dellmatchplay.com.