Best in golf set to tee it up

Spi­eth grouped with Ry­der Cup star Moore

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Suzanne Hal­libur­ton shal­libur­ton@states­man.com

Jor­dan Spi­eth, the for­mer Univer­sity of Texas star, calls Austin his se­cond home, his fa­vorite city in the world. So nat­u­rally, he’d love to win this week’s World Golf Cham­pi­onships-Dell Tech­nolo­gies Match Play, which starts Wed­nes­day at the Austin Coun­try Club.

On Mon­day, Spi­eth found out the three play­ers he’ll need to beat in or­der to even think about mak­ing the week­end knock­out rounds that lead to Sun­day af­ter­noon’s fi­nale.

Spi­eth, who is sixth in this week’s world rank­ings, head­lines the pod of Ryan Moore, Yuta Ikeda and Hideto Tani­hara. Moore is the se­cond-seeded player in the group­ing and will be a for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent.

Moore, a last-minute se­lec­tion to the Amer­i­can team, clinched the win­ning point last Oc­to­ber to give the United States the Ry­der Cup for the first time since 2008. Down two holes, Moore had a come­from-be­hind vic­tory over Lee West­wood by fin­ish­ing with ea­gle, birdie, par.

Spi­eth said that Moore prob­a­bly would be in ev­ery­one’s top five on who’s among the tough­est to beat in match play.

Both Ikeda, who is seeded third in the group, and Tani­hara, who is fourth, play mainly on the Ja­panese pro tour.

Spi­eth came into last year’s tour­na­ment ranked first in the world. He won his group, but lost in the round of 16 to South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.

The Dell Match play bracket was re­vealed Mon­day night dur­ing a ritzy cock­tail party at the Ho­tel Van Zandt in down­town Austin. Guests in­cluded Dell CEO Michael Dell, Gov. Greg Ab­bott and Texas foot­ball coach Tom Her­man.

“I was thrilled with the re­sponse from the com­mu­nity,” Dell told the Amer­i­can-States­man. “The golf course is beau­ti­ful. ACC was tremen­dous. I’m es­pe­cially pleased with the com­mu­nity im­pact be­cause we’ve been able to cre­ate do­na­tions of more than $1 mil­lion for youth de­vel­op­ment.”

As it was last year, the field is di­vided into 16 groups of four. The winner of each group is de­ter­mined in rounds Wed­nes­day, Thurs­day and Fri­day. A win is worth one point, and tie scores a half point. The winner of the group is the player with the most points.

The round of 16 and quar­ter­fi­nals will be played Satur­day. The semi­fi­nals and fi­nals are Sun­day. Each week­end match is sin­gle elim­i­na­tion.

Aus­tralia’s Ja­son Day, who won last year’s tour­na­ment, comes into Austin as the No. 3-ranked player in the world. His semi­fi­nal win over Rory McIl­roy last year prob­a­bly was the best match of the tour­na­ment.

World top-ranked golfer Dustin John­son lost in last year’s quar­ter­fi­nals. Win­ning his group will be a huge ac­com­plish­ment. It in­cludes for­mer Bay­lor star Jimmy Walker, who won last year’s PGA Cham­pi­onship. The third seed is Ger­many’s Martin Kaymer, who has won two ma­jors. The fourth seed is Webb Simp­son, a for­mer winner of the U.S. Open.

McIl­roy won the 2014 tour­na­ment, which was played in San Fran­cisco. He’s se­cond in the world in this week’s rank­ings. He talked Mon­day about how much he loved Austin and how he needed to play well to ex­tend his stay in Cen­tral Texas as long as pos­si­ble.

“Ob­vi­ously, I think the course was well re­ceived,” McIl­roy said. “The city as a hole was well re­ceived. Per­son­ally, Austin was one of the most en­joy­able weeks of the year.”

JAY JANNER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

De­fend­ing cham­pion Ja­son Day (above) is in a group with Marc Leish­man, Lee West­wood and Pat Perez for the Dell Match Play this week at Austin Coun­try Club. Day will play each op­po­nent once be­fore the field is cut for the week­end.

BUDA MEN­DES / GETTY IM­AGES

Top-ranked Dustin John­son heads into the Dell Match Play with vic­to­ries in his past two tour­na­ments, at Mex­ico City (above) and Los An­ge­les.

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