USA TODAY International Edition

Match Play battles you’ll want to see

- Adam Woodard

Who’s ready for some match play? The PGA Tour’s best – 64 of the world’s top 77 players – are bound for Austin Country Club this week for the final playing of the World Golf Championsh­ips- Dell Technologi­es Match Play. As one of the tour’s designated events for the season, the loaded field will be competing for a tournament- record purse of $ 20 million in its final year.

With a great field comes some mustwatch matches. Here are showdowns you won’t want to miss:

Group 1: Scottie Scheffler vs. Tom Kim

Let’s start with the defending champion, Scottie Scheffler. The world No. 1 also finished runner- up in Austin in 2021 and enters the week off a win at The Players Championsh­ip. Scheffler’s top challenger in Group 1 is rising star Tom Kim, the 20- year- old ranked No. 19 in the world who already has a pair of PGA Tour wins under his belt. Kim embraced the moment as a member of the Internatio­nal team at the Presidents Cup last fall and is sure to put on a show for the fans this week.

Group 2: Jon Rahm vs. Billy Horschel

Both players are known to wear their emotions on their sleeves, which could produce some fireworks given the volatility of match play. Horschel took home the Match Play trophy in 2021, while Rahm, currently ranked No. 2 in the world, finished runner- up in 2017.

Group 2: Keith Mitchell vs. Rickie Fowler

This is a must- watch for a couple of reasons, the first strictly for the clashing aesthetics with Cashmere Keith vs. Highlighte­r Rickie. Second, both are playing some pretty good golf these days. In 10 starts this season on tour, Fowler has six top- 25 finishes, including a trio of top- 10s and a T- 2 at the Zozo Championsh­ip. Over 12 starts, Mitchell also has three top- 10 finishes, including a pair of close calls on the West Coast swing at the AT& T Pebble Beach Pro- Am ( T- 4) and Genesis Invitation­al ( 5).

Group 3: Rory McIlroy vs. Keegan Bradley

Ranked No. 3 in the world, McIlroy is appointmen­t television these days alongside Scheffler and Rahm, not to mention his history at the event, which includes a win in 2015 and a runner- up showing in 2012. Bradley won in the fall at the Zozo Championsh­ip and so far this year has a runner- up finish at the Farmers Insurance Open and top- 10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitation­al.

Group 5: Max Homa vs. Kevin Kisner

This might be one of the most fun matches in the pool play slate. Both are fan favorites, but Kisner might just have the advantage at Austin Country Club. The match play maven has been runnerup in 2022 and 2018 and won in 2019. Homa hasn’t finished better than T- 18 at the Match Play, but he did go an unbeaten 4- 0 at the 2022 Presidents Cup, including a defeat of Tom Kim in his Sunday singles match. This season Homa has two wins at the Fortinet Championsh­ip and Farmers Insurance Open.

Group 5: Max Homa vs. Hideki Matsuyama

See above for the reasons to watch Homa, but let’s focus on Matsuyama here. After two wins last season, Matsuyama has struggled by his lofty standards so far this season and hasn’t advanced to the Round of 16 at the Match Play since 2015. But as he prepares to make another run at Augusta National following his 2021 Masters win, don’t be surprised if a match with Homa gets Matsuyama’s competitiv­e juices flowing.

Group 9: Collin Morikawa vs. Jason Day

Jason Day has been back on his grind recently on the PGA Tour with five top- 10 finishes in 12 starts this season and could be a fun challenge for the top seed in Group 9. Not only that, Day has a history of success at the Match Play, where he won in 2014 and 2016, the first year at Austin Country Club.

Group 12: Jordan Spieth vs. Shane Lowry

Ryder Cup fall preview, anyone? Neither player has a great history of success in the event, but this isn’t a projection of winners. The pair are separated by just nine places in both their seeds and world rankings, making for one of the closest matches on paper in Match Play pool play.

Group 14: Tyrrell Hatton vs. Anyone else in Group 14

Hatton will be looking to make his case for a third Ryder Cup appearance and has a strong history at the Match Play, where he has advanced to the Round of 16 in three of his past five appearance in Austin. Not only that, the fact he idles at 70% on the verge of losing his temper makes him must- watch in match play. It doesn’t matter if it’s Russell Henley, Lucas Herbert or Ben Griffin, they’re all matches you won’t want to miss with Hatton.

 ?? ERICH SCHLEGEL/ USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Scottie Scheffler is ranked No. 1 in the world.
ERICH SCHLEGEL/ USA TODAY SPORTS Scottie Scheffler is ranked No. 1 in the world.

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