It’s March Madness, or bracket season, not only for college basketball, but also for golf. Currently, the World Golf Championships Dell Technologies Match Play tournament is taking place at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas, where the first three days of play consist of a round robin format.
The WGC Dell Technologies Match Play format
64 golfers are seeded one through 64 across 16 groups, consisting of four golfers per group. The four golfers in a group play against one another on each of the three days in a match play format.
Match play is a golf game that is played by holes, not by strokes. For example, earlier Wednesday, No. 7 seed Xander Schauffele defeated No. 56 seed Takumi Kanaya 3 and 2. That means, Schauffele won by three with two holes to play.
After the first three days, the winner of each group advances to bracket play on the weekend.
In the bracket rounds, play begins Saturday morning, and the morning round winners move on to play in the quarterfinals in the afternoon, totaling 36 holes of play for eight players.
For players who win in the quarterfinals, the four golfers compete Sunday morning in the semifinals. The winners advance to the championship match and the losers of the semifinals go to the third-place match.
Scottie Scheffler, who was last year’s runner up in this event, is the No. 5 seed this year and said like basketball, madness is to be expected.
“Seeding in that, it seems like anything is going to happen,” Scheffler said Tuesday. “I would say it’s more likely for the No. 64 seed to beat the No. 1 seed in golf than it is in basketball, but obviously, I don’t know about your bracket, but my bracket sucks. It’s probably more important than basketball.”
Scheffler won his first match against No. 59 seed Ian Poulter 2 and 1 earlier today.
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WGC Dell Technologies Match Play vs. stroke play
Rather than competing for the lowest score to win a tournament, players are competing against one another – from the start – to win.
In addition, playing in three round robin matches with the possibility of playing 72 holes on the weekend compared 72 holes for an entire tournament over four days makes this event even more grueling, both physically and mentally.
As a result, playing in this format is different than any other tournament on the PGA Tour as it is the only match play event on the schedule.
There are other events that PGA Tour players compete in when it comes to match play, such as when a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup take place.
Schauffele, who competed in last year’s Ryder Cup for the United States, said he likes match play because of the rivalry it brings out with someone on the course, even from one of his best friends in Patrick Cantlay, the No. 4 seed in this week’s event.
“You can really get a read on an individual when you play against them in match play,” Schauffele told the media Tuesday afternoon. “I enjoy the competition. I do a match play thing with Patrick pretty much every week. I feel like he’s a good person to great ready against.”
When it came to doubles match play, or four-ball last September in the Ryder Cup, Schuaffele and Cantlay won both of their matches when they were grouped together.
In match play, not only can someone learn more about a golfer compared to a stroke play tournament, but energy can be made and grown over the course of a match.
“There’s always opportunities and swings in the span of 18 holes, even in nine holes, where you can kind of feel momentum go your way,” Schauffele said. “You make a long putt, or a guy hits it to six feet, and you make a 30-footer or a chip-in and then he misses the six-footer. You can call that a big emotional swing in a match and you can build off of that.”
Every golfer has a different perspective when it comes to how they approach a hole or even a tournament.
Jordan Spieth, who is the No. 11 seed, said his mentality is to play in a comeback mindset, which has stayed with him long before he joined the PGA Tour.
“I like to play every single hole as if I’m two down and when I get to even, it resets and goes back to two down,” Spieth said. “It stays aggressive. When you get up, sometimes it feels like you’re protecting a three-shot lead in a tournament when things could change so quickly, especially with the back nine out here.
“That hasn’t changed going into my junior golf days. I just went into that approach one time and really liked the way it made me play aggressive golf.”