herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Champ Rory gets easier WGC group

Rory McIlroy doesn’t seem to have a ‘Group of Death’. Photo: Timothy A Clary/ AFP/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy doesn’t seem to have a ‘Group of Death’. Photo: Timothy A Clary/ AFP/Getty Images

Defending champion Rory McIlroy will face Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen and American pair Kevin Na and Smylie Kaufman at this week's WGC-Dell Match Play.

And world number one Jordan Spieth was placed in an eye-catching group with 2014 runner-up Victor Dubuisson, Europe's Ryder Cup hero Jamie Donaldson and breakthrough star Justin Thomas for the tournament in Austin, Texas.

The top 16 qualified players were each placed in a separate group, with the rest of the field split into three pools depending on their ranking and drawn at random. Players in each group play off in a round-robin format before the 16 winners advance to a knock-out stage.

McIlroy won last year's tournament with a 4&2 success over Gary Woodland in the final and will face a trio of relatively unheralded but talented opponents in this year's first stage.

Kaufman won October's Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, where Na finished as runner-up for the second successive week.

Olesen, his first opponent, has two top-10 finishes at majors but is ranked 66th in the world and was only handed his place in the 64-man field after the withdrawals of world numbers seven and 16 Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk.

McIlroy said: "It's always good to come back to a tournament where you've had success. I feel like my match play record speaks for itself, I've had a good record in this tournament and in the Ryder Cup as well.

"Kevin I've played in this tournament before, maybe in 2010, and he's playing very well, he's had a great year.

"Thorbjorn is a good friend, I've known him a long time playing on the European Tour, and Smylie I really don't know much about but he's got off to a great start in his PGA Tour career."

The winner will face off against the winner of Group 14 - British Open champion Zach Johnson, Shane Lowry, Martin Kaymer or Marcus Fraser - in the last 16.

Superb

Among Spieth's opponents, Dubuisson was second to Jason Day two years ago and Donaldson's superb approach shot put the seal on Europe's Ryder Cup win at Gleneagles the same year. Thomas won for the first time on the PGA Tour at November's CIMB Classic and also has two third-placed finishes this season.

World number two Day, a winner at Bay Hill on Sunday, has been drawn in a tough group with Graeme McDowell, Paul Casey and Thongchai Jaidee.

Adam Scott, who has already won twice this year, is grouped with Bill Haas, Chris Wood and Thomas Pieters.

Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood will fight to escape Group 13, while Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed are in Group 9, with long-hitters Bubba Watson and JB Holmes doing battle in Group 4.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News