Is your NCAA Tournament bracket already busted? Don't worry -- there's another bit of March Madness getting underway and we're here to help you redeem yourself.
Golf's WGC-Dell Match Play Championship gets underway Wednesday from historic Austin Country Club -- and 64 of the top 66 players in the world will descend on Jordan Spieth's college stomping grounds for one of golf's most unpredictable and unique events. It's the first time the event's being played in Austin, and the only stateside Match Play event has a renewed interest from players after moving from Arizona to San Francisco to Austin and back to the original March date on the schedule.
After complaints from players in past years about flying in from all over the world and only playing a single round, the event retooled last year at Harding Park in San Francisco. In 2015, it debuted a round-robin group stage format from Wednesday to Friday, before commencing a round of 16 bracket with the winner of each group beginning on the weekend. It's now a unique grind for the players, and a mild test of endurance -- any winner would play seven rounds in five days.
Don't know where to start with your bracket? No worries -- we're here to help you with those picks.
Group 1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson
Did you know Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas are friends? They're great friends. Possibly best friends. If you don't follow golf too closely, you might not have known this. If you do, you're already well aware that this storyline will be pounded into each viewer's skull by the end of the day Friday. Spieth might have looked off the past few weeks compared to the Tiger-esque standards we're beginning to hold him to, but he's still had the best 2016 by far of any member of this group. Oh, and he's a former Longhorn playing at Austin Country Club. Take the chalk here, but if you're looking for an upset -- Dubuisson made the finals of this event in 2014. PICK: Spieth.
Group 2: Louis Oosthuizen, Andy Sullivan, Bernd Wiesberger, Matt Jones
Don't make this one hard -- Oostie's finished in the top 15 of every start of 2016, save for a missed cut in Dubai. There's no reason to believe the South African's run of good form won't continue after contending amongst strong fields at Innisbrook and Doral. PICK: Oosthuizen.
Group 3: Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Daniel Berger
The year 2016 hasn't treated golf's lightning rod well, but Patrick Reed's beat-you-at-all-costs personality suits well to the one-on-one nature of match-play golf. Phil's back in this event for the first time since 2011 -- and has three top fives on the year. He's the favorite here, but if you'd like to take a flier -- Daniel Berger could be worth a look. PICK: Mickelson.
Group 4: Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Robert Streb
You know the rules of March -- too much chalk and your bracket will look just like everyone else's. Take some risks, baby. D.J. & Jimmy Walker are known flavors to American golf fans, but there's still room to make money on Aphibarnrat. The Thai national is coming off a sixth-place finish at Bay Hill -- and won last year's inaugural Paul Lawrie Match Play event on the European Tour. Take him and profit. PICK: Aphibarnrat.
Group 5: Rickie Fowler, Byeong-Hun An, Scott Piercy, Jason Dufner
There might not be anyone in golf right now as steady and as sound of a bet as Fowler to contend in a given tournament. Save for a missed cut at the Farmers, Fowler's worst finish on the year? Eighth. Joggers and high-tops are dope, as are Rickie's chances of advancing here. PICK: Fowler.
Group 6: Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Kisner, Soren Kjeldsen, Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Hideki's coming off a nice showing at Bay Hill (T-6) and the chance of a rematch from the Fowler-Matsuyama showdown in Scottsdale? Oh, you better believe it. PICK: Matsuyama.
Group 7: Sergio Garcia, Marc Leishman, Ryan Moore, Lee Westwood
It's a round of 16 of big names in college basketball -- why not golf, too? Sergio very possibly should've won the Honda Classic had Adam Scott not snatched it away. He'll advance here. PICK: Garcia.
Group 8: Bubba Watson, J.B. Holmes, Emiliano Grillo, Patton Kizzire
Big hitters J.B. & Bubba have been fantastic to start 2016, but this is match-play golf. A tiny Argentine youngster beating both of those two? Sure, why not. It'd make sense at a venue which might prioritize placement off the tee over distance -- Grillo's eighth on tour in driving accuracy. PICK: Grillo.
Group 9: Jason Day, Paul Casey, Thongchai Jaidee, Graeme McDowell
Day's best is better than anyone in the world's right now, maybe -- and he won on Sunday. Some early season struggles seemingly behind him, don't outsmart yourself here. PICK: Day.
Group 10: Brandt Snedeker, Charl Schwartzel, Danny Lee, Charley Hoffman
Sneds and Lee started 2016 strong -- but both have struggled in recent weeks. Charl Schwartzel seems to be your safe pick here, having won twice in 2016 worldwide and in his most recent start at Innisbrook. PICK: Schwartzel
Group 11: Danny Willett, Brooks Koepka, Billy Horschel, Jaco Van Zyl
Someone will try to talk you into Brooks here. Don't listen. Willett already won in Dubai, contended at Doral and the 28-year-old Englishman might be due for a major championship soon. PICK: Willett.
Group 12: Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Fabián Gómez
Lahiri's coming off a T2 finish in his home country of India on the Euro Tour. Halfway around the world's a long way to travel in a couple of days and stay in form, but I took too much chalk earlier in the bracket. Let's change it up -- Lahiri advances, against, like, the compelling evidence that Justin Rose should be the pick here. Whatever. PICK: Lahiri.
Group 13: Adam Scott, Bill Haas, Chris Wood, Thomas Pieters
Scott's the pick here having two wins and a second-place finish in his last four starts, but there's a ready made Cinderella story in this bracket worth rooting for, too. Belgium's Thomas Pieters making it out of this round would be golf's answer to a 16 beating a 1 in college basketball -- and it'd be a nice story for the golf world after the events in Brussels. PICK: Scott.
Group 14: Branden Grace, Russell Knox, David Lingmerth, Chris Kirk
Grace was great in January -- but it's now late March, and he's been fairly quiet since. Anyone but David Lingmerth probably works here, whose best finish is T-49 since coming in second at the CareerBuilder Challenge in late January. Russell Knox? Sure. PICK: Knox.
Group 15: Zach Johnson, Shane Lowry, Martin Kaymer, Marcus Fraser
Austin Country Club should be a good fit for the accurate and deliberate Johnson, who just had a nice top-five finish at Bay Hill last week. PICK: Johnson.
Group 16: Rory McIlroy, Kevin Na, Smylie Kaufman, Thorbjorn Olesen
You could pick Smylie Kaufman, who's having a nice start to the 2016 season on Tour. It would also not be advisable because, uh, the world's best match-play competitor with a 23-9 career record and defending champion is in the group. PICK: McIlroy.
ROUND OF 16
(1) Spieth vs. (16) Oosthuizen. Louis has been better than Spieth in recent weeks, but this is a virtual home game for Spieth. He'll have the crowd. He knows the track. It's tough to pick against a non-football-playing Longhorn in Austin. Pick: Spieth.
(17) Mickelson vs. (37) Aphibarnrat. Spieth vs. Mickelson in Austin would be too perfect, which is why it won't happen. Kiradech isn't Thai for bracket-buster, but it might as well be. PICK: Aphibarnrat.
(5) Fowler vs. (12) Matsuyama. 5-12 matchups always provide theatrics in March, and this matchup would be no different. One would think Rickie would have revenge on his mind here from Scottsdale, so we'll take him here. PICK: Fowler.
(13) Garcia vs. (33) Grillo. Sergio is golf's answer to a senior-laden team that's always had disappointment on the big stage. That's big in March, right? It's a letdown matchup for Grillo after making it out his upset of Bubba in the group stage. Take the veteran. PICK: Sergio.
(2) Day vs. (19) Schwartzel. Nah. PICK: Day.
(10) Willett vs. (48) Lahiri. Match play is super weird and often makes little sense, but the one thing that probably doesn't prepare you to play multiple rounds per day is a cross-world flight. Yes, we're to the point where I'm picking matchups on travel plans. I am a bad golf blogger. PICK: Willett.
(6) Scott vs. (32) Knox. Listen, if you don't have a reason for really picking a dude to advance in the first place, you shouldn't pick him to beat the dude who's probably the hottest dude in the game right now. PICK: Scott.
(3) McIlroy vs. (14) Johnson. A possible meeting of Rory & Adam Scott in the quarterfinals of a match-play event? Zach Johnson was put on this very earth to ruin such an event. PICK: Johnson.
(1) Speith vs. (37) Aphibarnrat. Spieth, for his own standards, isn't playing well right now. The idea of him winning the first edition of this event in Austin is, like, too good to happen because, well THIS IS MARCH. PICK: Aphibarnrat.
(5) Fowler vs. (13) Garcia. Coin toss. Take Sergio, because he's probably overdue to win this year. PICK: Garcia.
(2) Day vs. (10) Willett. Winning golf tournaments in back-to-back weeks? That's hard. It's even harder when you've gotta play seven rounds in five days to do it. Day bows out here. PICK: Willett.
(6) Scott vs. (14) Johnson. Finding a reason to pick against Adam Scott's especially difficult when he's rolling the ball well. He's doing that now. PICK: Scott.
(13) Garcia vs. (37) Aphibarnrat. Cinderella's gotta take those shoes off eventually. A Final Four run's enough for Kiradech, for now. But you'll hear from him later. PICK: Garcia
(6) Scott vs. (10) Willett. Remember how winning in back-to-back weeks is difficult to do in golf? Winning three times in four starts is even harder. PICK: Willett.
(10) Danny Willett vs. (13) Sergio Garcia. Is it finally Sergio's time to get a WGC Match Play win to pair with his Ryder Cup hardware? Nah, not yet. Willett should be in line for big things in 2016 -- and this might just be the event to propel him even higher. Could a green jacket be next? CHAMPION: Danny Willett.
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