PGA Tour

McIlroy, Spieth headline Match Play

2015-04-28 20:35
Jordan Spieth (AFP)

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Los Angeles - Jason Day will be defending his title when the new look WGC-Match Play Championship gets underway in San Francisco on Wednesday, but many will be hoping for a final pitting Rory McIlroy against Jordan Spieth.

The stage was set for what could be an enduring golfing rivalry at Augusta National earlier this month when the 21-year-old American Spieth won the Masters, and his first major title, in record-breaking fashion.

McIlroy, at 25 a four-time major winner from Northern Ireland, took fourth place on that occasion and both men spoke of their eagerness to go head-to-head on the biggest of stages.

Whether that will happen on Sunday at Harding Park Golf Club Course is, of course, a matter of conjecture as the top 64 players in the world make the all-too-rare switch from strokeplay to match play where the margin between victory and failure is all the thinner.

At least this time around, the margins are somewhat larger.

Hitherto, one loss meant a trip home, but the new round-robin format being employed, involving 16 groups of four golfers each, means that second chances are available.

McIlroy is the top seed in Group 1 with strong opposition from 2014 FedEx Cup Champion Billy Horschel, 20112 FedEx Champ Brandt Snedeker and 2012 PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner.

Spieth headlines Group 2 where he faces former world number one Lee Westwood, Matt Every and Mikko Ilonen - who was the last player to make it into the draw following the withdrawal for personal reasons of Phil Mickelson.

A former world amateur number one, Ilonen has long since acquired "journeyman" status in the pro ranks, but he believes that the match play format is a great leveller when taking on the likes of Spieth.

"Hey, it's match play and anything can happen - we all know that," said Ilonen. "I definitely don't have anything to lose against Jordan. If you look at how good he has been recently, and as much as I hate to say it, how bad I have been lately, then there really is nothing for me to lose.

"My form has been poor but we know how quickly it can turn in this game and maybe match play is what I need to get to going.

"I have a pretty good match play record and I have to say that winning the Volvo Match Play at the London Club last year was basically what got me into this tournament.

"That win is basically what got my ranking high enough to sneak in here and beating a lot of the European Ryder Cup players in that tournament so soon after they had won in Gleneagles gave me a lot of confidence and belief that I can do well in this format."

Other top groupings see Bubba Watson go up against Louis Oosthuizen, Keegan Bradley and Miguel Angel Jimenez in Group 4 with title-holder Day facing Zach Johnson, Branden Grace and Charley Hoffman in Group 7.

Mickelson's absence adds to the non-qualification of Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, neither of whom are ranked high enough to gain entry.

Read more on:    pga tour  |  golf

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