By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
Rory McIlroy will have to overcome a strong test in the group stages of the 2017 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play after being handed a challenging draw in Austin, Texas.
The World Number Two, a winner of this event two years ago, will face American Gary Woodland – the man he defeated in the final in 2015, Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and Dane Soren Kjeldsen over the first three days of play at Austin Country Club.
In a draw televised live from the Texas state capital on Monday evening, the 64-strong field was drawn randomly into 16 four-man groups, with each mini league containing one of the top 16 seeds, one player from seeds 17-32, one from 33-48 and one from seeds 49-64 based on Official World Golf Ranking positions.
Elsewhere, defending champion Jason Day has fellow Australian and last week’s winner on the US PGA Tour, Marc Leishman, plus Lee Westwood – who is making his 17th appearance in the event this week – and American Pat Perez, while Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood has 2013 winner Matt Kuchar to contend with alongside former Masters Champion Zach Johnson and American Brendan Steele.
World Number One Dustin Johnson heads a Group 1 filled entirely with Major winners in reigning US PGA Champion Jimmy Walker, two-time Major victor Martin Kaymer and former US Open winner Webb Simpson.
Meanwhile, in a mouth-watering Group 7, friends and compatriots Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm will go head-to-head in a section completed by Irishman Shane Lowry and American Kevin Chappell, while four European Tour members will duke it out in Group 8 in World Number 11 Alex Noren, Italy’s Francesco Molinari, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Thai ace Thongchai Jaidee.
Ryder Cup team-mates Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood both feature in Group 6 alongside in-form American Justin Thomas and Kevin Na.
There will be 32 group stage matches on each of the first three days from Wednesday through to Friday with the top-placed player following three games progressing into the last 16 knockout stages to be played over Saturday and Sunday.
FULL LIST OF GROUPS (World Ranking in brackets)
GROUP 1: Dustin Johnson (1), Jimmy Walker (22), Martin Kaymer (46), Webb Simpson (64)
GROUP 2: Rory McIlroy (2), Emiliano Grillo (30), Gary Woodland (37), Soren Kjeldsen (68)
GROUP 3: Jason Day (3), Marc Leishman (32), Lee Westwood (49), Pat Perez (62)
GROUP 4: Hideki Matsuyama (4), Louis Oosthuizen (27), Ross Fisher (53), Jim Furyk (57)
GROUP 5: Jordan Spieth (6), Ryan Moore (36), Yuta Ikeda (41), Hideto Tanihara (60)
GROUP 6: Justin Thomas (7), Matt Fitzpatrick (31), Kevin Na (52), Chris Wood (55)
GROUP 7: Sergio Garcia (10), Jon Rahm (25), Kevin Chappell (42), Shane Lowry (59)
GROUP 8: Alex Noren (11), Francesco Molinari (29), Bernd Wiesberger (40), Thongchai Jaidee (63)
GROUP 9: Patrick Reed (12), Brooks Koepka (24), Kevin Kisner (38), Jason Dufner (65)
GROUP 10: Tyrrell Hatton (14), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (26), Jeunghun Wang (45), Charles Howell III (67)
GROUP 11: Danny Willett (15), Russell Knox (21), Bill Haas (47), K.T. Kim (70)
GROUP 12: Paul Casey (16), Charl Schwartzel (28), Ben An (51), Joost Luiten (66)
GROUP 13: Bubba Watson (17), Thomas Pieters (34), Scott Piercy (43), Jhonattan Vegas (61)
GROUP 14: Phil Mickelson (18), J.B. Holmes (35), Daniel Berger (39), Si Woo Kim (69)
GROUP 15: Branden Grace (19), Brandt Snedeker (23), William McGirt (54), Andy Sullivan (58)
GROUP 16: Matt Kuchar (20), Tommy Fleetwood (33), Zach Johnson (50), Brendan Steele (56)