Wednesday, 21 March 2018
Alex Noren and Thomas Pieters  (Getty Images)
Alex Noren and Thomas Pieters (Getty Images)

Ahead of this week's match play action in Austin, europeantour.com takes a look at six matches that could light up the fairways.

Patrick Reed v Jordan Spieth

One of the biggest match-ups this week is between two men who know each other pretty well. Spieth and Reed partnered together for the opening two days at The 2016 Ryder Cup and collected two and a half points from a possible four for the hosts.

However, the team-mates will go head-to-head this week and it will be hard to separate the pair, with both players knowing their opponents strengths and weaknesses so well.

European Tour member Reed was in fine form for the United States side, amassing three and a half points in total over three days. Although he failed to reach the round of 16 at last season's WGC-Match Play, he did go on to record his best finishes at two of the four Major Championships which followed, sharing 13th place and coming joint-second at the US Open Championship and US PGA Championship respectively. 

Spieth also missed out on the knockout phase in last year's tournament, but you can never rule out the three-time Major winner. His clean ball-striking and nerveless putting can rescue him from difficult situations, adding more intrigue to the match.

 

Tommy Fleetwood v Ian Poulter

The young gun against the match play veteran. This format seems fits Poulter's key attributes like a dream, as demonstrated by his outstanding Ryder Cup record.

Poulter has never lost a Singles match in any of his four appearances in the biennial event and has picked up 12 points from a possible 15 overall. 

However, Fleetwood is in the form of his life and the reigning Race to Dubai Champion has finished in the top 15 or better in each of the four European Tour events he has participated in this season, including the successful defence of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA in January. The 27 year old also took the maximum three points during the Team Europe's EurAsia Cup victory in January.

 

Thomas Pieters v Alex Noren

This match-up could see a face off between two potential 2018 Ryder Cup team-mates.

Pieters was one of the shining lights for Team Europe during The 2016 Ryder Cup defeat to Team USA; he came away with four points from a possible five to set the European Ryder Cup Rookie record for points won. The Belgian also claimed two out of three points to help Thomas Bjørn’s European team to victory in the EurAsia Cup earlier this year.

Noren's match play record is increasingly gaining him a reputation as somewhat of a specialist in the format. The Swede's most recent match play experience also came at the EurAsia Cup, where he won his Singles match to take his non-WGC match play record to seven victories out of nine matches. Noren is renowned as one of the most consistent players on tour and finished fifth in this event 12 months ago.

 

Jason Day v Louis Oosthuizen

Day has started to regain some of the form which took him to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, with a play-off victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.

The Australian won this event in 2014 and 2016, but was forced to pull out of last year's competition due to family reasons, which interrupted his 2017 campaign.

Day will come up against eight-time European Tour winner Louis Ooshuizen in one of the week's standout matches.

The South African hits it long and straight and has the composure to go deep in most tournaments. Although somtimes unassuming, The 2010 Open Champion has the ability to take on anybody in the field.

 

Tyrell Hatton v Alex Levy

Tyrrell Hatton may well have found his home in match play golf. Only Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood took three points from a possible three for Europe in this year's EurAsia Cup. With one eye on making his Ryder Cup debut in September, Hatton will be keen to take every opportunity to prove his worth in the format.

Alex Levy was also part of that successful European team in Malaysia and could be a contender for for this year's Ryder Cup team, held in his native France. With his ability to keep the ball straight and penchant for attacking pins where possible, he will be a dangerous player to come up against.

 

Thomas Pieters v Tony Finau

The final match on the list could also be a contender for the longest drive competition during the event in Austin. Both men are renowned for hitting it long and straight, and are likely to put on a show for the crowds.

Pieters may edge it with his previous Ryder Cup appearance two years ago, but Finau is no one-trick pony and his approach play in addition to his huge drives brings him into contention.

 

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