The Group Stage draw threw up some intriguing battles for the opening three days of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, none more so than Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, who famously did battle at The 2016 Open Championship.
Here, we look at the duels to watch out for…
Mickelson v Stenson
Thursday afternoon at 12:27pm local time and the atmosphere on the first tee is sure to be electric when five-time Major Champion Phil Mickelson and two-time Race to Dubai winner Henrik Stenson face one other. The duo went toe-to-toe in the final group at The Open in Royal Troon three years ago, with Stenson emerging victorious in dramatic fashion for a maiden Major title in one of the most memorable head-to-heads in Major history. The Texan fans can only hope the two can replicate that intensity and quality on Day One in Austin.
Garcia v Reed
Shall we call it Mr Europe vs Captain America? Sergio Garcia created history at The 2018 Ryder Cup in France, overtaking Nick Faldo with the highest points total of all time – 25.5. Two years earlier, Patrick Reed confirmed his legendary status in golf’s biggest team event when he led the charge for Davis Love III’s USA side as they marched to a 17-11 victory. While they faced each other in the Day Two Morning Foursomes at Hazeltine that week, halving the match alongside Rafa Cabrera Bello and Jordan Spieth respectively, they have never played against one another head-on. Expect plenty of passion, and hopefully some fireworks.
Lewis v Koepka
Tom Lewis’s meteoric rise from the Challenge Tour to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in the past six months is in itself an incredible achievement. How the Englishman performs against the World Number Three and three-time Major winner Brooks Koepka could provide an insight into just how far he has come in that time. The 28 year old was tipped as a future star when he first emerged on the scene in 2011, and eight years later he plays this event for the first time. It will be fascinating to see if this proves a further confidence booster, or a timely learning curve, as he begins to realise his immense talent.
Rose v Pepperell
Last October, Justin Rose handed Eddie Pepperell the trophy for the British Masters, which the former U.S. Open Champion hosted at Walton Heath. That victory cemented Pepperell’s position in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking and ensured he could build his 2019 schedule around the Majors and World Golf Championships. With a record ten Englishmen in the field this week, it was inevitable that some of those would face off and on Thursday Rose will take on Pepperell in an intriguing battle of two form players at Austin Country Club.
McIlroy v Fitzpatrick
These two were in the final group of the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational and – while both were beaten to the post by Francesco Molinari – it was a success of sorts for both Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. McIlroy would carry that form into the following week’s Players Championship to claim a 15th US PGA Tour title, while Fitzpatrick could take consolation from his best result Stateside. These two 2016 Ryder Cup team-mates are in a strong vein for form so expect a gilt-edged encounter.