Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Wednesday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.
Taylor Moore won the Valspar Championship for his 1st career PGA Tour victory.
Moore was 64-for-64 on putts inside 7 feet for the week.
Moore ranked 2nd in SG: Tee-to-Green (+8.84) and 9th in SG: Putting (+4.84).
With this win, Moore earned a spot into The Masters and The PGA Championship (both of which he's never played before).
Adam Schenk (Runner-up) led or co-led after rounds 1-3 but came up one stroke shy of getting into a playoff with Taylor Moore after he made a bogey on the 72nd hole.
Tommy Fleetwood (T3) has now shot par-or-better in each of his eight career rounds at Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead Course.
Sam Burns finished solo 6th in his bid for a three-peat at the Valspar Championship.
Burns' career scoring average at Innisbrook is now 68.85 in 20 rounds played.
Webb Simpson (T7) posted his first top-10 finish since the 2021 RSM Classic. He's now tied with Luke Donald for the most top-10s at Valspar since 2011.
Simpson parted ways with his long-time caddie Paul Tesori the next day.
Matt Wallace (T7) led the field in SG: Tee-to-Gren (+9.18)
Justin Thomas was the highest-ranked player in the field and finished T10 despite his continued struggles putting (-0.60 SG: PUTT).
Zac Blair (T10) posted his first top-10 finish since the 2019 Safeway Open.
Wyndham Clark (solo 5th) posted his first top-5 finish since the 2020 Bermuda Championship. Clark has seen considerable improvements in his approach play this season:
SG: Approach TOUR rank this season - 37th (+0.46)
SG: Approach TOUR rank last season - 173rd (-0.38)
Ryan Gerard (T71) made the cut but came up just short of earning enough points for Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour.
Amateurs Ludvig Aberg (T61) and Nick Gabrelcik (T69) both made the cut at Valspar.
Austin Country Club - Austin, TX
Event #21 of the 2022-23 FedExCup Regular Season
Designated Event #6
One v. One Match Play (Pool Play + Bracket)
The PGA Tour heads to Texas for the next two weeks before making its way to Augusta National for The Masters.
With that in mind, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play will be the last start for the vast majority of players already qualified for The Masters, with most preferring a week off before a huge tournament. Though some top players have chosen to skip the match play event in the past given its weird format and potential to play seven rounds over a five-day span, an elevated prize purse for this year's tournament has attracted just about all of the world's best.
While there's a long history of professional match play events, WGC Match Play was founded in 1999. The tournament has been sponsored by Dell and played at Austin Country Club since 2016.
The WGC Match Play is such a unique event with the rest of the PGA Tour schedule featuring normal stroke play tournaments. Unfortunately, this will be the last year of the event and no match play events are expected to be on the schedule for the 2023-24 season (outside of the Ryder Cup of course).
The top 64 players in the Official World Golf Rankings (excluding LIV Golf players) are invited to compete in the WGC Match Play. Justin Thomas and Justin Rose are the only qualified golfers who decided to pass on the event.
As the bracket below illustrates, the tournament is split into two phases:
(1) Golfers start in 16 groups of four, with each group containing a player seeded 1-16, 17-32, 33-48, and 49-64. Each group engages in round-robin pool play over the course of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to determine which one player advances to the round of 16.
*In the event of ties at the end of pool play, golfers will compete in sudden-death playoff holes.*
(2) The second phase of the tournament is a one-and-done bracket-style tournament. The round of 16 and quarterfinals take place on Saturday; the semifinals, third place match, and final match takes place on Sunday.
Justin Thomas (OWGR 10th) and Justin Rose (OWGR 31st) are the only two qualified players who decided to skip this event.
Alternates: Brendon Todd, Kazuki Higa, Thomas Detry, Trey Mullinax, Adrian Otaegui, Thirston Lawrence, Danny Willett.
Architect: Pete Dye (1984)
Yards: 7,108 (Par 71)
Fairway: Perennial ryegrass / fescue blend overseed
Rough: Tifway 419 bermudagrass 2"
Greens: Poa Trivialis overseed
Avg. green size: 5,500 sq. ft.
Sand Bunkers: 110
Number of Water Hazards: 5
Number of Holes Water is in Play: 7
Knowing the ins and outs of the course is probably not as big of a deal as most weeks on the PGA Tour. In match play, golfers are obviously trying to beat the other golfer they're up against more than trying to beat the course.
That said, Austin Country Club has played host to the WGC-Dell Match Play since 2016. It's a Pete Dye-designed course with a desert-style feel to it. At just 7,100 yards, Austin CC is not particularly long and doesn't give any sort of significant advantage to longer hitters. This is evidenced by someone like Kevin Kisner finding tremendous success here over the past several seasons.
With no strokes gained or regular stroke play stats, there's ultimately a limited amount of actionable data on Austin CC. There are still different avenues to go down to try and figure out which golfers might find success this week. Just a few angles to consider:
Players who've found success at other Pete Dye courses
Players with a strong history in other match play formats (Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup)
Elite scramblers and putters who can put pressure on opponents by making great par saves or making birdies from places they shouldn't.
Familiarity and success playing in Texas
If there was ever a week to embrace variance on the PGA Tour, WGC Play Match might be it. Only three players have advanced out of pool play in each of the last two years (Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, and Billy Horschel).
Advancement rates out of pool play by seed since 2015:
1-seeds (1-16): 33%
2-seeds (17-32): 24.1%
3-seeds (33-48): 20.5%
4-seeds (49-64): 22.3%
In 2021, only ONE top seed advanced out of group play. In the same year, EIGHT 4-seeds advanced to the knockout stage.
This is an entertaining but also strange and hard-to-predict tournament. Golfers who you expect to dominate will inevitably lose in the group stages, and golfers completely off the radar will make cinderella runs. It just seems to be the nature of match play at Austin CC.
Matt Fitzpatrick (neck) - OWGR 13th
Coming off his third missed cut in his last four starts, Fitzpatrick's neck issue continues to be something to monitor. It's unclear if Fitzpatrick's recent dip in play is due to a nagging injury or just a bad run of form.
Fitzpatrick's neck injury first popped up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at the end of January.
Keegan Bradley (illness) - OWGR 22nd
Bradley withdrew from last week's Valspar Champion the day before the tournament started due to an illness. There have been no updates since then and as of this moment Bradley remains in the field for the Dell Match Play.
Maverick McNealy (left shoulder) - OWGR 70th
After round two of last week's Valspar Championship, McNealy said he's "feeling much better" after having some SC joint issues. He added that his "driver speed's coming back still probably not a hundred percent. Just subconsciously not wanting to rip at it completely full."
McNealy ultimately ended up with a T36 finish at Valspar. He finished T60 at The Players Championship the week prior, which was his first return to action.
He withdrew from Pebble Beach and the WM Phoenix Open, and then McNealy missed Genesis and API because of this shoulder injury. It appears that he's back to full health.
Cam Davis (illness) - OWGR 79th
After a poor start to 2023 (five consecutive missed cuts), Davis bounced back with a T6 at The Players Championship. During that event, Davis told the media that he had been dealing with some sort of illness over the first few months of the year, which was negatively impacting his ability to practice and play.
According to Davis, he is feeling much better now and that seems to align with his strong performance at The Players.
Tee Times for Round 3 on Friday will be announced later in the week.
These are the results of the Dell Match Play event since it moved to Austin Country Club in 2016 (no results for 2020 because the event was canceled due to COVID).
Green = Advanced out of Group Stage (Pool Play)
R16 = Round of 16
QF = Quarterfinals
Red = Did not advance out of Group Stage (Pool Play)
20 of the 64 competitors are playing WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club for the first time this week: