AUSTIN, Texas — In the spirit of March Madness, the WGC Match Play revealed its own Sweet 16 players who advanced from three days of pool play at Austin Country Club to the weekend’s knockout rounds.
Golf had its own stunning upsets (Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth both went down early), but for every bracket buster, there was a heavy favorite (Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson have been unbeatable) poised to go deep into the tournament.
So here’s a power ranking of the World Golf Championship’s Sweet 16.
1. Dustin Johnson (3-0): The World No. 1 player came into the week calling himself one of the best young players in the world and did absolute nothing to disprove it. Undefeated and untested, he was up 6 after 8 holes on Friday against fellow major champion Jimmy Walker and cruised into the weekend play.
2. Jon Rahm (3-0): After beating his countryman Sergio Garcia, it might be time to buy into the considerable hype of this talented rookie. He already won in San Diego with electrifying golf, which is exactly what he will need to advance.
3. Phil Mickelson (3-0): If it’s late March and only weeks away from the Masters Tournament, cue the theme music and cue good play from Mickelson. Undefeated in pool play, he is chipping and putting as good as ever, which is saying a lot.
4. Zach Johnson (2-1): The Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup veteran, is schooled in the ways of match play and proved it with a gutsy Friday afternoon win over Brendan Steele.
5. Paul Casey (3-0). Of the players left for the weekend, he has the longest and most successful match play record, 23-12-1. Add to that 17 years of pro golf experience and a burning hunger to get back to the top rungs of the golf ladder he once enjoyed.
6. Soren Kjeldsen (3-0): Do you ever wonder why Europeans have such a decided advantage in the Ryder Cup? Look no further than the latest talented Swede to burst onto the American golf scene.
7. Hideto Tanihara (2-0-1): He was the surprise star of the Spieth-led group and has been played quietly solid golf all week.
8. Bill Haas (2-1): Haas has been playing very solid and is perfectly built for match play with smart, mistake-free golf which forces his opponents to make miscues.
9. Brooks Koepka (3-0): The young, talented Tour winner can hit the ball a mile. All of those are good qualities for weekend advancement in Austin.
10. Bubba Watson (2-0-1): He advanced to the weekend for the first time in his WGC-Match Play career and undoubtedly has the talent to advance, but does he have the match play discipline?
11. Marc Leishman (2-1): He has been played great golf of late and that’s only continued at Austin Country Club. Beware of the hot golfer in match play, and he is one of the hottest.
12. Kevin Na (2-1): He’s proven over his career that he can get streaky good or equally streaky in the opposite direction. It’s always an unknown with Na, but he’s never dull to watch.
13. Charles Howell III (2-1): He is enjoying a recent revival in his playing fortunes and is supremely motivated to make it back to his hometown of Augusta, Georgia to play in the 2017 Masters.
14. Ross Fisher (2-1): The young English star is another match-play specialist, but he may lack the experience and overall talent of some of his fellow Sweet 16 competitors.
15. Alex Noren (3-0): The Swede has surprised a lot of Texas golf fans with his play this week, but with eight international victories, he has plenty of winning experience to make it an extended stay.
16. William McGirt (3-0): He is making his first match play appearance and only his third WGC appearance overall, but he was undefeated in pool play and is more than ready to add some additional lines to his golfing resume.