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Defending champ Kevin Kisner gets tough challenge in WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play draw


Defending champion and two-time consecutive finalist Kevin Kisner returns to the World Golf Championship-Dell Match Play this week and is straight away greeted with, properly, a Group of Death draw.

Welcome again to Austin, Kevin.

Kisnser gained the 2019 occasion, the final time it was performed after final yr’s match was canceled due to the pandemic, and completed as runner-up to Bubba Watson in 2018.

But the random draw for 64 of the highest 69 golfers in the world did him no favors Monday when he was positioned in a foursome alongside reigning Players Champion Justin Thomas (second seed), 2019 Dell runner-up Matt Kuchar (52) and 2016 Dell runner-up and at all times tough Louis Oosthuizen (22).

Kisner mentioned he seems ahead to the challenge and added that he and Thomas are great buddies and Thomas’ caddie, Jimmie Johnson, is considered one of Kisner’s longtime mates.

Asked how a lot enjoyable he figures to have with that group, Kisner mentioned, “I would have way more fun if all three of them just forfeited the match, to be honest. But, no, it’s fun. If you want to be the best, you got to beat the best, and JT’s playing arguably the best in the world right now, so it will be a lot of fun. Obviously the other two players are all longtime Tour stalwarts that have been out here and played great, had a lot of success, so I’m looking forward to seeing how my game steps up against all of them.”

Of course, Kisner is used to the disrespect card, if you’ll. He was seeded solely forty eighth in 2019 when he made his manner by means of seven rounds to win and is ranked simply thirty fourth this week. So he ought to have loads of motivation.

His grouping drew probably the most consideration Monday and signaled a troublesome path to Sunday’s championship of the Dell occasion, which is being hosted by the Austin Country Club for the fifth time. Group play begins on Wednesday morning and runs three days earlier than the playoffs begin on Saturday with two rounds every of the 2 weekend days.

But he’s received firm relating to steep challenges, as one would count on from a area that boasts 13 main champions who’ve 20 such titles.

As good as Thomas is, the previous PGA Champion has superior out of group play simply as soon as in 4 earlier tries at Austin CC however reached the semifinals earlier than dropping to eventual champion Bubba Watson in 2018. He was additionally winless in three matches and eradicated in 2016 when he was in the identical group as Jordan Spieth.

Jordan Spieth, who has had a significant resurgence this season with three top-five finishes in his final 4 begins, finds himself in Group 15 with Matt Fitzpatrick (15), former Oklahoma State product Matthew Wolff (20) and Canadian and Valero Open champion Corey Conners (37). In 4 profession begins in the occasion at Austin Country Club, the previous Texas star superior out of his group in 2016 and was defeated by Oosthuizen, 4 and a couple of, in the spherical of 16.

“There’s just a deep, tremendous amount of talent in golf right now,” Spieth mentioned. “You’ve got guys in their 40s who are winning the biggest tournaments in the world and guys in their 20s playing well. It’s cool. New guys come in every year and want to sustain their careers for 20 years. That’s what we all want to do.”

No. 1 seed Dustin Johnson has completed that higher than most. He’s gained 26 tournaments worldwide and, at age 36, begins play Wednesday as the highest seed, however what else is new?

He holds that standing for the fourth consecutive yr and is taking pictures for his seventh WGC title, second all time behind solely Tiger Woods, who sadly gained’t be again after his critical automotive accident in Los Angeles. Johnson’s group consists of Kevin Na (28), Robert MacIntyre (41) and Adam Long (61).

Besides Spieth, two different Longhorns discover themselves in the sphere. Both have in depth expertise on the tight Austin CC observe.

Scottie Scheffler, in his second yr on the Tour and seeded thirtieth, obtained a treacherous draw himself. He’s joined by Xander Schauffele (6), 2016 Dell champion Jason Day (44), who gained in the match’s preliminary begin in Austin, and Andy Sullivan (57).

“It’s a good group,” Scheffler mentioned Monday. “I’ve actually never played golf with Andy, but I’ve seen the other two play. It’ll be a fun group. My caddie is good buddies with Jason, and Xander is a friend of mine, so it’ll be a good group to compete in.”

Scheffler has two high 10s in his final 4 occasions, however hasn’t been completely happy together with his play till recently.

“I got off to a really slow start to the season in the fall,” he mentioned. “I was playing terrible, not swinging it well. I feel like the last month, month and a half, my swing is starting to come around and felt like the swing has really turned the corner.

Dylan Frittelli hasn’t played well of late and, despite his 69th world ranking, qualified as the final entry in the Dell field after Brooks Koepka withdrew and had right knee surgery. He’s locked in with Tony Finau (12), Jason Kokrak (29) and Will Zalatoris (40).

Frittelli has added eight pounds of weight, reduced his body fat by 5 percent, gotten stronger and more focused. The native South African has shown glimpses of his game with a top-five finish at the Masters and a top-25 start at TPC Sawgrass.

He is almost as excited about the new roof over his head.

“Three years ago was the last time I played, so super excited for some match play golf in front of a home crowd and familiar surroundings,” mentioned Frittelli, a former teammate of Spieth’s and the Longhorn who sank the profitable putt for Texas’ final nationwide championship in 2012 to beat Justin Thomas and Alabama. “The last time I played here (in the Dell), I actually had just bought a house here, but I was staying with friends. It’s pretty cool to sleep in my own bed.”

Play begins early Wednesday morning, and nobody can be extra excited than Kisner.

The 37-year-old South Carolinian has three PGA victories, however none for the reason that 2019 Dell. He turned the daddy of a 3rd little one not too long ago and decreased his schedule to only 5 tournaments in the final 15 weeks, however he plans to play 5 of the following six occasions.

“It’s not been up to the level that I want it to be,” Kisner mentioned of his recreation. “I’ve spent a lot of time with the family, kind of more important at this stage in life. But this is my stretch right here. So hopefully this is another turning point for me to get the game rolling.”

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