The World Golf Championships are taking a page straight out of FIFA's book.
For the first time, the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play will take on a World Cup-esque format. Long gone is the player vs. player format that sometimes would send a few of the world's top players—and biggest ratings generators—packing after the first round of play. This time around, we'll see each of the field's 64 players navigate 54 holes before cuts are made.
So, how does it all work?
Sixteen groups of four players were randomly generated with one of the world's top 16 golfers in each. Members within each group will play each other in a round-robin format, and the player with the best record after those three rounds moves on to the Sweet 16. From there, the remaining 16 players compete in a single-elimination bracket format until only one remains.
Got it? Good. Now, here's a look at this year's groups, via Kyle Porter of CBS Sports:
This change in the tournament's format should produce some exciting and nail-biting action from TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, so to ensure you don't miss a moment of the drama, let's take a look at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play's essential viewing information, prize money and tee times.
2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play
Dates: Wednesday, April 29 - Sunday, May 3
Where: TPC Harding Park in San Francisco
Purse: $9.25 million (winning share: $1.57 million)
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to winner
- Wednesday: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
- Thursday: 4 p.m. - 10 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
- Friday: 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
- Saturday: 3 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel; 7:30 p.m. - 11 p.m. ET, NBC
- Sunday: 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel; 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. ET, NBC
Printable Bracket: WorldGolfChampionships.com
Round-Robin Tee Times: GolfWeek.com
Round-Robin Matchups to Watch
During the first three days of the event, we'll be seeing many intriguing matchups. It's pretty difficult to narrow them down to a select few marquee showdowns, but let's give it a try anyway.
Rory McIlroy vs. Billy Horschel
This is one of the last tee times on Friday, and it should be a great one. The last time these two players faced off in a match-play format was the 2007 Walker Cup. In case you don't remember, Billy Horschel outdueled the current world No. 1, and Rory McIlroy likely still has the image of Horschel's celebrations burned into the back of his mind.
It will be interesting to see how each of these players fare against one another eight years later. Currently, McIlroy has the better match-play record, going 17-9-1 for a career winning percentage of 63. Horschel doesn't have much experience in the format, maintaining a 1-1 career record.
Will the bad blood between these two from years ago ignite a thrilling match on Friday? That's a good possibility.
Jordan Spieth vs. Mikko Ilonen
Mikko who? In case you're not overly familiar with veterans of the European Tour, the 35-year-old Mikko Ilonen hails from Finland and is only in the tournament due to Phil Mickelson's absence. So, why would he pose a threat to Jordan Spieth, the surging American and world No. 2?
Well, for one thing, Ilonen has a better career match-play record than Spieth—the veteran European boasts a 5-4 record, while the American phenom holds a 3-3 mark. Sure, you could argue Spieth is on a tremendous roll right now, winning the Masters in dominating fashion; however, Ilonen flourishes in match-play events, winning the 2014 Volvo World Match Play Championship.
Will Ilonen's experience and previous match-play prowess pay off and lead to an upset victory, or will the red-hot Spieth simply be too much to handle? That question will be answered in short order when this matchup takes place Wednesday afternoon.
Jason Day vs. Zach Johnson
On Friday, we're in for a treat, as two match-play juggernauts prepare to face off—possibly for a spot in the Sweet 16. Jason Day is the event's defending champion, and with a career match-play record of 15-4, he is one of the field's most dangerous players. However, Johnson is highly experienced in the format as well.
Johnson boasts a career record of 10-13-1, with his best finish coming in the 2006 WGC-Accenture Match Play (third place). Although, he's always been a threat in the Ryder Cup, going unbeaten in Sunday singles play. With this year's tournament moved to the shorter TPC Harding Park, Johnson's accurate playing style will be an advantage.
Don't expect Day to concede any short putts this week, either. He recently told Carl Steward of the San Jose Mercury News he'd "make Tiger Woods putt a foot putt." If that's the case, he may get under Johnson's skin quickly, and we'll see some no-holds-barred golf as a result.
All player career match-play records courtesy of AdamSarson.com.