By Paul Myers

Any time golf turns to match play for the format of choice on a given week, you can be sure that surprises are going to follow. The nature of match play is such that the better players don’t have as much of an advantage as they would during a 72-hole stroke play event. With most of the best players in the world present for the World Golf Championships – Dell Match Play, it wouldn’t have really been surprising if any of the 64 players in the field wound up walking away with the title. However, when Jason Day finished off Louis Oosthuizen to win the championship match, the tournament closed with the number one ranked player in the world claiming the trophy.

A Few Surprises

Although the event was won by the top ranked player and winner of the most-recent major, there were still some surprises to be had along the way. Jordan Spieth was knocked out during the round of 16 by Oosthuizen, who would go on to make the final against Day. Phil Mickelson missed out on the ‘knockout stage’ altogether after losing to Patrick Reed on Friday. Perhaps more surprising was the run of Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who made it all the way to the semifinal match before losing to Oosthuizen. Cabrera-Bello would go on to defeat Rory McIlroy in the consolation match to finish third overall. For his effort, Cabrera-Bello moved into the top 50 in the world rankings and earned a spot in The Masters.

Big Name Favorites

As the golf world continues to look ahead to The Masters, the results from the Dell Match Play aren’t going to do much to change the projections. Jason Day was already one of the favorites head into Augusta, and that certainly isn’t going to change now. Rory McIlroy had a great week at Austin Country Club, and Jordan Spieth played well for most of the week, despite his round of 16 loss to Oosthuizen. Those three players, along with Adam Scott and Bubba Watson, head into the year’s first major as the clear favorites.

Great Field in Houston

With the Dell Match Play finished up, there is now just one event remaining prior to the much-anticipated Masters. That event is the Shell Houston Open, which will be played at the Golf Club of Houston. J.B. Holmes is the defending champion at the Shell, an event which draws an impressive field considering its place on the schedule between a WCG event and a major. Some of the top names that will be competing in Houston include Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, and many more. The top players often choose to rest in the week prior to a major, yet many are entered in this field, which is a sure sign of respect for the course and for the tournament. The tournament has made an effort to draw top players by setting up the greens to run similarly fast to those at Augusta National, and the strategy seems to have worked. For golf fans who just can’t wait until The Masters gets going, the Shell Houston Open will offer an exciting preview.