Golf: Justin Thomas to skip Match Play, citing past struggles

Justin Thomas plays his shot from the second tee during the third round of the Valspar Championship on March 18, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES – The WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay event boasts a strong field for its final showing in Austin, Texas this week but Justin Thomas will not be among them.

While 64 of the top 77 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will tee off on Wednesday in the five-day event, the American cited his “really bad” play as a reason to take a pass.

Thomas is coming off a tied-10th at the Valspar Championship last weekend at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbour, Florida.

The two-time PGA Championship winner is the only player in the top 10 – aside from banned LIV golfers – who will not be in this week’s field.

“(Innisbrook) is a place I love. I really, really love the golf course,” Thomas said. “I feel like I have a really good chance to win there if I go play. I simply don’t feel that way about Austin Country Club. It’s nothing against the course. I’ve played it six times and I’ve played it really bad in five of them.

“So, I just felt like it was a better decision for me to go to a place where I, at least, had some positivity and felt like I had a lot better chance to win than going to an elevated event, a huge event, being the Matchplay.”

Thomas advanced out of the round-robin stage just once in six WGC events at Austin. Like in previous years, the WGC-Dell Technologies Matchplay field will be divided into 16 four-player groups.

Each group will play round-robin matches on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The player with the best record in each group will advance to the round of 16, which will be played on Saturday morning, followed by the quarter-finals in the afternoon.

The semi-finals and championship match will take place on Sunday. The event has a prize purse of US$20 million (S$26.7 million), with the winner taking home US$3.5 million. 

All eyes will be on world No. 1 and defending champion Scottie Scheffler. He is the planet’s in-form golfer, having won the Phoenix Open and Players Championship since February.

Separately, Austin is losing its PGA Tour stop after this week. It will be replaced in 2024 by the Cadence Bank Houston Open, an event not associated with the World Golf Championships.

Austin Country Club has played host to a WGC event since 2016, but the premier series, started in 1999, has faded in recent years. In 2021, the WGC-Mexico Open was converted to a regular PGA Tour event while the WGC-FedEx St Jude became the first event of the FedEx Cup play-offs. REUTERS

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