When it comes to Match Play, there are not many present day golfers that have had more success than Titleist Brand Ambassador Ian Poulter. And as we enter this week's WGC-Cadillac Match Play and its all-new format, Poulter is among the field favorites at TPC Harding Park.
Ranked No. 27 in the field based on the Official World Golf Ranking, Poulter was placed in Group No. 11, or what has been tabbed the "group of death" in World Cup soccer terms. In other words, the strongest group from which to emerge victorious. There is a legitimate reason for the moniker, as Poulter is joined by fellow Titleist Brand Ambassadors Jimmy Walker (11) and Webb Simpson (46).
"Yeah, it seems to be an exciting group," said Poulter. "There are some great players and there is no easy match. It's going to be a good week. You've got the 64th best player in the world who can beat No. 1. We've seen it in the past, numerous times, but obviously the new format is going to change things slightly. So even if that happens you've still got a chance to get out of your group."
This will be the 12th time Poulter has participated in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, fashioning a 22-12 record dating back to 2004. He won the title in 2010 when he posted a 5 and 4 victory in the championship match. He reached the semifinal in 2005 and again two years ago in 2013, finishing fourth overall both times. In addition to his winning performances at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play events, Poulter is best known for his fiery, swashbuckling style and success as a member of the European Ryder Cup teams, where he owns a .722 (12-4-2) winning percentage, the best of any player with more than 10 matches played.
So what makes a good match play player?
"Someone who is gutsy, stubborn, ruthless and bulldogish," said Poulter, who also added "that's most of the players in this field. We all have a passion, but some have a deeper passion than others, I guess. And the ruthlessness in there, the will to hang in. Sometimes when people say things aren't possible, it makes you dig even harder. I've certainly had that through my career at certain times and that's where I pull from within to be a tough character."
Poulter will open up against Simpson on Wednesday in his quest for a second title.
NEW MATCH PLAY FORMAT:
Adding a new twist to the event, the International Federation of PGA Tours has moved away from the one-and-done format. There will be three days of round-robin play, so even if you lose Wednesday and/or Thursday, every player will still be teeing it up on Friday.
1. THE FIELD: It’s still 64 players, as it always has been, but instead of four 16-man brackets, think of it as 16 four-man groups. Players will have one match against each of the three other players in their group, so after Friday, there will be 16 group winners.
2. DECIDING TIES: If two players are tied for best record in their group, the head-to-head result between them will serve as the tiebreaker. If three players are tied, there will be a playoff between them.
3. GROUP PROCESS: Each of the top 16 players in the Official World Golf Ranking head a group. The other 48 players were divided into three categories (Nos. 17-32, 33-48, 49-64) and placed into their groups by a random draw.
4. ORDER OF PLAY: Once the four names are chosen for each of the 16 groups, when play commences Wednesday, A plays D, B plays C. Thursday, it will be A vs. C and B vs. D. That will leave A vs. B and C vs. D on Friday.
5. THE ROUND OF 16: By Saturday, when the field is down to just 16 names, traditional match play takes over - once you lose, you’re eliminated. Group 1 winner plays Group 16 winner, Group 2 winner plays Group 15 winner, etc.
6. THE ROUND OF 8: Saturday afternoon the eight winners from the morning will square off in four quarter-final matches.
7. SUNDAY FINALE: Will feature two semi-final matches in the morning, and the championship match in the afternoon.