AUSTIN, TEXAS | After the beatdown Patrick Reed put on Phil Mickelson on Friday afternoon and the way Zach Johnson has needed only 42 holes to win three matches, it’s tough to say the WGC-Dell Match Play is just now getting to the good stuff.
But here comes the good stuff.
After three days of sunshine, springtime breezes and pod golf, the field has been whittled to 16 players who will spend Easter weekend determining a champion.
For the most part, the round-robin format of the first three days at Austin Country Club delivered no supreme surprises.
Jordan Spieth cruised. Rory McIlroy worked his way into the weekend. Jason Day and his tender back got through in part because Paul Casey got sick.
Reed, who hasn’t yet trailed in a match this week, reinforced his match-play rep. Johnson may have found a match-play venue that favors him. And Rafa Cabrera-Bello advanced, playing the role of bracket buster.
Rickie Fowler didn’t make the weekend. Neither did Bubba Watson or Sergio García.
Here are the eight matches that begin just past sunrise Saturday with a thought on each knowing the winners advance to the afternoon session, ultimately winnowing the field to four:
* Day vs. Brandt Snedeker: Day won last week and got to rest his back most of Friday. Advantage Aussie.
* Matt Kuchar vs. Brooks Koepka: Two different styles here. Power is less a factor in Austin and Kuchar has a strong history in this event. Advantage Kooch.
* McIlroy vs. Johnson: Powerhouse pairing here. Rory needed 20 holes to beat Kevin Na and advance, conjuring memories of last year when he needed 20 holes to beat Billy Horschel to advance at Harding Park where he ultimately won. Johnson has made it look easy so far. Tiny advantage to McIlroy.
* Bill Haas vs. Chris Kirk: Two guys who played pivotal roles on the final day of the U.S. victory at the Presidents Cup last fall. Haas loves the way his short game is working. Kirk is sneaky good. Call it a tossup.
* Patton Kizzire vs. Ryan Moore: Kizzire, a Tour rookie, wasn’t in the field until the last minute and now he’s playing the weekend. Moore is a tough out. Advantage to experience.
* Byeong-Hun An vs. Cabrera-Bello: Anybody who says they saw this one coming can’t be trusted. Two solid players who haven’t made many mistakes this week. Too close to call.
* Reed vs. Dustin Johnson: Could two players give off more different vibes? Reed relishes match play and thrives in the format. The supremely talented Johnson’s heartbeat never seems to change. Advantage to Mr. Match Play.
* Spieth vs. Louis Oosthuizen: This is a beauty. Attendance is limited to 10,000 spectators a day and most of those eyes of Texas will be upon Spieth. Oosthuizen knows he will feel like the most lonesome man in Texas on Saturday morning but that’s OK with him. Advantage to the local hero.