Golf Glance: Bubba defends Match Play as major season approaches

Field Level Media’s Golf Glance provides weekly news and storylines from each of the major North American golf tours.


Paul Casey
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

LAST TOURNAMENT: Valspar Championship (Paul Casey)
THIS WEEK: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, March 28-31
Austin Country Club, Austin, Texas (Par71, 7,108 yards)
Purse: $10.25 million (Winner: $1.745 million)
Defending champion: Bubba Watson
FedEx Cup leader: Rory McIlroy
Television: Wednesday-Friday, 2-8 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2-6 p.m. (NBC); Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3-7 p.m. (NBC).
Sixteen groups of four players each will compete in a round robin group format Wednesday-Friday, with each of the group winners moving on to the single-elimination weekend rounds. … World No. 1 Dustin Johnson won the first WGC event of the season at the Mexico Championship. … Tiger Woods will play in his first WGC-Match Play event since 2013. He is the only three-time winner of Match Play. … Rickie Fowler and Australia’s Adam Scott are the only eligible players who chose not to compete this week. … Watson, Charles Howell III and Sweden’s Alex Noren are the only players to advance out of their groups each of the past two years. … Bryson DeChambeau is among the 10 players who will be competing in his first Match Play.
THIS WEEK: Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Par 72, 7,670 yards)
Purse: $3 million (Winner: $540,000 million)
Defending champion: Brice Garnett
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS Sports analyst Tony Romo is in the field for the second consecutive year. He missed the cut in 2018. … Garnett led wire-to-wire last year, winning by four shots over Keith Mitchell. … Held opposite the WGC event, the winner does not earn an automatic spot into next month’s Masters. … Tour rookie Sungjae Im is ranked No. 59 in the world and has a mathematical chance to rise into the Top 50 and earn a spot in the Masters.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. ET; Saturday, 2-5 p.m.; Sunday 2:30-5 p.m. (All times Golf Channel)
NEXT WEEK: Valero Texas Open, San Antonio, Texas


Nelly Korda
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

LAST TOURNAMENT: Bank of Hope Founders Cup (Jin-Young Ko)
THIS WEEK: Kia Classic, March 28-31
Aviara Golf Club, Carlsbad, Calif. (Par 72, 6,609 yards)
Purse: $1.8 million (Winner: $270,000)
Defending champion: Eun-Hee Ji
CME Globe leader: Nelly Korda
Television: Thursday, 9-11 p.m. ET; Friday, 8:30-10:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 7-9 p.m. (All times Golf Channel)
The tournament scoring record of 20-under par 268 was set by 2017 champion Mirim Lee. … No. 6 Nelly Korda has overtaken Lexi Thompson (No. 9) as the top American in the Rolex Rankings. South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park remains No. 1. South Korea has 38 of the Top 100 players. … There have been five different winners in as many events in 2019. … Korda, who has five top-10 this year, leads the money list ($472,810) and leads the Tour in scoring average (68.350), greens in regulation (81.7 percent) and birdies (103). … The average age of winner’s on Tour this season is 25.67.
NEXT WEEK: ANA Inspiration, Rancho Mirage, Calif.


LAST TOURNAMENT: Hoag Classic (Kirk Triplett)
THIS WEEK: Rapiscan Systems Classic, March 29-31
Fallen Oak Golf Course, Biloxi, Miss. (Par 72, 7,151 yards)
Purse: $1.6M (Winner: $240,000)
Defending champion: Steve Stricker
Charles Schwab Cup leader: Bernhard Langer
Television: Friday, 9:30-11:30 p.m. ET (tape delay); Saturday-Sunday, 4-6 p.m. (All times Golf Channel)
The 78-player field includes six World Golf Hall of Fame members. … Langer returns after missing the past two events due to an injury to his midsection. … Since joining the Champions Tour in 2017, 42 of Stricker’s 44 rounds have been under par. … Miguel Angel Jimenez (2016-17) is the only player to defend his title at the Rapiscan Systems Classic. … 2012 champion Fred Couples is in the field for the first time since 2015. … Darren Clarke, Chris DiMarco and Gary Nicklaus will make their first starts in the event.
NEXT TOURNAMENT: Mitsubishi Electric Classic, Duluth, Ga., April 19-21
–Derek Harper (@DerekAHarper), Field Level Media

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