The field for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play championship is falling into place.
On Tuesday, invitations officially were extended to the top 64 players in the world based on their placements in this week’s rankings.
Players have until Friday to confirm whether they’ll be playing in the 2018 event at Austin Country Club.
Three of the four major winners from last year already have said yes — former Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth (British Open), Sergio Garcia (Masters) and Justin Thomas (PGA Championship). Brooks Koepka, who won the U.S. Open, continues to recuperate after tearing a tendon in his wrist and isn’t expected to begin playing again until next month.
Phil Mickelson, who won the WGC-Mexico event at the start of this month, confirmed Monday that he will play in Austin. Mickelson, ranked 18th in the world, finished in a tie for fifth here last year.
Defending Dell Match Play champion Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player in the world, already has said he’ll be in Austin. So will Jon Rahm, the world’s No. 3 and last year’s Dell runner-up, and Jason Day, the 2016 Dell Match Play winner, who’s ranked 10th.
If any of the top 64 decline an invitation to Dell Match Play, the next highest-ranked players will become eligible. Among the alternates who could move into the field are No. 65 Kevin Na, No. 66 Charles Howell III and No. 67 Joost Luiten. Na played in Austin last year and finished in a tie for ninth.
There are three former Longhorns among the top 64 — No. 4 Spieth, No. 45 Dylan Fritelli and No. 48 Jhonattan Vegas.
One big name who didn’t qualify is Tiger Woods, a disappointment for Austin and the television audience.
Woods, who is making a comeback after his fourth back surgery, has jumped from No. 656 to 149th in the world since this season started. He finished in a tie for second Sunday at the Valspar Championship, one stroke behind winner Paul Casey.
The final round of the Valspar tournament earned an overnight TV rating of 5.11, and the event was the highest-rated non-major since Woods won the Players Championship in 2013.
The world rankings will be updated after the Arnold Palmer Invitational this week in Orlando. Those rankings will be used to seed the 64-player Dell Match Play field, which will be divided into 16 pods of four.
The tournament bracket will be revealed next Monday during festivities at the Hotel Van Zandt. Players will receive a seed from 1 to 4, and a blind draw will determine the 16 four-player pods.
The players who advance out of the pods will be determined during match play March 21-23. The round of 16 and the quarterfinals are set for March 24. The semifinals and finals will be March 25.