Column: Match play bracket littered with surprising upsets


Charles Howell III said it best on Friday afternoon: weird stuff happens in golf.

This week’s World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play has been no exception. The players at Austin Country Club have seen a lot this week — from gusts of wind upward of 30 miles-per-hour blowing balls all over the lot on Thursday to periods of heavy rainfall softening up the course on Friday.

The weather has been unpredictable. And in the month of March, when millions of people try to predict the unpredictable in their NCAA Tournament brackets, the Dell Match Play bracket has been just as unforeseeable.

Only five of the top-16 seeds in the bracket advanced to the knockout stages of the tournament. Only two of those players were ranked in the top-10, including No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

In a month that features plenty of upsets on the hardwood — take Xavier’s first ever trip to the Elite Eight, for example — there have been plenty of upsets on the course, too.

Local legend Jordan Spieth, a national champion while at Texas and the former No. 1 golfer in the world, was eliminated before the round of 16. By who? Hideto Tanihara of Japan — the 54th seed in this week’s tournament.

“I like playing against people who are good,” Tanihara said. “I’m just glad that I’m playing really well and moving forward.”

Tanihara isn’t the only 50-plus seed playing well and moving forward. Take Howell III, the man who said weird stuff happens in golf. He’s the No. 61 player in the field, and he took out the Noo 10 player in Tyrell Hatton and Rafa Cabrera Bello, who finished third in this event last year.

“I mean everybody is a great player,” Howell III said. Whether everybody is a good player is a matter of opinion, but make no mistake — there are a lot of good players who are playing great.

Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen joined Howell III as a 60-plus seed to advance to the weekend. He knocked out the No. 2 player in the world and 2015 WGC Match Play winner: Rory McIlroy.

Howell III and Kjeldsen make up just a couple of the surprising group winners this week. Throughout the bracket you’ll find players who advanced who weren’t supposed to have any shot at extending their hotel stays through Saturday night.

But this is March, and this is golf. And weird things happen in both.