The WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play: Five Europeans who can make an impact at Austin Country Club

Europeans have won only one of the last nine editions of the tournament – can any of them thrive this week?

Given consistent European success in the Ryder Cup it seems strange just how average their efforts have been in the WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play.

Darren Clarke won the second renewal in 2000, Henrik Stenson added victory in 2007, there was back-to-back success for the Englishmen Ian Poulter and Luke Donald in 2010 and 2011, but Rory McIlroy's triumph in 2015 is the only addition since then to the win column for golfers this side of the Atlantic.

The Americans, in contrast, have totalled 13 victories - and have won in each of the last four tournaments.

Let's take a look at five Europeans who could makes the headlines this week.

Richard Bland

It's too perfect really.

First match out on Wednesday? David versus Goliath. Jack versus the Giant. Bland versus Bryson.

Never mind famous fighting combos, they could almost be two sides of the same man. Jekyll and Hyde, maybe. Or Bruce Banner and the Hulk.

It's meek Richard Bland, the English journeyman who hadn't won until his 478th DP World Tour attempt at last year's British Masters: solid and dependable, nothing fancy.

And Bryson DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open champion: an American beefcake who hits the ball miles, meddles with science, and probably even overthinks his morning choice between tea and coffee.

The tournament has pulled off a blinder putting them first out and guess what? There are precedents in unheralded golfers toppling big reputations. Tiger Woods, in fact, was beaten not only by short-hitting Peter O'Malley, but also twice by his compatriot Nick O'Hern.

Moreover, DeChambeau is making his first appearance since he withdrew from the Saudi International with a mysterious injury while Bland had a runner-up finish in the Dubai Desert Classic to his name this year.

Tournament victory might be beyond the 49-year-old this week, but a first day upset most definitely isn't.

Sergio Garcia

The good news? No European has won more matches at Austin CC than Sergio Garcia. He's won 12, lost 7 and halved 1.

The bad news is that he's played 18 of these tournaments and has made just the one semi-final, back in 2010.

Garcia in Austin
Garcia in Austin

On other hand, he did make the last 16 in 2018 and has made the last eight in both of the last two editions.

He's also something of a local these days, with a wife from Texas. He also hits green for fun (which explains his consistency in the format) and is a three-time winner in Texas (which has proved a very useful pointer for winners at this venue).

Jon Rahm

2022 has been bothersome for the big Spaniard Jon Rahm.

He opened it by shooting 33-under-par to finish … second in the Tournament of Champions. He then got himself hot under the collar about a poor set-up and a putting contest at The American Express. A week later he led at halfway in his favourite venue Torrey Pines but couldn't convert the win.

Since then he has continued to hit greens for fun, but has looked frustrated, especially with his putting, changing equipment and fiddling with his technique.

Now he returns to a spot associated with his bursting into the world's elite in early 2017 when he first won at Torrey Pines, very nearly won the WGC Mexico Championship and then trampled over every opponent prior to duelling with Dustin Johnson in the final in this event.

He lost that encounter, but he was one his way to the top and a good week would set him up nicely for the first Major of the year in two weeks time.

Alex Noren

It's not been the best of times for Alex Noren since the middle of 2018.

After winning the Open de France to confirm his Ryder Cup debut on the same course he lost form, battled his way through that European bow, made only one top 10 in all of 2019, and then battled back on his new home circuit, the PGA Tour.

His ears will have pricked up when compatriot Henrik Stenson was announced as the new Ryder Cup captain and he would dearly love the return to the fold - what better place to begin that project than in match play competition?

He's landed three top 12 finishes in his last five starts and he has a sneaky good record at Austin CC, taking in 11 wins and three defeats when a quarter-finalist in 2017 and third place playoff winner in 2018.

Shane Lowry

He'll need to turn around a miserable record in the tournament at this venue (he's won just two of 12 matches and never progressed beyond the group stage), but Ireland's Shane Lowry is in lovely form right now.

In fact, he's recorded six top 15 finishes in his last seven starts (and the exception was nothing worse than T24th in the Dubai Desert Classic).

The highlight of that run was second at the Honda Classic when he did absolutely nothing wrong and was, in actual fact, a little unlucky when heavy rain interfered with his closing holes.

He's a WGC winner (of the 2015 Bridgestone Invitational) and his golf this week could impact in two ways on his crack at the Masters in a fortnight.

If he makes it to the knockout stage he'll have added to his fine form and, if he doesn't, he can turn up at Augusta a little under the radar, happy in the knowledge that he's never done much in Austin so another poor week was nothing to fret about.

Win-win.

READ MORE: The WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play: Analysing America's record-breaking Ryder Cup stars

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