Following his opening round victory over Andy Sullivan, Branden Grace beamed with satisfaction. His 4 and 2 victory was the first match completed of the day, and it gave him ample time to rest up for his day two match-up with William McGirt. Or to take in some of the many luxuries that Austin provides.
“We’ve had a couple barbeque things,” Grace said. “I think we’ll make a trip to the rodeo.”
Grace isn’t the only pro who has lauded the city this week as the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play makes its second visit to Austin. World No. 2 Rory McIlroy shared the sentiments of many of his competitors in praising the city.
“It’s an awesome city,” McIlroy said. “Personally for me it (last year) was one of the most enjoyable weeks of the year with so much to do and you can walk around the city. I’ve been to Texas a few times before. It feels a little different than what you would typically get in Texas.”
Austin – in spite of its constant traffic woes – seems to have garnered the stamp of approval from a large chunk of these top 64 golfers in the world. Sergio Garcia certainly seems to have carved his own niche here. His fiancée, Angela Akins, is a Texas Ex and the newly-engaged couple has spent considerable time here recently.
“The people have been great,” Garcia said. “It is nice to kind of feel like a second home.”
And of course there is fan favorite Jordan Spieth, who played his college golf just up the road at the University of Texas. Spieth said Austin “encompasses what (he) loves in a city,” and would later call it his “favorite city in the world.”
But the city of Austin isn’t the only thing being praised by the players this week. The beautiful host course Austin Country Club has also garnered considerable admiration.
“I love this place,” said Russell Knox after his 3 and 2 victory over Bill Haas. “The front nine and back nine are completely different.”
Grace said he thinks the course is great for the match play format – and it doesn’t hurt that the course sets up well for his aggressive play style.
“I’m really stoked that they came back here after last year,” he said. “Lots of birdies to be made out there… You have to be on top of your game.”
And former major winner Louis Oosthuizen could not have been more flattering about the course and how it sets up with his game – in particular the way the wind affects shots.
“I like it,” Oosthuizen said. “It’s really windy. The front nine is tough to figure out which way the wind is from… I hope it stays windy like this.”
Only time will tell if Oosthuizen regrets his hope for more wind on this challenging track. As the course dries out and becomes faster, that wind might not be such a welcome phenomenon during the weekend.