Spieth: It’s still win or bust

Instead of a straight knockout competition, the 64-man field at Harding Park in San Francisco has been split into 16 groups of four, with round-robin matches to be played on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The winner of each group advances to the last 16 on Saturday morning, with the quarter-finals on Saturday afternoon. The semi-finals will be held on Sunday morning with the final and consolation match later the same day.

The format means it is possible to lose a group match and still advance, but Spieth is determined to keep his destiny in his own hands by winning every game.

“I don’t think the change in format does anything,” the world number two said. “It’s still pretty much win or go home.

“You certainly have a chance to get lucky if you lose one, but our mindset can’t be like that. You have one extra match to play in order to win the championship and most likely you are going to have to win all three of your matches in pool play.

“You don’t really want to go to a play-off and you don’t want to lose and rely on that guy not losing the next two so you don’t get the (better) head-to-head record. In my mind it’s win or go home.”

Spieth has barely been at home in Dallas recently after two wins, two runner-up finishes and a tie for 11th in his last five events, not to mention a two-day media tour of New York following his triumph at Augusta National.

But the 21-year-old, who would become the youngest winner of a WGC event by almost two years if he can win on Sunday, insists he is not running on empty.

“Being in contention in four straight weeks takes something out of you but I slept for a couple of days when I got home and I’m back at work,” he added.

“Having accomplished some of my major goals in the sport of golf and inching closer to more goals that I have, why not work as hard as I can to obtain those goals if I’m already playing well and getting more and more comfortable?

“That’s exciting to me and makes me want to work harder and harder and I don’t really feel worn out. I think I have my schedule the right way to give myself enough breaks to not be tired at the end of the year.”

Spieth will take on Finland’s Mikko Ilonen on Wednesday – Lee Westwood and Matt Every making up the group – after Ilonen claimed a last-minute place in the field when Phil Mickelson withdrew for personal reasons.

Ilonen knows he will be a big underdog but has an excellent match play record having won the British Amateur Championship back in 2000 before lifting the Volvo World Match Play title last October, defeating Henrik Stenson in the final.

“I definitely don’t have anything to lose against Jordan,” Ilonen said. “If you look at how good he has been recently, and as much as I hate to say it, how bad I have been lately, then there really is nothing for me to lose.

“My form has been poor but we know how quickly it can turn in this game and maybe match play is what I need to get going.”

World number one Rory McIlroy faces former US PGA champion Jason Dufner on Wednesday and hopes to be in for a hectic weekend, having secured tickets to watch the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

“I always said if these two guys fought each other, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to go,” McIlroy told a press conference. “Luckily we’re somewhere close and hopefully I’m still part of this tournament at that time, but it just wasn’t an opportunity that I was going to miss.”

If McIlroy survives the group stage and a last-16 match on Saturday morning, his possible quarter-final is not scheduled to end until approximately 7pm local time. The fight is scheduled for 10pm.

“Nothing that a few quick birdies won’t change if I try and win 7&6,” joked McIlroy, who could also face a semi-final at 7am on Sunday.

Only Tiger Woods has won the tournament as the number one seed (in 2003, 2004 and 2008), while McIlroy is not one of the 12 players in the field with previous experience of Harding Park from either the 2009 Presidents Cup or the American Express Championship in 2005.

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