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New format creates odd dynamic for Match Play Day 3

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SAN FRANCISCO – There will be an odd dynamic Friday at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play.

Some players have everything on the line. Others, virtually nothing.

Three of the top four players in the world are undefeated but have to win to get in.

Rickie Fowler and John Senden only have to stay upright.  

And players such as Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott? Well, they have to find some kind of motivation, because the only thing they’re playing for Friday is pride and a little extra cash and points.

Of the 64 players in the field, 40 still have a chance to earn a berth in the Round of 16.

There are four must-see matchups between 2-0 players, a group that includes Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Bubba Watson. The winner of their matches moves on to the weekend. The losers goes home.

“It’s back to the usual format,” McIlroy said.

But not everyone has that much to play for.  

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Fowler and Senden are assured of having the best record in their group after improving to 2-0 in the round-robin format. On Friday, they’ll play a meaningless match in the middle of the tournament.

“Definitely a stress reliever right there,” Fowler said.

His main goal? Trying to strike the right balance between staying competitive and not expending too much energy.

“There’s still a lot of pride involved,” he said. “Whether it’s a money game or match play in front of people, you don’t want to lose.”

But what about the 22 players who have already been eliminated?  

Stenson, the world No. 3, falls in that category, because he’s in Senden’s group. With nothing at stake besides money, world ranking and FedEx Cup points, he said he’d view his final match as a “glorified practice round.”

“I don’t think anybody likes to go out there and lose a match,” he said. “That’s against your nature a little bit. I’ll take it as a juiced-up practice round for me. I’ll try to hit my targets and work on a few things and try to play a solid round.”

The 48 players who don’t advance to the weekend are slotted between Nos. 17-64 based on their three-day record. In other words, a player who finishes the week 2-1 will earn considerably more money (upwards of $50,000 more) and receive more points than one who went 0-3.

“I don’t think any of them are going to necessarily prepare the way they normally would,” Spieth said, “but I think it’s still worth coming out and trying to beat somebody.”