WGC Match Play Championship: Shubhankar Sharma grouped with Masters champion Sergio Garcia

Austin: India's newest golf star Shubhankar Sharma will start his WGC Match Play Championship campaign with a mouth-watering opening match against reigning Masters Tournament champion, Sergio Garcia.

The 21-year-old, who was tied ninth at the WGC Mexico Championship after leading on day two and three earlier this month, will also face American Xander Schauffele, the 2017 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli, in Group 7 of the preliminary stage at Austin Country Club starting on Wednesday.

Mar 4, 2018; Mexico City, MEX; Shubhankar Sharma watches his shot from the seventh tee during the final round of the WGC - Mexico Championship golf tournament at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports - 10677417

File image of Indian golfer Shubhankar Sharma. Reuters

"I think it's a great group. I've played with Xander before and I know Dylan well. It will be a great group with Sergio there as well. I'll have to play my best and make as many birdies as possible," said Sharma.

While the Indian prospect will be making his debut at the WGC Match Play Championship, which is exclusive to the leading 64 players in the world, Shubhankar will be able to lean on some match play experience following his triumph at the All Indian Amateur in 2013.

"I love match play. The last time I played (that format) was 2013 when I played my last event as an amateur, and I ended winning the event. So I absolutely love match play as it's a lot of fun and you go for a few shots which you don't normally do in stroke play events," Shubhankar said.

"You just have to be as aggressive as possible which is the best part about match play, he added.

In-form Thai, Kiradech Aphibarnrat was in upbeat mood after being drawn into Group 3 alongside World No 3 Jon Rahm of Spain and American duo Chez Reavie and Keegan Bradley.

After yesterday's draw, Shubhankar said: "My last two wins were match play events so I'm not worried. Match play is fun and it's all about making birdies. It fits my aggressive style of play and I'm always willing to go for my drives or to shoot for the flags, even in stroke play events.

China's Haotong Li, who is making his debut in Austin this week, was drawn into Group 4 alongside Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel while Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama is in Group 5 with countryman Yusaku Miyazato, Cameron Smith and Patrick Cantlay. Li faces Reed in his first match tomorrow.

Siwoo Kim of South Korea, reigning THE PLAYERS champion, will face American veteran Pat Perez, Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson in Group 15.

The winners of each group will proceed into the knock-out phase to be played over the weekend.

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Updated Date: Mar 20, 2018 14:53:50 IST