Not a bad time of the year for brackets and a field of 64, right? The World Golf Championship – Dell Match Play gets underway on Wednesday and very similar to College Basketball’s March Madness, the top 64-golfers in the world will compete in a survive and advance type tournament with the winner being crowned this Sunday.
With The Masters being just two weeks away, the field is without four of the top names in golf, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, and Rickie Fowler, have decided to skip The Dell Match Play. Adam Hadwin, a winner on Tour just two weeks ago, is also missing the event due to his wedding conflicting with the dates. This scheduling is certainly an issue and you can bet The PGA Tour will make an adjustment when they are able to prior to the 2019 season.
After being held at a handful of different locations for more than a decade, for the second straight year, The Match Play Championship returns to Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. Match play is not common on any of the world golf tours but it is a very exciting format that we do get to enjoy every year with The Ryder Cup and President’s Cup. For this event, the players are seeded in four separate regions, with 16-golfers positioned in each region and further broken down into 4-groups within each region. The four golfers in a group will each play one match against each of the other members of the group over the first three days of the tournament. The player emerging with the best record of the four players in the group, advances into the round of the sixteen remaining golfers. From here, the tournament becomes single elimination. Lose your match in the round of sixteen, and you’re out. Survive and you advance.
The golf course is relatively short at right around 7100-yards. It is a Par 71, Pete Dye design. Every Par 5 is reachable in two shots and there is one drivable Par 4. The fairways are somewhat narrow, bordered by trees and the river that runs throughout the course. The Bermuda Grass greens, overseeded with Bent, feature undulation and the sand bunkers are fairly deep. It all adds up to a course that has a great deal of risk-reward scenarios, which is super for a match play format. Different from a stroke play event, where the players are playing one tournament over the course of four days, The WGC Match Play offers a number of betting opportunities with new, individual match ups every day and even within the same day. While it too is just one tournament, it is as if there are head to head tournaments going on between two players throughout the event, again making for a very exciting watch from day to day, hole to hole, and shot to shot.
Rory McIlroy (7.920 Pinnacle) As the Match Play defending champion a year ago, McIlroy was beaten by eventual champion, Jason Day in a semi-final match. I would be surprised if he does not make it at least this far again this year as he is excellent in match play and has been playing extremely well as of late with a 7th in Mexico and a 4th last week at Bay Hill.
Dustin Johnson (10.180 Pinnacle) Match play is not the world number one’s specialty despite a 3-and-0 mark in Ryder Cup singles competition. Johnson is definitely a bomber and this is not necessarily a bombers course but.. his putting and scrambling have improved tremendously in the last year.
Jordan Spieth (10.390 Pinnacle) The Texas native has played this golf course quite a bit and that advantage showed last year when he easily advanced into the round of 16. He leads The PGA Tour in Greens in Regulation but is 0-and-2 in Ryder Cup singles play.
Jason Day (16.360 Pinnacle) Day is the defending champion, winning at this same course last season and winning again two years prior at Dove Mountain in Tucson, Arizona. His battles with illness and injury remain a concern and this is a lot of golf to play this week with at least seven rounds to be logged by the eventual finalists.
Patrick Reed (+3754 Bookmaker) Reed’s game has been pretty shaky in 2017 but he has shown in Ryder Cup and President’s Cup play, that he is a match play stalwart. His putting is still excellent but his scrambling has dipped significantly.
Paul Casey (+3400 5Dimes) Casey is another magic match play player with an overall record of 20-12-and-1 at WGC Match Play events and two 2nd place finishes. He’s in good form too with five Top-25 finishes on Tour this season.
The Long Shots
Rafa Cabrera-Bello (+6000 5Dimes) Cabrera-Bello has been playing very well this season, is 6-3-and-1 overall at The WGC Match Play, finishing 3rd here last year in his debut, and is a perfect 1-and-0 in Ryder Cup singles competition.
Gary Woodland (66.740 Pinnacle) Woodland finished 2nd to Rory McIlroy in 2015 when this event was held at Harding Park in San Francisco. He’s been playing excellent golf this season with four Top-10 finishes since November.
Ryan Moore (+8500 5Dimes) Moore was the hero for The United States at The Ryder Cup last Fall, winning his match on Sunday to win the cup for the U.S. side. He’s batting about .500 at this event overall but likes the new venue, finishing 5th here in Austin last year.
Tyrrell Hatton (+3002 Bookmaker) The Englishman has been on fire since winning The Dunhill Links in October. This will be his first ever WGC Match Play appearance but he has not finished worse than 13th in his last six starts worldwide. He comes in off of three straight Top-10’s on The PGA Tour and leads The Tour in Strokes Gained Putting. When it comes to match play, I like a strong short game, and Hatton currently owns one of the best in the world.
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