Thursday, February 29, 2024

Best bets for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

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WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play 

Taylor Moore earned his first PGA Tour victory, following his former University of Arkansas teammate Nicolás Echavarría at the Puerto Rico Open two weeks ago, last weekend at the Valspar Championship. Moore, priced at 60-1, carded a closing 67 on Sunday to finish 10 under. That score held up as Adam Schenk needed to par the 18th to force a playoff but pulled his drive left of the fairway and saw his ball come to rest just inches from the base of a tree. From there, he made brilliant contact on a left-handed shot that bounded through the fairway and, after hitting his approach to 41 feet, saw his long par attempt carry too much speed, catch the edge of the hole and run five feet past. Schenk settled for second as he still seeks his first tour win. Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood contended all weekend but shared third. Wyndham Clark finished fifth and Sam Burns, in his bid for a three-peat and the Valspar, finished sixth.

Moore did not qualify for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin due to the field being set the previous week based on the OWGR. However, he earned an invitation into next month’s Masters.

The PGA Tour heads to the “Lone Star State” for the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play event as the best golfers in the world take a week off from stroke play and battle it out in head-to-head competition. For the seventh and final year since 2016, the tournament will be held at Austin Country Club on the outskirts of the Texas capital.

It was announced last week that the tournament will not be continuing next year. “We’re formally announcing today that the 2023 World Golf Championship Dell Technologies Match Play will be the final playing of the event here at Austin Country Club, and not be included on the 2024 calendar or moving forward,” executive director Jordan Uppleger confirmed. “The event has had an incredible run here at Austin Country Club.” The tournament’s slot on the calendar is expected to be filled by the Cadence Bank Houston Open as it moves from the fall portion of the schedule.

World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (8-1) returns to the city of his college alma mater (University of Texas at Austin) to defend his 2022 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play title. Scheffler was also the runner-up here in 2021. Jon Rahm (11-1) was the runner-up in 2017. Rory McIlroy (12-1) won in 2015, but at Harding Park in San Francisco. In all, eight of the OWGR Top 10 are competing this week.

Other former event champions in this field include 2021 champion Billy Horschel (110-1), 2019 winner Kevin Kisner (130-1), 2016 and 2014 (held in Dove Mountain, Ariz.) winner Jason Day (33-1), plus 2013 winner (also held at Dove Mountain) and 2019 runner-up Matt Kuchar (80-1).

The Event

The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play began in 1999 and officially moved to Austin, Texas, in 2016 while picking up Austin-headquartered Dell Technologies as its title sponsor. As always, the OWGR Top 64 and alternates make up the field. Players are split into 16 groups, each featuring an A, B, C and D player based on world ranking: 1-16, 17-32, 33-48, 49-64. In 2015, the event went through a format change. Instead of having players seeded 1 through 64 in a one-match knockout, one-and-done format, the event features a round-robin format with matches on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. As typical for any Match Play competition, a player earns one point for a win, a half-point for a tie, and the group winner moves on to the next round. If there is a tie in the group after three matches, players will play sudden death until a player advances. Once pool play is completed, the Round of 16 begins and becomes a knockout, one-and-done format. The round of 16 and quarterfinals will be played on Saturday. With the semifinals, third-place match and final contested on Sunday.

The Course

​The Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas, was designed in 1984 by Pete and Alice Dye and renovated in 2015 and 2019 by Rod Whitman. The course plays as a par-71 of 7,108 yards. Big hitters like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson have won here, but a shorter hitter in Kevin Kisner won in 2019 and finished runner-up the year prior. Austin CC is a positional and strategic design that tends to favor accuracy over distance and possesses a multitude of great risk/reward match play holes.

The first six holes are flat and then the next 12 are in the hills. Austin CC is a typical Pete Dye design with undulations, forced carries over water (five hazards overall across seven water holes) and greens protected by pot bunkers (110 in all on the layout — third most on tour). The fairways are a Rye and Fescue overseed while the greens are small (5,500 square feet) and overseeded Poa Trivialis (12 stimpmeter).

The front nine is very rugged and hilly with plenty of uneven lies. Meanwhile, the second nine has more of a linksy feel with plenty of pot bunkers, some water and is more wind affected.

There are five sub-400-yard par-4s. The Bermuda rough is only two inches high and relatively dormant.

Here are some other Pete Dye designs that are featured on the PGA Tour:

Crooked Stick – 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship

Concession – 2021 WGC Workday

Harbour Town – RBC Heritage

Ocean Course – Kiawah Island – 2012 PGA Championship

TPC River Highlands – The Travelers

TPC Louisiana – Zurich Classic of New Orleans

TPC Sawgrass – The Players Championship

Whistling Straits – 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship

The closest correlations to Austin CC are Harbour Town, TPC River Highlands, TPC Sawgrass, PGA West Stadium and TPC San Antonio.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Recent Winners

2022: Scottie Scheffler (#5 seed); 20-1

2021: Billy Horschel (#32 seed); 80-1

2020: No event due to COVID-19

2019: Kevin Kisner (#48 seed); 80-1

2018: Bubba Watson (#35 seed); 50-1

2017: Dustin Johnson (#1 seed); 10-1

2016: Jason Day (#2 seed);  14-1

Trends and Angles

Before Kisner’s victory in 2019, the previous five winners had won an event in one of their previous five starts in the leadup.

Players to advance to the round of 16, by grouping since pool play began in 2015

A group (1-16): 33.0%

B group (17-32): 24.1%

C group (33-48): 20.5%

D group (49-64): 22.3%

  • 15 of the last 15 winners had at least one top-10 finish within their last four starts.
  • 7 of the last 8 winners had reached the quarterfinals in a previous WGC Dell Match Play event.
  • 11 of the last 12 winners had played in at least three previous WGC Dell Match Play events.
  • 12 of the last 12 winners had at least two previous career PGA or DP World Tour wins.
  • 6 of the last 8 winners had won an event in one of his previous five starts.
  • 16 of the last 19 winners ranked in the Top 23 of the OWGR.

Group breakdowns

Player (with OWGR rank), Match Play record

Group 1

Scottie Scheffler (1), 11-3-2

Tom Kim (19), 0-1

Alex Noren (44). 14-7

Davis Riley (64), N/A

Group 2

Jon Rahm (2), 13-8-3

Billy Horschel (25), 13-8-2

Keith Mitchell (47), 2-3-1

Rickie Fowler (59), 12-8-5

Group 3

Rory McIlroy (3), 34-18-4

Keegan Bradley (22), 1-12-6

Denny McCarthy (57), N/A

Scott Stallings (60), 0-1

Group 4

Patrick Cantlay (4), 8-5-2

Brian Harman (28), 5-4-3

KH Lee (43), 1-0

Nick Taylor (72), N/A

Group 5

Max Homa (6), 4-3

Hideki Matsuyama (20), 11-11-4

Kevin Kisner (46), 22-8-2

Justin Suh (77), N/A

Group 6

Xander Schauffele (7), 7-5-3

Tom Hoge (24), 0-2-1

Aaron Wise (48), 1-2

Cameron Davis (76), 0-1

Group 7

Will Zalatoris (8), 4-3-1

Ryan Fox (34), N/A

Harris English (41), 5-5

Andrew Putnam (66), 1-2

Group 8

Viktor Hovland (9), 3-3-1

Chris Kirk (35), 6-4

Si Woo Kim (39), 6-9-3

Matt Kuchar (70), 35-18-5

Group 9

Collin Morikawa (11), 3-3-3

Jason Day (37), 24-15

Adam Svensson (52), N/A

Victor Perez (63), 4-3

Group 10

Tony Finau (12), 7-7-2

Kurt Kitayama (21), N/A

Adrian Meronk (53), N/A

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (68), 1-5-1

Group 11

Matt Fitzpatrick (13), 8-12-1

Sahith Theegala (29), N/A

Min Woo Lee (45), 1-1-1

JJ Spaun (72), N/A

Group 12

Jordan Spieth (14), 16-15-4

Shane Lowry (23), 7-16-3

Taylor Montgomery (56), N/A

Mackenzie Hughes (58), 4-2-1

Group 13

Sam Burns (15), 0-0-1

Seamus Power (33), 3-2

Adam Scott (38), 23-24-2

Adam Hadwin (61), 1-1-3

Group 14

Tyrrell Hatton (17), 9-9-2

Russell Henley (36), 4-9-1

Lucas Herbert (55), 2-1

Ben Griffin (75), N/A

Group 15

Cameron Young (16), 1-3

Sepp Straka (31), 1-2

Corey Conners (40), 5-5

Davis Thompson (67), N/A

Group 16

Sungjae Im (18), 5-6

Tommy Fleetwood (27), 11-10-3

J.T. Poston (54), 1-1-1

Maverick McNealy (69), 2-0-1

Note: Justin Thomas (OWGR No. 10) and Justin Rose (OWGR No. 32) were eligible to play, but are skipping the event.

The following players were ineligible to compete, having been suspended by the PGA Tour after joining LIV Golf, with their world rankings as of March 13.

Cameron Smith (5)

Joaquín Niemann (26)

Abraham Ancer (30)

Thomas Pieters (42)

Talor Gooch (49)

Mito Pereira (50)

Harold Varner III (51)

Dustin Johnson (62)

Patrick Reed (65)

Dean Burmester (71)

Jason Kokrak (74)

Statistical Analysis

With an event as unique as the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is, it is difficult to do a typical model like for a stroke-play event. However, there are certain categories that could give indicators regarding who could play well this week. As usual, Strokes Gained: Approach is the best place to start more oft than not.

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 rounds)

Tom Hoge 28.9

Max Homa 27.6

Tony Finau 25.3

Scottie Scheffler 25.2

Collin Morikawa 24.9

Jon Rahm 23.3

Xander Schauffele 21.6

Rickie Fowler 21.6

Rory McIlroy 20

Tyrrell Hatton 17.5

Viktor Hovland 16.1

Jordan Spieth 15.6

Cameron Young 15.4

Shane Lowry 13.6

Sepp Straka 13.2

Tommy Fleetwood 12.9

Distance is less vital here than accuracy. Although the rough is not all that penal, finding fairways is vital here.

Fairways Gained (Last 24 rounds)

Russell Henley 45.6

Collin Morikawa 38.9

Tom Kim 33.2

Brian Harman 24.1

Adam Hadwin 22.9

Si Woo Kim 21

Sungjae Im 20.6

Tyrrell Hatton 18.2

Scottie Scheffler 15.3

Matt Kuchar 15

Tom Hoge 14.8

Max Homa 14.4

Andrew Putnam 13.7

Shane Lowry 13.6

Chris Kirk 13

Viktor Hovland 12.7

Good Drives Gained (Last 24 rounds)

Tyrrell Hatton 28.9

Collin Morikawa 27.7

Scottie Scheffler 21.4

Russell Henley 20

Jason Day 19.5

Tony Finau 18.9

Max Homa 18.8

Sungjae Im 17.8

Adam Hadwin 17.3

Justin Suh 15.8

Chris Kirk 15

Patrick Cantlay 13.5

Denny McCarthy 12.8

Keith Mitchell 12.2

Jon Rahm 12.2

Shane Lowry 11.8

Putting is much more important in match play than in stroke play, and streaky putters with excellent short games have prevailed over more talented opponents here. Golfers that fit this description in this year’s event include Kevin Kisner, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar and Alex Noren.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Last 24 rounds)

Maverick McNealy 31

Taylor Montgomery 23.4

Jason Day 23

Sam Burns 22.8

Jon Rahm 20.9

Max Homa 20.7

Andrew Putnam 20.6

Justin Suh 17.6

Aaron Wise 16.4

Denny McCarthy 15.8

Nick Taylor 15.6

Tyrrell Hatton 13.9

Rickie Fowler 12.3

Ben Griffin 12.3

Harris English 11.7

Chris Kirk 10.5

Bogey Avoidance (Last 24 rounds)

Scottie Scheffler 28.8

Jason Day 27.4

Max Homa 20.3

Maverick McNealy 15.8

Sungjae Im 15.6

Tony Finau 15.1

Matt Kuchar 15

Matt Fitzpatrick 14.6

Si Woo Kim 13.6

Brian Harman 13.6

Jon Rahm 13.5

Rory McIlroy 13.4

Tyrrell Hatton 13.2

Sahith Theegala 13

Hideki Matsuyama 12.2

Xander Schauffele 12

Scrambling Gained (Last 24 rounds)

Jason Day 15.7

Ben Griffin 15.6

Maverick McNealy 11.7

Hideki Matsuyama 11.3

JJ Spaun 11.2

Matt Kuchar 9.4

Max Homa 8.3

Matt Fitzpatrick 7.9

Sungjae Im 7.8

Mackenzie Hughes 7.4

Nick Taylor 7.4

Aaron Wise 7

Sahith Theegala 6.6

Davis Thompson 6.4

Scottie Scheffler 6.4

Seamus Power 6

Four par-4s at Austin CC measure between 350-400 yards and could be momentum-swinging holes in many matches.

Strokes Gained Par-4s 350-400 Yards (Last 24 rounds)

Aaron Wise 12

Xander Schauffele 11.6

Alex Noren 11.3

Denny McCarthy 10.9

Jason Day 9.8

Tom Kim 8.2

Rory McIlroy 7.5

Hideki Matsuyama 6.8

Cameron Young 6.4

Tony Finau 5.7

Sungjae Im 5.5

Scottie Scheffler 5.2

Chris Kirk 5.1

Rickie Fowler 4.7

Viktor Hovland 4.7

Si Woo Kim 4.5

Although this is not a stroke-play event and players can win matches shooting over par if their opponents play even worse, birdie makers can win early holes and force opponents to play from behind and take more risks.

Birdie Or Better Gained (Last 24 rounds)

Jon Rahm 37.4

Patrick Cantlay 24.3

Max Homa 22.9

Scottie Scheffler 22.5

Keith Mitchell 22.2

Tony Finau 21.6

Tommy Fleetwood 21

Tyrrell Hatton 20.8

Cameron Young 20.8

Rory McIlroy 20.2

Taylor Montgomery 19.9

Jason Day 19.8

Rickie Fowler 19.6

Chris Kirk 19.3

Sungjae Im 18.7

Viktor Hovland 18.3

Austin Country Club only measures over 7,100 yards, so we can examine players who have had recent success on shorter courses.

Strokes Gained Total — Courses < than 7,200 Yards (Last 24 rounds)

Viktor Hovland 56.7

Patrick Cantlay 51.1

Xander Schauffele 48.1

Jon Rahm 42.6

Seamus Power 41.6

Russell Henley 40

Max Homa 39.1

Chris Kirk 39

Scottie Scheffler 38.2

Cameron Young 34.7

Hideki Matsuyama 34.7

Brian Harman 34.4

J.T. Poston 34.1

Taylor Montgomery 33.6

Shane Lowry 33.2

Si Woo Kim 28.9

Selections

Patrick Cantlay (18-1 DraftKings; +133 to Win Group 4, Circa Sports)

Cantlay is yet to get out of his group in four tries, but it’s worth noting that he’s finished runner-up each time, to Cam Smith, Tiger Woods, Brian Harman (who is in his group again this year) and Seamus Power. His 6-4-2 record is solid.

He comes in on good enough form with a third at the Genesis, a fourth at the Arnold Palmer and 19th at the Players.

Tyrrell Hatton (25-1, Superbook Sports; +170 to Win Group 14, Circa Sports)

Hatton is the most experienced player in this group and has advanced out of group play on three of four occasions in Austin.

A potential match against Rory McIlroy in the Round of 16 looms, but McIlroy is experimenting with different equipment and Hatton’s recent form with a fourth at Bay Hill and then a runner-up at The Players gives him the edge.

Jason Day (33-1, Bet MGM; +210 to Win Group 9, BetMGM)

Day is in a tough group with Collin Morikawa, Victor Perez and Adam Svensson. However, his form and past experience here are too much to ignore.

He is playing his best golf since 2016 when he was the World No. 1.

Corey Conners (80-1, PointsBet; +245 to Win Group 15, Circa Sports)

Conners finished third last year, beating course specialists Alex Noren and Louis Oosthuizen in group play and advancing to the semifinals (including over a red-hot, at the time, Abraham Ancer) before bowing out in the semis to Kevin Kisner and then rebounding to defeat Dustin Johnson in the third-place match.

Cameron Young is the favorite in the group but this is his first week with new caddie Paul Tesori (longtime bagman for Webb Simpson) and it may take a little time. Sepp Straka is in bad form and Davis Thompson is debuting here.

Further group and matchup bets will be on the Picks At A Glance page on VSiN.com.

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