WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay
So my fortnight in the sunshine has come to an end and whilst I didn’t get the result I was hoping for to round of the trip it was fantastic to watch Rory in full flight on Sunday.
Rose threw pretty much everything at him but ultimately Rory had one of those rounds that we all know he’s capable of producing at times, and when he does he’s pretty much unbeatable.
Still, Rose delivered us some e/w return and we still sit in a nice healthy position with regards to the seasons P&L.
Moving on and the tour now heads to Austin, Texas for the second WGC event of the year in the form of the Dell Technologies Matchplay.
As you’d expect the field is a stellar line up with Rory, Justin Thomas and defending champ Dustin Johnson heading things up.
With the event being so close to the first major of the year though four of the games leading lights Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott have chosen to skip the event whilst Brooks Koepka remains side lined with injury.
Unfortunately for the sponsors despite his recent great play Tiger Woods’ world ranking is not yet where it needs to be to make the field.
Since the changes made in 2015 we now have a ‘round robin’ format. This entails sixteen groups of four where each player plays three matches over the first three days against the other members of the group. The winners in each group then qualify for the knockout stage played over the weekend.
Austin Country club is in its third year as the host course. The course is a par 71 measuring at just over 7100 yards.
The greens are TiffEagle Bermuda.
The course is a Pete Dye design and features elevation changes, pot bunkers, and strategic play which you come to expect from Dye designs is required.
Other Pete Dye designs played regularly on the PGA Tour include Harbour Town, TPC Sawgrass and the Stadium Course used for the Career Builder Challenge.
If you’re thinking about backing a lesser player to win this, forget it. This event is strictly the domain of the ‘big guns’.
Basically if you put to one side the first few years of the event before it was established and a lot of the big names didn’t bother to show up, every edition has been won by a player who has played either Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
The only players to win the event who had not won [or subsequently won] a Major championship are Hunter Mahan & Ian Poulter.
In the last ten years the only players who were not seeded in the top 10 who won were again Mahan & Matt Kuchar who were both seeded 21.
Since the round robin was introduced the winners have been seeded 1 & 2 and there is obviously a strong argument to say that with the round robin basically designed to protect the top players from being ‘caught cold’ in round one and being eliminated early [thus upsetting the sponsors and TV audience ratings] we are even less likely to see a shock result.
Having said this most bookmakers are offering ¼ odds 1st 4 places, so basically to make the semi-finals. So if you do fancy an outsider make sure to back them e/w and you could still get a run for your money and a possible nice return.
Once more it’s a week of blue skies and high temperatures.
With the course being on the shores of Lake Austin the wind can potentially play a part and gusts of around 15mph are expected through the week.
I have gone with three players for the event as follows;
RORY MCILROY – 8-1 - 4pts Win Eliminated Group Stage
You can obviously make a fairly strong case for all of the top ½ dozen or so in the market this week and you wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see any of them win, however after his performance on Sunday I am keen to side with Rory this week.
One thing we have learnt about Rory [and indeed many of the big name players] is that when he wins he’s not afraid to come straight out and win again.
After his last win on the PGA Tour at the BMW he won again at the Tour Championship two starts later. Similarly when he won this event in 2015 he won the Wells Fargo two starts later and in 2014 he memorably won the Open, the WGC Bridgestone and the PGA in consecutive starts.
So the message is clear, when Rory’s tail is up and he is in confident mood keep him on side as he will more than likely follow up.
JUSTIN THOMAS – 12-1 – 3pts Win Eliminated Semi Final
On a very similar theme to that of Rory this week I am keen to stick with the other ‘hot hand’ at the moment in the form of Justin Thomas.
I pointed out when siding with JT in Mexico a couple of weeks ago that, with the exception of after his win at the CJ Cup, which basically signalled the end of his 2017 playing year, after each of his previous two wins he had either won again on his next start or the one after.
After his slow start in Mexico JT duly nearly delivered on this stat producing a weekend of nearly flawless golf which culminated in the play-off loss to Phil.
Now refreshed after a weeks break JT should be raring to go again and I see him as the main danger to Rory McIlroy.
In his two previous starts in the Matchplay event JT is yet to show his best stuff exiting early on both occasions, however he showed at the Presidents Cup last autumn with a 3-1-1 record that he has what it takes for match play and I expect him to bring a lot of confidence from that showing in to this event.
Those of you who have studied the draw will have noted that Rory and JT are seeded to meet in the Semi-Finals meaning we can’t get a dream final containing both of these picks, however in effect by staking 7 points on them combined, for a 32 or 36 point we are basically getting in between 4-1 and 5-1 on a win for either, and I am happy to take this on the two form horses in the field.
PATRICK REED – 30-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/4 odds 1st 4 Eliminated Last 16
My final pick for the week goes to ‘Captain America’ Patrick Reed.
Reed had a fairly slow start to the 2017-18 PGA Tour season however he has come good over the last couple of weeks with 2nd and 7th place finishes at the Valspar and API respectively.
Reed’s match play record in both the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup is renowned. In the Ryder Cup he is yet to lose a match in Singles or Fourballs, so basically when he is completely in control of his own destiny.
In Presidents Cup he has experienced one singles defeat to Louis Oosthuizen but his overall record in the event is again a winning one.
As I mentioned in my ‘players to follow’ blog for 2018 Reed is on a mission this year to get back in the winners enclosure and to take care of business with regards to Ryder Cup qualification ASAP.
He will therefore be buoyed by his efforts over the past couple of weeks and he must now be returning to his home state in good heart.
In two starts since the event landed in Austin Patrick has emerged once from the group stages in 2016 before losing to Dustin Johnson, whilst last year he halved one match and lost two others 1 up, to fall at the first hurdle, however his form coming in last year was nothing like we have seen over the past two weeks.
This year he has been drawn in a group with his Ryder Cup buddy Jordan Spieth, Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel.
As Rory showed us last weekend a world class player with putting struggles can turn the corner at any time and it’s just possible that in the two weeks since his missed cut at the Valspar Spieth will have ‘found something’, however on current form you would have to give Reed a great chance in this match up.
Neither of the other two opponents in the group will push overs of course but again I would fancy Reed to come through. After this if seedings went to plan Reed would come up against Alex Noren in the last 16 and Hideki Matsuyama in the last eight.
All of this of course is wild speculation and if we have learnt one thing over the years of this event it is that to look too closely at someone’s draw and to plot their path is usually a fairly futile process.
Ultimately if you like the look of a player you just have to roll the dice and trust they have what it takes to get the job done and reach the business end and that's the chance i'm willing to take with Captain America this week.
UPDATED 21st MARCH
DAY 1 MATCH TIP
Oosthuizen to Beat Dufner 5pts Win at Even Money WON
Since this event moved to Austin, Texas Louis is played 10 won 8. He is also unbeaten in his last 3 Presidents Cup singles matches.
He has played solidly if unspectacularly on the PGA Tour this year until last week at Bay Hill where he missed the cut. To be honest though I think that was merely a case of being over golfed and with another long week ahead here the weekend of probably actually did him some good.
As for Dufner he has only won one & halved one in six encounters in Austin, he has an overall losing matchplay record and his last two outings on the PGA Tour have been disappointing.
To me Louis should be a strong odds on favourite to win this one so the even money on offer I see as vbery generous.
UPDATED 22nd MARCH
DAY 2 MATCH TIP
Z JOHNSON to bt R FISHER 5pts WIN 19/20 LOST
Zach has been in solid form of late making all his cuts on the PGA tour this calendar year and finishing 26th last weekend at Bay Hill.
Yesterday he was involved in a high quality encounter with M Kuchar shooting -5 on his ball. He also finished with four straight birdies to salvage an unlikely half and he is bound to be bouyed by this.
Fisher meanwhile has been struggling for form since a year opening second place finish in Abu Dhabi and only made one birdie yesterday in defeat to Ikeda.
After his finish yesterday I wouldn't be surprised if Zach pushes on and wins the group now and I am confident he can take care of the Englishman today.
UPDATED 23rd MARCH
DAY 3 MATCH TIP
POULTER to BT CHAPPELL 4pts WIN 5/4 WON
Poulter has got the bit between his teeth this week and has been on fire so far.
Whilst a half will be good enough for the Englishman to progress he has too professional a match play mentality to think that way and he'll be going all out for the win and to get it done as quickly as possible.
Chappell on the other hand was all over the place in the wind yesterday and with more of the same in the forecast for today he may well struggle again.
Based on Poulter's form so far and far greater match play pedigree i'd be making him odds on for this so the 5/4 available as I write stands out to me as a must bet.