WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay
So my three weeks in the sunshine for the Florida Swing has come to an end and whilst I didn’t get quite get the results I was hoping for on the past two Sunday’s it was a fantastic trip.
Last week at TPC it was Tommy who came up short for us at whilst this week both of our men in with a chance going in to Sunday, Sungjae Im and Nick Taylor were unable to get the job done.
Im performed creditably on Sunday and hit three great approaches under pressure in to 16, 17 and 18 but was unfortunately unable to hole any of the putts to get to -7 or even -8.
He is a hugely impressive player though and at still only 20yrs of age he has now posted four top 7 finishes in his rookie PGA Tour season.
He is surely destined for the very top level of the game and the way he is progressing I would be surprised if he didn’t win on tour this season.
As for Taylor, he played very solidly for the first three days but holed very little until the back nine on Saturday. My hope had been that he would take that confidence with the putter in to Sunday and this was indeed the case as he drained some great putts on the front 9.
Sadly though his ball striking deserted him on Sunday and frustratingly each time he made a birdie he came unstuck in the swirling winds on the next hole and made a bogey, then still in with a chance of a full place or even more with a great finish his round imploded on 15 & 16 where he went bogey, d bogey and he tumbled down the board. Still, again he played some great stuff through the week and when you add this to his other strong recent play he is certainly a man to keep a close eye on.
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, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm heading things up, whilst Tiger Woods makes his first start in this event since 2013.
Of the leading names only Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott have chosen to swerve the event to instead concentrate on their Augusta preparations.
As I am sure most readers will be aware 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 fourth 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, TPC River Highlands 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, Matt Kuchar & Ian Poulter.
IWhilst n the last ten years the only players who were not seeded in the top 10 who won were Mahan and Matt Kuchar who were both seeded 21 and last year’s winner Bubba Watson.
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 nowadays.
Most bookmakers are offering ¼ odds 1st 4 places, so basically to make the semi-finals, however this year Paddy Power/Betfair are offering unprecedent 1/5 odds 1st 8 e/w terms, 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 even if they only get to the quarter finals.
With the exception of Friday and Sunday when there is a possibility of a shower or thunderstorm we are set for a dry week.
Temperatures start of in the high 70s for the first few days, however thingfs are set to cool down over the weekend and Sunday could dip below 60.
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.
The key to this for me is not so much the draw, which has taken place this evening, but the split of the players in the different halves of the draw. Based on current form Rory is a worthy favourite, however with Rahm as a potential opponent in the last eight and DJ or JT in theory awaiting in the last four I can’t bring myself to back him. Similarly I like Rahm to play well but obviously he, along with DJ and JT have the same headaches to contend with.
I have therefore decided to swerve that half of the drew completely and take three from the other half, in the hope we can get at least one to the quarter finals and see how we progress from there.
I have therefore gone with the following three players for the event;
BROOKS KOEPKA – 18-1 - 2pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - 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 based on the half of the draw he finds himself in, and the form he has shown on this course in his previous two visits, I am happy to side with three time Major Champion, Brooks Koepka.
As we know Brooks missed this event last year through injury, however in 2017 he made the last 16 and in 2016 he made the last 8, and he holds a 6-3 win record on the course.
He finds himself this week in a group with Noren, Li and Tom Lewis.
As we know of course anything can happen in Matchplay and indeed Noren is one of the three players who have inflicted defeat on Brooks here before, however the Swede is woefully out of form at the moment and you would have to fancy the double US Open Champion to come through this group.
It has to be said that since finishing second at the Honda a few weeks ago Brooks’ own form has tailed off somewhat with a missed cut at the API and a ‘down the field’ finish at TPC, however Brooks is a master at getting himself up for the big events and if he gets some momentum going and gets himself out of the group, recent form will become irrelevant.
If he does get through the group he is slated in the last 16 to meet the winner of the Finau, Poulter, Kisner, Mitchell group and anyone of these will prove a tough match, however if Brooks is then rolling I would be happy to have him on side at this stage.
Any bet you have in this event is obviously a bit of a lottery, but recent history tells us one of the games elite will be the last man standing come Sunday and at the prices on offer I am happy to take my chances that Brooks is that man.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN – 40-1 – 1.5pts e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 LOST IN QF
Once again looking at the draw and past performance on this track the next player who jumps out at me is South African Louis Oosthuizen.
Like Brooks, Louis holds a really solid record in this event since it moved to Austin Country Club with a 10-4 win record and he has made it out of the group stage in two of the three years, including posting a runner up finish in the event in 2016.
This year Oosty finds himself opening up in a group with Tommy Fleetwood, Kyle Stanley and Ben An.
Tommy’s record is poor here and Kyle Stanley’s game has deserted him of late so it may be that the in form Ben An, a former US Amateur Champion, is the dark horse in the group, however with his far greater Matchplay record and course experience you would expect Louis to get the better of this match up.
If Louis does make it out of the group stage his next opponent would come from the winner of the Dechambeau, Leishman, Aphibarnrat and Knox group and whilst anyone of these would be a dangerous opponent at this stage I would be more than happy with the South African in our corner.
Louis is already a winner on the European Tour this season and he bounced back in to form at the weekend at The Valspar to finish second. My hope is that with as decent a draw as you can expect to get in a quality field like this, he can build on that Tampa performance and produce another strong showing in Austin this week.
JORDAN SPIETH – 45-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 ELIMINATED @ GROUP STAGE
Seeing as we are in the middle of March Madness for my final pick for this week I thought I would go with one that come the weekend will either have been shown to be complete madness or an inspired call…
Before anyone starts telling me that Spieth is ‘gone at the game’ or that his ‘luck has finally run out’ etc I should say two things. Firstly, yes of course I know that Jordan has been struggling hugely lately, and secondly that I am in the camp that says you don’t win three Major Championships before your 24th birthday unless you are pretty special.
Basically, I believe that Spieth is one of the mentally toughest players in the game and that it is a case of when, not if, he gets out of this slump.
Whether it is this week of course is the big gamble I am taking, however my gut tells me that the Matchplay format gives him a greater chance to feel his way back in to form in an event.
My logic here is if we look at Jordan’s form prior to the missed cut at Sawgrass he has made all of his previous four cuts and, at times has been near the top of the leader board before ruining everything with one or two big numbers.
This tells me that not everything Spieth has been producing on the course is dreadful, just patches of it and of course in this format he can afford to blow the odd hole with a big number without it completely derailing his chances.
As a Texas man Jordan has been pretty disappointing in this event over the past couple of years however I suspect whilst he wouldn’t admit it, he has had half an eye on Augusta already when this event has come around of late. This year though I’m sure the mindset will be different, basically he will have been working really hard leading in and he needs a big performance.
His draw pits him against Defending Champion, Bubba, Billy Horschel and Kevin Na and whilst of course Bubba will be a big test I just have a hunch Jordan can come through the group.
There are obviously a lot of if’s and maybe’s here, and speculation that the Texan can turn the corner, however at the prices on offer I am happy to roll the dice and take a chance in this format on him.