WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay
It was another up and down week for us at the Valspar as a promising position heading in to Sunday ended somewhat disappointingly once more. We did earn a full place return with Matt Fitzpatrick so things certainly could have been worse, however our 150/1 pick Troy Merritt who had played so solidly for the first three days to be in the place positions heading in to Sunday had a final round shocker to tumble down the board.
The event itself was won by Sam Burns after he saw of the rookie Davis Riley on the second extra hole. Burns who has putted tremendously through the Florida swing holed a 20ft+ putt from the edge of the 16th green to bag is third title in 12 months and become the second player in recent times to defend the trophy here on the back of Paul Casey.
Moving on and the tour now heads to Austin, Texas for the first 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 Jon Rahm marginally heading the market from Justin Thomas. This pair are then followed by Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler and Collin Morikawa.
Of those eligible to play Rory McIlroy, last weeks Valspar winner Sam Burns and recent Players Champion Cameron Smith have chosen to swerve the event, Hideki Matsuyama and Harris English continue to nurse injuries and Phil Mickelson continues to ‘take time away from the game’.
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 sixth 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 American Express.
So let’s take a look at the last ten winners.
2020* Billy Horschel
2019* Kevin Kisner
2018* Bubba Watson
2017* Dustin Johnson
2016* Jason Day
2015 Rory McIlroy
2014 Jason Day
2013 Matt Kuchar
2012 Hunter Mahan
2011 Luke Donald
*Denotes editions played at current host course Austin CC.
Historically the case has been that If you were 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 until last year had been won by a player who has played either Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. This trend was bucked by Billy Horschel however as a former Fedex Cup Champion he certainly has ‘previous’ in gate crashing the party and his win wasn’t a huge shock.
The only players to win the event who had not won [or subsequently won] in the past ten years a Major championship are Hunter Mahan, Luke Donald and the most recent winners Kevin Kisner and Horschel.
In 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, 2018 winner Bubba Watson and again Kisner and Horschel.
Experience in this event does also seem to be key with all of the last ten winners having played the event at least three times before while all of them bar Hunter Mahan and Horschel had at least made the last 16 on one of their previous visits.
One other point to note is with the event now being held on a Pete Dye course, while matchplay requires a whole set of different skills, form on Dye designs is still worth considering strongly.
This is rubber stamped by the fact that four of the five winners since the event moved to TPC Austin have also triumphed on other Pete Dye designs either prior to winning here or subsequently with Day having won the Players, Watson a standing dish at TPC River Highlands, Johnson having won there as well and Horschel having won both on a solo basis and in the pairs event at TPC Louisiana.
In addition the 2019 Champion Kevin Kisner has finished second at TPC Sawgrass and has a superb record at Hilton Head.
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 in theory even less likely to see a shock result nowadays, however both Horschel and Kisner the two most recent winners were certainly not amongst the most fancied runners and it may just be that the events close proximity to the years first Major at Augusta has an effect on how the games biggest names approach the event.
Most bookmakers are offering ¼ odds 1st 4 places, so basically to make the semi-finals, however this year Paddy Power/Betfair, and Boyles are offering 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.
After the potential for a heavy storm on Monday we look set for a dry sunny week with temperatures sat in the low too mid 70s and increasing gradually as the week progresses.
With the course being on the shores of Lake Austin the wind can potentially play a part and gusts of around 20mph+ are a possibility at different times in the week.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with three players for the event as follows;
PAUL CASEY – 33/1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - WITHDREW INJURED
There are many factors to consider when making your picks for this event, matchplay experience, the draw and the possibility for fatigue to name but three and having weighed all of these up I have decided to start things off by siding with Paul Casey.
A former winner of the HSBC World Matchplay Casey’s pedigree in this format is not in doubt and on two occasions over the past four years in Austin he has made it through his group only to lose out in the last 16 stage.
This year Paul arrives here having come incredibly close to landing his biggest title to date at the Players Championship a fortnight ago and it was perhaps only a cruel piece of fate on the 16th hole when his tee shot landed in a pitch mark forcing him to lay up that prevented him from getting the job done. Either way Casey showed that week that his game is in great shape at the moment and crucially he showed that he is more than comfortable on a Pete Dye layout.
Moving on to this week then and having taken the week off last week his batteries should be recharged and this is something that will certainly be of benefit as the week progresses if he can make it through his group. I should also add that along this line I am wary as to whether players who have tee’d it up at the tough Bay Hill, the weather effected Players and then at the Valspar will have enough left in the tank to last the course here.
Looking at Casey’s draw and he finds himself in Group 10 alongside Oosthuizen, Conners and Noren.
Oosthuizen’s record here is certainly strong however he has been hugely disappointing over the past fortnight when its really mattered and I am happy to risk that Casey can expose those frailties and with Conners lacking experience in this format it may well be the biggest threat comes from Alex Noren who has performed well here before. Ultimately though my hope is that Casey can bring the momentum from Sawgrass and find a way through.
Should he manage that the winner of Group 7 where the seed in Xander Schauffele will await for a place in the last eight and an each way return.
This is always an event where your selections are going to be speculative hence I am siding with just the three however with his form coming in and his Matchplay experience Casey ticks plenty of boxes for me this week and I am happy to roll the dice.
SERGIO GARCIA – 40/1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - ELIMINATED GROUP STAGE
Next up is another player who thrives in the Matchplay environment, Sergio Garcia.
The Spaniard holds a solid 12 – 7 – 1 performance record at TPC Austin that has seen him make it through his group in each of the last three editions and make the last eight on his last two appearances.
The fact that the Spaniard is so comfortable here is hardly surprising. Firstly as we know the Ryder Cup stalwart loves this format and any time he tee’s it up in a ‘head to head’ he will be a threat.
Secondly as a former Players Champion and Sawgrass specialist in general I am sure Sergio was delighted to see the event move to a Pete Dye layout, particularly one situated in the city he has made his home over the recent years and has talked about being so comfortable in.
Looking at Sergio’s draw and he finds himself as the third seed in a group headed up by Collin Morikawa, the number two seed. While Morikawa is of course a threat whenever he tee’s it up he appears to be slightly off the boil at the moment having struggled both at Sawgrass and then at the Valspar last week and if you add this to his lack of experience in this event to date he is someone I am happy to take on this week.
Should Sergio make it through he would then find himself up against the winner of group 15, which is headed up by Abraham Ancer. With former Champion Bubba Watson in this group as well as the inform Brian Harman who has performed well here before this looks a tough one to call however they are all opponents Garcia would be happy to have at that stage of the event.
Looking at Sergio’s recent form and he has been ticking along nicely without doing anything spectacular however three top 40s in his last four starts shows he is ticking along nicely and I am happy to chance him to spring to life this week again in a format that he always enjoys.
SI WOO KIM – 80/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - ELIMINATED GROUP STAGE
Both of my first two picks have come from the bottom half of the draw and this is a conscious choice as I see the top half featuring the likes of Rahm, Scheffer, Koepka, Lowry and defending champion Horschel as the one to avoid however so as not to be too stacked in that half I will take one from the top half and take a risk on Si Woo Kim.
Si Woo as we know is capable of anything on his given day and he could just as easily tee it up once and withdraw with a bad back as he could win the whole thing.
What we do know though about Si Woo is he is at his best on a Pete Dye design and with recent winners here having rubberstamped that link the former Players Champion and Amex Champion’s credentials can’t be ignored.
Looking at Si Woo’s record in this event and he has built up some experience making it out of the group on his second visit here, however it has been a struggle since. That one good performance though tells us he can compete in this format and as one of the best scramblers on tour on his day over recent years the set up here really should be right up his street.
Until his recent withdrawal at The Players, which came when he had struggled on the wrong side of the draw, Si Woo had been ticking along very nicely results wise and he played solidly at Bay Hill the week before TPC.
Looking at Si Woo’s group and he is up against Tyrrell Hatton, Daniel Berger and Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Hatton arrives here after three tough weeks and you have to wonder how much gas he has left in the tank and with Berger yet to make it out of the group in four visits I am happy to roll the dice on the mercurial South Korean.