WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay
It was a great week for us at the Valspar as after a few near misses of late we managed to bag the winner with Taylor Moore.
A maiden on the tour Moore had gone in to the final round slightly under the radar starting a couple of shots back of third round leader Adam Schenk and one behind Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood.
For much of Sunday it then looked like he was going to produce a steady but unspectacular day to bag the place money but to ultimately fall short. This all changed though on the back nine as while the three ahead of him stalled or fell back Moore belied his maiden status to produce a stellar -4 closing burst to finish on 10- under.
With Spieth then finding the water on 16 and Schenk hugely unlucky to land stone up against a tree with his tee shot on 18, neither were able to match Moore’s total and the victory was his.
Add this to a full place for one of our other picks Wyndham Clark who recovered really well after a poor start and it was a great week for us all round!
So moving on in great spirits and the tour now heads to Austin, Texas for the WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay.
In the lead up to this year it has been confirmed that this years edition will mark the last playing of a tournament, which has been on the calendar since 1999 and which has found its home in California, Arizona and indeed for one year in Australia, before it landed at the current venue, Austin CC in Texas in 2016.
With the end of the event there will no longer be any WGC events on the calendar, not unsurprising to be honest as their position has been somewhat usurped by the new limited field designated events on the PGA Tour. What is surprising though is as things stand there is no matchplay event in the schedule moving forward in 2024, something you would expect the PGA Tour to be able to find a slot for somewhere!, a case of, watch this space I guess and you would have to think matchplay will reappear in some form in 2025 if not sooner.
As I am sure most readers will be aware since the changes made in 2015 the event takes 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.
As you’d expect the field is a stellar line up with defending champion and world number one Scottie Scheffler heading up the market.
Scheffler is then followed of course by John Rahm and Rory McIlroy, before with Justin Thomas choosing to skip the event there is a gap to Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.
Austin Country club is in its seventh and final 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.
2022* Scottie Scheffler
2021* 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 2021 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. In addition of course Horschel has gone on to play Presidents Cup in 2022.
The only players to win the event who had not won [or subsequently won] in the past eleven years a Major championship are Hunter Mahan, Luke Donald and more 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 nine the last ten winners having played the event at least three times before with last years winner Scheffler the odd one out as it was only his second experience. All of them bar Hunter Mahan and Horschel had at least made the last 16 on one of their previous visit, a stat, which includes Scheffler who was runner up on debut to Horschel in 2021.
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 five of the six 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. Finally last years winner Scheffler of course triumphed just two weeks ago at TPC Sawgrass.
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 two of the past three 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.
Last year though of course Scheffler arrived as arguably the most in form player on tour with his recent wins at Phoenix and Bay Hill and just rode his ‘hot hand’ through here and straight up Magnolia Lane.
Most bookmakers are offering ¼ odds 1st 4 places, so basically to make the semi-finals, however this year Paddy Power/Betfair, Skybet 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.
We look set for a week of temperatures in the mid to high 70s, although things do get a bit cooler as the week progresses. As is always the case in this part of the world the chance of a storm across the week can’t be ruled out.
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 on Wednesday and Thursday before the wind looks to settle down more as the week progresses.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with four players for the event as follows;
TYRRELL HATTON – 22/1 – 1.5pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED L64
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 Tyrrell Hatton.
I’ve sided with Hatton in each of his last two starts and on both occasions he has rewarded us with an each way pay out and I see know reason to desert him now.
Clearly in a rich vein of form at the moment Hatton has now posted three top six finishes in his last four starts, a run, which culminated in his memorable back nine charge to finish second last time out at Sawgrass.
A two time Ryder Cupper Hatton has shown a liking for this event over the years making it to the last sixteen on three of his last four visits before losing out in that round on each occasion.
Looking at those years and the first time the Englishman performed well here was before he had made his Ryder Cup debut, while on the second occasion he had missed his two previous cuts shooting 81 in his previous round at the Valspar. Last year meanwhile he arrived on the back of three straight weeks of action. This year though Hatton arrives in the form of his life and refreshed after a week’s break.
With the unpredictable nature of this event it probably doesn’t pay to get too hung up on the draw however a look at Tyrrell’s group here on paper gives us nothing to fear hugely in the shape Russell Henley and Lucas Herbert, with the latter struggling massively last time out at Pete Dye’s Sawgrass layout, while the fourth member of the group is rookie Ben Griffin.
Should Hatton make it out of his group we would then need just one more win for the place return and there is no guarantee that his seeded opponent in theory, the up and down Rory McIlroy would be waiting, while he is also in the other half of the draw to the juggernaut Scottie Scheffler.
I’ll take Tyrrell then to make it a hat trick of returns for us and to give us a big run for our money in what is obviously a tough event to call.
SAHITH THEEGALA – 66/1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED L64
In all honesty this is an event that I have never really nailed down so with it leaving our calendar after this year I will go slightly out on a limb for may remaining selections and roll the dice in the hope of getting one to the quarter finals to secure our week, starting with Sahith Theegala.
As regular readers will know I am a huge fan of Theegala’s and it is surely only a matter of time until he bags his first tour title.
With regards to this week though of course the main thing we have against us is that he doesn’t have the Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup experience we are looking for and, which is so crucial to success as a rule in this format.
That said I cant help but think this is a format Theegala will absolutely thrive in, with his enthusiastic nature and aggressive style of play perfect for what’s needed.
Expanding on this theme and Sahith is of course not long out of college where Matchplay would have been a staple diet of his calendar and indeed a search back for quotes finds him stating back in his college days, "I'm a bit of a streaky player, so match play really suits my game because I'm able to be aggressive”.
In addition with Theegala having come so close at TPC River Highlands last year we have some Pete Dye form to go on while Austin CC should give him plenty of opportunities to bring his creative talents to the fore.
A look at Theegala’s group tells us that he is up against the struggling Matt Fitzpatrick who is yet to make it out of the group stages here and with the out of form JJ Spaun also in there it maybe that the inform Min Woo Lee offers the biggest threat in what should be a fascinating battle of the young guns. I’ll take Theegala though to come out on top and to make it out of the group and to give us a good run.
SI WOO KIM – 66/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED L64
Next up I will go back to the well with a player I sided with in this event last year, 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, while last year he performed pretty strongly winning two out of his three matches here, while narrowly losing out to the eventual group winner Tyrrell Hatton.
There is enough there to tell us then that Si Woo 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.
The two further things I really like here this year though is that firstly Si Woo is of course already a winner this year in Hawaii and secondly, and more importantly, a return to the Matchplay format will hopefully reignite the spark we so memorably saw in him in last years Presidents Cup, and with the confidence that gave him it may just be he can up things another level here.
The one downside I will admit is Si Woo’s draw could have been a lot more friendly as he finds himself up against the inform Hovland and Kirk and the standing dish here in years gone by, Matt Kuchar. As already mentioned though Si Woo is capable of anything on his day so I’ll chance him to use his Pete Dye nous this week to give us a big performance.
CAMERON DAVIS – 100/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED L64
Finally I will wrap things up with another player who has shown a strong liking for a Pete Dye layout, Cameron Davis.
Heading in to 2023 Davis certainly looked a player set for a big year, however in his first few starts things didn’t go to plan as after a solid 32nd in Hawaii he went on a run of six straight missed cuts.
Last time out though Cameron turned things around with a great week at TPC Sawgrass to finish sixth and during that week it came to light he had been suffering with an illness the first couple of months of the year, which had restricted his practice and he had only really started to feel 100% again over the previous couple of weeks.
The fact that Davis did turn things around at TPC Sawgrass shouldn’t be a huge surprise as prior to that he had notched a third place at the Dye designed Harbor Town last season, while he also has a third place at the Amex to his name, so it appears he is turning in to something of a Pete Dye specialist.
A win here for the Aussie would of course be a big shock however he did make his Presidents Cup debut last Fall, where he acquitted himself perfectly adequately playing all five matches and winning two, so he does have that all important experience to fall back on.
Davis finds himself in a group with Xander Schauffele who is yet to make it out of the group stages in four attempts, Tom Hoge and Aaron Wise, while if he were to make it out of the group he would potentially find himself up against one of our other picks Si Woo Kim in the last 16, a scenario I would quite happily take as it would guarantee us a profitable event.
Born and bred in Sydney as we know Davis is hugely proficient in the wind so if it does blow this week he will be more than comfortable so I’ll wrap things up by taking a chance on the young Aussie to give us a big run.