WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Picks
March 27-31, 2019
Austin Country Club - Austin, TX
The Golf Channel/NBC
If your basketball bracket is already in the recycle bin, a chance at redemption is here for you in the form of the WGC-Dell Match Play. A match play event has been a fixture on Tour since 1999 and golf’s version of March Madness is the true home to Cinderellas as the higher seed won 40% of the time in the first round when the Tour used the single elimination format. The 1-seed has won five Match Play titles with Tiger’s three championships leading all participants. Rory and Dustin Johnson were the other two 1-seeds to win the event with Jason Day earning his title as a 2-seed. Bubba Watson is the defending champion and he earned the title as the basketball equivalent of a 9-seed. Mixed in throughout the Dell’s history are wins by Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan as the 21st overall seeds in the field with Geoff Ogilvy, Steve Stricker and Kevin Sutherland all winning as the 52-seed or worse. Match play is one of the great equalizers on Tour and just about everyone in this 64-man field has the chance to make some noise if they can get on a hot streak and catch a few breaks along the way.
Starting in 2014, the PGA moved the format to include pool-play in place of the familiar single elimination bracket. Sixteen pools are created with one player from the top-16 in the OWGR heading each pool. The remainder is filled out and each four-man pool goes through round-robin play until the pool winners emerge into what would be the “sweet” sixteen. Single elimination play takes over from there on out until the champ is eventually crowned. If you are filling out a bracket or simply trying to find the right guys to bet on, be careful of sticking with the chalk too often. Since the change to pool play, no more than eight of those top-16 seeds made it to the final sixteen and that only happened once, in 2016. The other three Dell’s to use pool play had five of those top sixteen seeds advance. Match play is maddeningly difficult to predict but here we are, about to break this thing down. We will make some picks as we usually do and arm you with the best info regarding certain players but the format will be just a bit different as there is almost no use to pinning picks to stats as we usually do. Those stats have a way of producing advantages for players over the course of four days of stroke play but that just doesn’t exist in the same manner when it comes to match play. Odds provided by Bovada & MyBookie.
Groups to Focus On
Group 11 (Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Kyle Stanley, Byeong-Hun An)
I like Oosthuizen in this group and you’ll get him at +185 at Bovada to make it beyond pool play. He has a 19-10 record at The Dell with a runner-up finish at Austin since the move to the group concept. The other three in Group 11 have just eleven total Dell match wins, giving Louis a large experience advantage and he has been playing well enough to merit the pick here over Fleetwood who seems the favorite based on the recent Ryder Cup heroics. Oosty was T2 last week at the ball-striking friendly Copperhead Course so it is safe to assume he is bring his A-game. I also think Oosthuizen is a tremendous value at 40 to 1 to win the whole darn thing.
Group 14 (Ian Poulter, Tony Finau, Kevin Kisner, Keith Mitchell)
With 27 match wins, Poulter has more wins than the rest of the group has total matches. I think Poulter is a good bet at +185 to emerge to the final sixteen and is a sneaky bet at 33 to 1 to win the event outright. He was 8th here last season and his several deep runs at the Dell including a win in 2010 under the single elimination format. Poults just seems to have a handle on all WGC competitions of late with a T21 at the HSBC in the fall and a T3 in Mexico. He certainly seems in control of his overall game and enters the week 8th in strokes gained around the greens. Match play rewards those that can save par and halve holes and that has been a cornerstone of why Poulter has been such a stalwart in Ryder Cup competitions.
Group 3 (Brooks Koepka, Alex Noren, Hao Tong Li, Tom Lewis)
Koepka is one of the top seeds that looks to be in some immediate danger as Noren looms with a solid 11-4 career Dell record and has made it to the round of eight in both of his appearances at the CC of Austin. Noren will get you +275 to win the group and that is significantly better value than the -175 attached to Koepka. With Li and Lewis having just one Dell appearance and zero match wins between them, this should come down to the Friday heads-up of Koepka v. Noren. That will be a tough win for Noren as Koepka can match his distance and hits a few more greens on average but it will be a 50-50 kind of match with neither outperforming the either on the greens in 2019. Give me +275 on a coin flip.
Group 2 (Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, Eddie Pepperell, Emiliano Grillo)
Rose has the clear advantage in name recognition but I like Woodland out of this group as he sports an 8-6-1 career Dell record with a runner-up finish in 2015. He has six top-10 finishes in just twelve starts this season. I can ignore the missed cut last week as Innisbrook is not a great fit for Woodland and he should only have to survive a Friday head-to-head with Rose as the other two in the group have just one combined Dell match win. I also like Woodland at 50 to 1 to win it all. He is 2nd in total driving, 6th in greens hit and 2nd in birdie average. All of that, especially the high birdie rate, makes him a tough out as his mistakes will not be as significant in the match play format.
The Group to Avoid…Maybe
Group 12 (Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk)
I am avoiding this group as it is by far the most experienced group of all this week and I don’t think there is a definitive method to separate four players will this much skill and match play knowledge. Every player in this group has a winning record at the Dell with Day and Stenson among Dell champs and all have found their way to winning at least one Major during their PGA careers. From a value standpoint, it is hard to ignore the +400 you get for a Furyk win. I think he is rightfully the underdog but his tight ball striking (1st in fairways, 15th in GIR) could neutralize the distance advantage of the others and he is pretty close to everyone outside of Day in age.
Advancing to the Final 16 and Single Elimination
Bubba Watson (Winner of G15) v. Gary Woodland (Winner of G2)
Webb Simpson (Winner of G7) v. Paul Casey (Winner of G10)
Louis Oosthuizen (Winner of G11) v. Bryson DeChambeau (Winner of G6)
Alex Noren (Winner of G3) v. Ian Poulter (Winner of G14)
Tiger Woods (Winner of G13) v. Rory McIlroy (Winner of G4)
Justin Thomas (Winner of G5) v. Jim Furyk (Winner of G12)
Xander Schauffele (Winner of G9) v. Matt Kuchar (Winner of G8)
Dustin Johnson (Winner of G1) v. Sergio Garcia (Winner of G16)
Gary Woodland v. Paul Casey
Louis Oosthuizen v. Ian Poulter
Rory McIlroy v. Tiger Woods (would there be anyone watching another match?)
Matt Kuchar v. Dustin Johnson
Gary Woodland v. Louis Oosthuizen
Rory McIlroy v. Dustin Johnson
Gary Woodland v. Dustin Johnson (winner: Woodland)
Louis Oosthuizen v. Rory McIlroy (winner: Oosthuizen)
Good luck and good golf!
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