WGC Dell Technologies Matchplay
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It looked like we were heading for a blank week at the Honda Classic after Shane Lowry faded badly on his back nine on Saturday having been right in the mix. Out of nowhere though on Sunday one of our big priced outsider picks Chase Seiffert popped up with a 64 and stormed through the field to make the frame.
As those who read last weeks preview will know Seiffert was put up at 150/1 with 10 places each way. In the end though he finished third and those who were braver and took the 250s for eight places were really in the money. At the end of the day though I’m not going to be greedy, I’m quite happy with what we got and if Chase hadn’t holed the 25ft putt for birdie on 18 those extra couple of places would have been key.
The event itself was won by Matt Jones who despite wobbling slightly on Friday after his incredible opening day 61 was hugely impressive throughout the week. He thoroughly deserved his win, which turned out to be a comfortable one in the end.
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 Bryson Dechambeau, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm heading up the betting.
Of those and eligible to play Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Adam Scott , Gary Woodland and Tiger Woods are absent.
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 fifth 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.
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
2010 Ian Poulter
*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 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] in the past ten years a Major championship are Hunter Mahan, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and the most recent winner Kevin Kisner.
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 the 2019 winner Kevin Kisner.
This year though it must be said that with the event not having been played for two years and the Ryder Cup being postponed last year we have a slightly different dynamic in play with several younger players who have risen to the top of the game of late not yet having Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup experience with Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland being the obvious two who spring to mind. This makes it far more possible for that stat to be broken with regards to past Ryder cup or Presidents Cup experience being a must here, however equally it may just be that the lack of top level professional Matchplay experience catches out some of these players making there debut in this event.
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 had at least made the last 16 on one of there 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 three of the four 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 and Johnson having won there last year as well.
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 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, 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.
Temperatures look set to be in the high 70s up to mid-80s throughout the week.
The first two days show the possibility of some storms so be prepared for some interruptions, however from Friday onwards things are set to be dry.
With the course being on the shores of Lake Austin the wind can potentially play a part and gusts of around 15mph are a possibility at different times in the week.
As I always say though this could all change!
Before we get started just a reminder of our great partnership with Sounder Golf. Simply follow the link below to take adavantage of the exclusive 10% discount.
I have gone with three players for the event as follows;
SUNGJAE IM – 30-1 – 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 33rd
I have to be honest here when you couple the lack of matchplay there has been on the world stage since the 2019 Presidents Cup and add in how many young stars of the game are new to this event and relatively inexperienced in matchplay in the pro ranks as a whole, this has been a really tough event to get to grips with, or should I say an even tougher event than normal to get to grips with!
From that point of view I am keeping stakes relatively small and swerving the market leaders in the hope that we can get one through to the quarter finals, which will give us a profit on the event.
On this basis I will start things off with Sungjae Im. While it is Sungjae’s debut here he showed at Royal Melbourne in the Presidents Cup when posting a 3-1 record that matchplay holds no great fears for him and he was particularly impressive when taking down the then US Open Champion Gary Woodland 4 & 3.
Im arrives in Texas in a run of really solid form and performed strongly last week in defence of his Honda title to finish eighth.
Sungjae finished 17th at the Players, a performance which included two rounds of 66 and he was 12th, tenth and 12th at the Amex over the past three years, clearly then he is comfortable on a Pete Dye layout.
Furthermore this weeks venue features Bermuda greens, by far his preferred surface.
Looking at the young South Korean’s draw and while no group is easy he really has nothing to fear in Victor Perez, Marc Leishman and Russell Henley with the rising French star perhaps likely to be the biggest threat.
Should Sungjae make it through his group then in theory the man in his way will be the world number one Dustin Johnson. On one hand of course this is not the draw you want however there is no doubt DJ has gone off the boil over recent weeks and my suspicion is he will arrive here looking to gather some impetus heading to Augusta rather than being at full throttle.
In addition since his win here in 2017 when he was at his absolute best and had won on his previous two starts, Johnson has played poorly here on his last two visits.
To sum up there is no doubt in my mind that Im has the all round game to win this and I am happy to chance him on his debut here at the odds on offer.
CAMERON SMITH – 35-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 33rd
Next up is another player who thrived at the 2019 Presidents Cup, taking down Justin Thomas in the singles, Cameron Smith.
Smith makes his third appearance here this week having reached the quarter finals on debut in 2018 when he defeated Hideki Matsuyama and Patrick Cantlay along the way.
Having failed to make it out of the group stages in 2019 the Aussie returns this year to Austin in far better form having finished in the top twenty in his last three starts, a run, which includes by far his best performance to date at the Pete Dye designed TPC Sawgrass last time out where he finished 17th.
Smith finds himself in a group here with an out of form Ian Poulter, a somewhat lost Rory McIlroy and debutant Lanto Griffin. While the real Rory McIlroy could step forward or ‘The postman’ could deliver my hunch is that Smith can get through, particularly if his strongest weapon his putter fires as it has been of late.
Should Smith make it through he would then find himself up against the winner of Group Six, which features Schauffele, Day, Scheffler and Sullivan.
As with any selection here the road through is fraught with danger however Cam is the sort of feisty young player who putts well I want on my side and with him arriving in form I feel he could be a big threat this week.
BRIAN HARMAN – 80-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 5th
Talking of feisty players who putt well the man who was actually my first bet once I had seen the draw and who I think could be in for a big week at big odds is Brian Harman.
Harman arrives in Austin on a seriously good run of form, which peaked last time out when he finished third at TPC Sawgrass.
Making his second appearance in this event Brian made it through to the last 16 on debut in 2018 taking out McIlroy in the group stages 5 & 3 before coming unstuck against eventual Champion Bubba Watson. Perhaps tellingly though Watson who was firing on all cylinders that week only took care of Harman 2 & 1 making it by far his closest encounter of those he had to win.
As well as his third place at TPC Sawgrass recently and two further top ten’s at the Players Brian’s resume is littered with top ten’s at the Amex, TPC River highlands and Hilton Head so if we add that to his strong performance here in 2018 it is clear he has an eye for Pete Dye courses.
Harman finds himself in a group against Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama and Carlos Ortiz, all world class performers of course but all players who are potentially at their weakest on the greens. Harman however currently ranks in the top 25 in putting on tour and in my mind he can make that count here.
In addition while Cantlay is a worthy favourite here he is yet to take to this event in his two previous visits and with Cantlay having struggled at Sawgrass Harman should certainly be in the more confident mood when they tee off against each other on Wednesday.
Should Harman progress he will face the winner of Group Seven, which features Reed, Niemann, Bezuidenhout and Watson. All dangerous opponents who could easily send him packing, however I am happy to wrap things up by chancing the inform left hander at the odds on offer.