Love it loathe it from a betting perspective, we’re off to Austin, Texas this week for the annual congregation of the World’s top golfers at the WGC Dell Match Play Championship. 2 eligible players – Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott – have both opted not to play this week, otherwise all of the World’s top 64 are in attendance fighting for the top prize, so if nothing else we’re in for some serious entertainment as the tournament unfolds. From a betting perspective, don’t forget that this event starts a day earlier than normal on Wednesday.
As per the changes applied since the 2015 event, instead of the previous 4 brackets and a straight knockout tournament, we have 16 pools of 4 players who play each other over the first 3 days before the final 16 are eventually whittled down to 2 to fight it out in Sunday afternoon’s final. The 16 pools are seeded from Dustin Johnson to Patrick Reed if you work down the current OWGR rankings, with the remaining 48 players having been drawn on Monday’s live TV show. The final (printable) bracket is available here.
If you put any credence into course/event history when it comes to Match Play – and this event in particular – then the results prior to the 2016 renewal are fairly tenuous as all were played at different venues with TPC Harding Park hosting the 2015 edition after a 6-year stint at Dove Mountain prior to that. Professionals will tell you that Match Play is all about playing the opponent, however the course here has its own characteristics and challenges, particularly when the wind blows around these parts, so it shouldn’t be completely disregarded as a factor.
WGC Dell Match Play – Featured Bookmaker:
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Course Overview. Austin Country Club, which dates back to 1899 and is one of the oldest golf clubs in the state of Texas, is in the final year of its 4-year agreement to host this annual Match Play event. The Pete Dye track begins in the hillside before meandering down towards Lake Austin which flanks the back 9 and elevation changes, uneven fairways and pot bunkers will present the players with a significant enough challenge before the Match Play aspect even begins to kick in.
The 7,108 yard, par-71 features 3 lengthy Par 5s of 590, 578 and 565 yards on the 6th, 12th and 16th holes as well as three sub-400 yard par 4s at the 5th, 13th and 18th. Pete Dye courses are generally no pushover (think Harbour Town, TPC Louisiana, TPC Sawgrass and Whistling Straits) and although Match Play format is generally set up for more attacking, risk-reward golf, the layout here provides a lot more than a beautifully scenic backdrop.
In preparation for the 2016 event when the WGC moved here, the golf course underwent a complete restoration to bring it back in line with Dye’s original design. Greens were extended and re-laid with TifEagle Bermuda, plus the fairways were also updated to Bermudagrass as well as additional bunkering which was added throughout.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some WGC Match Play history stats going back to 1999 to help with your research, plus of course there’s current form stats that take in the last 12 global tournaments that attracted OWGR points: Combined Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2018: Bubba Watson, 50/1; 2017: Dustin Johnson, 10/1; 2016: Jason Day, 14/1; 2015 Rory McIlroy, 11/1; 2014: Jason Day, 20/1; 2013: Matt Kuchar, 35/1; 2012: Hunter Mahan, 50/1; 2011: Luke Donald, 35/1; 2010: Ian Poulter, 28/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Austin, Texas is here. A calm and sunny start to the week is expected before the clouds roll in as we head towards the weekend. Thunderstorms are possible on Saturday morning as we head into the knockout stages and a cold front will introduce cooler temperatures and showery rain on Sunday. Winds will peak at around 10-15 mph over the weekend.
Format. Players are allocated one of 16 groups of 4 players, each containing one of the seeded players and three others as drawn on Monday’s live TV show. A round-robin format follows for the first 3 days with each player facing the other 3 in their group over Wednesday to Friday and the winner of each group based on the results of those matches, or the winner of a deciding playoff if there’s a tie at the top, will advance to the knockout stages. 16 players will become 8, then 4 then 2 following a straight knockout format commencing on Saturday morning and the final pair will battle it out in the final on Sunday alongside the consolation 3rd/4th place play-off.
Incoming Form: The last 5 winners of this event had won an event on either the PGA Tour, or in the case of Rory McIlroy on the European Tour, in their last 5 starts. Going back to 2010, each winner had at least one top-10 finish in their last 4 starts, so current form has proven to be a very good pointer in recent times:
- 2018: Bubba Watson: 17/MC/10/69/51/67/MC/40/35/1/9/66
- 2017: Dustin Johnson: 18/8/1/6/35/3/6/2/MC/3/1/1
- 2016: Jason Day: 1/12/1/1/12/1/10/10/MC/11/23/1
- 2015: Rory McIlroy: 5/8/2/2/2/15/2/1/MC/9/11/4
- 2014: Jason Day: 32/53/8/25/13/4/14/1/6/9/2/64
- 2013: Matt Kuchar: 8/MC/38/35/54/10/7/11/9/5/16/38
- 2012: Hunter Mahan: 19/43/8/42/2/7/WD/4/6/MC/15/24
- 2011: Luke Donald: 3/46/MC/15/2/37/2/3/3/9/8/MC
- 2010: Ian Poulter: 15/19/9/MC/20/1/45/5/9/5/2/MC
Event Form. Going back to 2014, the last 5 winners of this had reached the quarter-finals at least once in the past prior to picking up the trophy. None of the winners going back to 2010 were making their debut in this event, so some experience looks important when finding the winner:
- 2018: Bubba Watson: 4/17/9/9/17/28/9
- 2017: Dustin Johnson: 33/33/33/9/33/33/17/5
- 2016: Jason Day: 9/17/3/1/52
- 2015: Rory McIlroy: 5/17/17/2/33/17
- 2014: Jason Day: 9/17/3
- 2013: Matt Kuchar: 17/3/5
- 2012: Hunter Mahan: 17/17/33/9
- 2011: Luke Donald: 9/9/17/17/9/9
- 2010: Ian Poulter: 5/4/33/9/17/9
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Digging too deep into past results often throws up nothing more than a red herring or two when it comes to Match Play and this event in particular. Expect the unexpected and keep stakes low would be my advice, however let’s have a go at applying some kind of framework to this week’s selections.
It’s interesting to look at the prices of the last 9 winners of this event: Ogilvy was 25/1 back in 2009, Poulter 28/1 in 2010, Donald 35/1 in 2011, Mahan 50/1 in 2012, Kuchar was 35/1 in 2013, Day was 20/1 in 2014, McIlroy was 11/1 in 2015, Day was 14/1 in 2016, DJ was 10/1 in 2017 and Bubba was 50/1 last year. No massive shocks in that list with Mahan and Watson the longest price of the bunch at 50/1; around three-quarters of the field are priced outside of that bracket and with 7 successful matches required to lift the trophy perhaps there’s more than just coincidence that one of the more fancied players has succeeded on each of those occasions.
In contrast though, there’s still been some value in the each-way places with Kevin Kisner (125/1) making the final last year, Bill Haas (90/1) and Hideto Tanihara (300/1) both making the semi-finals in 2017 and Rafa Cabrera-Bello (125/1) finishing 3rd the year before. The result from Harding Park in 2015 also produced a couple of 3-figure each-way places in the shape of Gary Woodland (125/1) and Danny Willett (150/1), neither of whom had shown much in the way of form before progressing all the way through to Sunday’s matches.
The course here on paper would seem to suit more accurate types with the danger that lurks from off the cut-and-prepared, however power has seen the likes of Jason Day, Louis Oosthuzien, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Bubba Watson contest the three finals that have been played here with only Kevin Kisner falling outside of that type of player. An aggressive style and a liking for Bermudagrass greens is a good starter for this week, however ultimately to progress to Sunday a player’s going to need to handle the mental side of Match Play golf first and foremost.
My final selections are as follows: