Paul Williams

Paul Williams' WGC Match Play Tips

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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.

5 eligible players – Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Gary Woodland and Tiger Woods– have opted not to play this week for various reasons, 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 this week.

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 Sungjae Im if you work down the current OWGR rankings, with the remaining 48 players having been drawn on Monday. The final groups are 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. Our event history stats are here for reference.

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.

boylesports WGC Match Play Tips – Featured Bookmaker:

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Course Overview. Austin Country Club dates back to 1899 and is one of the oldest golf clubs in the state of Texas. 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 7,127 yard, par-71 features 3 lengthy Par 5s of 589, 579 and 585 yards on the 6th, 12th and 16th holes respectively 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. This year the Bermuda also contains a Poa Trivialis overseed.

wgc match play tips

Tournament Stats. We’ve published some WGC Match Play history stats going back to 1999 to help with your research: Form Stats | Event Stats | 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. 2019: Kevin Kisner, 80/1; 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 cool start on Wednesday before a weather front brings overnight rain into Thursday, accompanied by wind gusting 25-30mph on Thursday. From there it calms down and warms up a little for the rest of the event, with temperatures eventually reaching the mid-70s Fahrenheit in the sunshine.

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. 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: Kevin Kisner in 2019 was very much the exception to some pretty solid rules when deciphering who might win this quirky event.

Before Kisner’s win. the previous 5 winners of this event had each won an event on either the PGA Tour, or in the case of Rory McIlroy on the European Tour, in their last 5 starts, and going back to 2010, each winner had at least one top-10 finish in their last 4 starts, so current form had proven to be a very good pointer in recent times:

  • 2019: Kevin Kisner: 24/58/MC/7/69/57/26/28/27/23/22/24
  • 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 6 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:

  • 2019: Kevin Kisner: 38/17/2
  • 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 10 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 in 2018. Kevin Kisner’s win in 2019 the last time this was played was the longest of bunch at 80/1, although he’d made it all the way to the final the year before so it wasn’t exactly a bolt from the blue to see him feature again.

Taking 80/1 as our limit of the potential winner, around half 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 players from the top half of the betting have succeeded on each of those occasions.

In contrast though, there’s still been some value in the each-way places with Lucas Bjerregaard (140/1) making the semis in 2019, Kevin Kisner (125/1) making the final in 2018, 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 three of the four finals held here. 2019’s Sunday tussle between Kevin Kisner and Matt Kuchar was much more in keeping with what the course would suggest is the most likely formula to success, however this is Match Play and the unexpected is very much to be expected.

A liking for Bermudagrass greens and Pete Dye tracks is a good starter for this week, however ultimately to progress to Sunday a player is going to need to handle the mental side of Match Play golf first and foremost.

The final point to note is that there’s a major difference between how some bookmakers are playing this week from an each-way perspective. ¼ odds for 4 places is the norm for this event, however 1/5 odds for 8 places is also available from a select few bookmakers, meaning that an each-way return is achieved from a quarter-final finish or better. Slightly lower prices as ever is the trade-off between the options, however it’s certainly worth considering this option if the odds on your selected player(s) is similar enough to justifiy.

My final selections are as follows, all using the 8EW, 1/5 odds option at slightly shorter prices:

Justin Thomas 2pts EW 12/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Prior to Kevin Kisner’s win the last time we’d played the WGC Match Play in 2019, each of the previous 5 victors had picked up some silverware in their past 5 starts. 2 of those – Dustin Johnson (2017) and Jason Day (2016) – had won on their previous start, so going down the obvious route of picking the most recent winner has some merit and to that end Justin Thomas gets the nod.

Victory at TPC Sawgrass a little over a week ago drew a line under a turbulent time for the 27 year-old following his well-documented mutterings and the loss of his grandfather, however he looked very much back to his best as he held off the attentions of Lee Westwood over the back 9 of The Players.

That makes it 14 victories in a little over 5 years for JT, 6 of which were above bog-standard PGA Tour level – 2 FedEx Cup PlayOffs, 2 WGCs, a Players Championship and a Major – and, put simply, he’s as classy as his current OWGR position of 2nd suggests.

4th here in 2018 when topping a group containing Francesco Molinari, Patton Kizzire and Luke List, a 6&5 drubbing of Siwoo Kim followed before a tighter 2&1 success over Kyle Stanley, before he finally came unstuck against eventual winner Bubba Watson. A noteworthy performance nonetheless and one that marks him out for future success at this event, especially when you consider he was top-scorer for the USA Team at the last Ryder Cup.

Pete Dye form isn’t remotely in question after his success at TPC Sawgrass and he’s an outstanding putter on Bermudagrass greens. We’ve also seen the Florida man win back-to-back titles in the past, back in 2017 in Hawaii, and if he can navigate through a tricky group containing Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Kisner and Matt Kuchar, then he’ll have a great chance of progressing deep into the weekend. RESULT: Group Stage

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Jason Day 1pt EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

There’s no easy group or quarter in this format, so a deep breath is required when trying to work out the permutations and potential match-ups as the week progresses. Jason Day is the 3rd ranked player in group 6 with Xander Schauffele the seed, however with Scottie Scheffler and Andy Sullivan in the group there’s scope for progression. From there it’s potentially Rory McIlroy then Jon Rahm – nobody said it would be easy!

Fact is, Day is the only multiple winner of this event in this week’s field and he simply thrives on the Match Play format. A 2014 winner at Dove Mountain, Day also won the first renewal held here in Austin in 2016 and undoubtedly knows how to succeed around these parts, despite some indifferent form here since that success.

We’ve discussed the developing form of the 2015 US PGA Champion a number of times on our weekly podcasts of late and it’s clear that individual parts of his game have looked really strong recently without him having put it all together. SG Off the Tee ranks of 19th, 15th, 15th and 2nd over his last 4 starts is impressive for a player like Day who’s more renowned for his short game than long game prowess. That most recent effort was at The Players and the Australian also ranked 2nd for SG Tee-to-Green that week to suggest that once he finds his putter he’ll be fairly lethal. Over 7.5 strokes lost on the greens of TPC Sawgrass isn’t what you’d expect from Day, however the long game form should build enough confidence to let him express himself on the greens before too long, and in this format of golf perhaps he’ll bring his best stuff. RESULT: Group Stage

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Tommy Fleetwood 1pt EW 40/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

The bottom-left quarter is probably the weakest of the four, with Bryson DeChambeau the clear favourite to progress and second-favourite to win the whole shebang, however I’m happy to take him on with Tommy Fleetwood.

In a quarter where 7 of the 16 players are making their WGC Match Play debuts, if Tommy can make it past the big man then he stands a great chance of progressing to the latter stages of the tournament in my view; with positive ‘Molliwood’ memories from the last Ryder Cup to draw upon, I can see him causing an upset here, with Siwoo Kim and Antoine Rozner the other two group members.

In this quarter, the Englishman is the only player to have made it as far as the quarter-finals in the past, which gives him a tick in that particular box, and with his biggest obstacle DeChambeau having lost 2 of his 3 group matches on his only appearance in this back in 2019, he certainly has the practical experience to succeed in my view.

The general feeling is that Tommy’s game hasn’t been quite right for a little while now, yet his missed cut at The Players was his first weekend off since September and had the putter been just marginally more compliant he could easily have won both the Portugal Masters and Scottish Open following lockdown last year on the European Tour. 7th in Abu Dhabi at Rolex Series level was a solid start to the year and prior to that aforementioned weekend off at TPC Sawgrass, the 30 year-old finished 10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

When he putts well it typically is on Bermudagrass greens – he ranked 2nd for Putting Average at the 2019 DP World Tour Championship on his way to a runner-up finish and more recently ranked 7th for putting at the Dubai Desert Classic at the end of January – and he’s capable of rattling in a few long-range putts when playing well that can make all the difference in this format of the game. RESULT: Quarter-Final

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Tyrrell Hatton 1pt EW 28/1(8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Finally, Dustin Johnson’s quadrant and the one that’s caused me most trouble. The world No.1 has Kevin Na, Robert MacIntyre and Adam Long to overcome in the group stage before progressing and he could easily make short work of that trio if at anything approaching his best, however his best hasn’t been evident of late if truth be told.

A win in Saudi at the start of last month masked some pretty average putting and since then his ball-striking has been far from stellar, with 54th at the WGC Workday at the Concession and 48th last time out at TPC Sawgrass his latest finishes. Of course all of that can change in an instant for the World’s best player and he’s a course and event winner from 2017, however there’s not enough to convince me of a bet.

Paul Casey holds appeal, however when push comes to shove in this format I’d prefer a more reliable putter and to that end I’m backing Tyrrell Hatton to progress through to at least the last 8. In this instance I’ve taken the extended places and reduced odds given that he could meet Dustin Johnson in the semi-finals, but if he makes it that far then we’ll have our reward.

It’s been a fabulous 16 months or so for the High Wycombe man, winning 4 times globally and hitting a career-high of 5th in the world last month. Although not evident all of the time, the 29 year-old’s temperament is improving and an all-European group of Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Matt Wallace gives him scope to progress with Westwood potentially over his peak of form, Garcia never ‘Mr Reliable’ with the flat stick, and Wallace less experienced in this format.

3 attempts here have produced a narrow group-stage play-off defeat on debut in 2017, when he accidentally hit his ball when tidying up on the first extra hole to incur a penalty, and two further knockout eliminations in the round of 16 in 2018 and 2019. Practical Ryder Cup experience will come in useful, albeit far from extensive from his one appearance in 2018, although he did gain 3 points from 3 at the Eurasia Cup in 2018 for Team Europe. RESULT: Group Stage

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Boylesports UK New Customer Offer: 18+. Mobile exclusive. Min stake £10. Min odds Evs. First bet only. 30 days to qualify. Free bets expire in 7 days. Cashed out bets won’t apply. Payment method restrictions. UK customers (Excluding NI) only. One Free Bet offer per customer, household and IP Address only. T&Cs apply. #Ad

Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:20GMT 22.3.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.

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