Paul Williams

Paul Williams' WGC Dell Match Play Tips 2022

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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.

6 eligible players – Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Harris English, Phil Mickelson and most recently Sam Burns – 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 Jon Rahm to Brooks Koepka if you work down the current OWGR rankings, with the remaining 48 players having been drawn on Monday. For details of the draw click 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.

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  • 18+.1/8 16 Places in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play. Pre-live each way bets on outright market only. Dead Heat rules apply. T&Cs apply

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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. 2021: Billy Horschel, 90/1; 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 with temperatures struggling in the mid-60s Fahrenheit. From there it warms up a little for the rest of the event, with temperatures eventually reaching the low-80s Fahrenheit in the sunshine. Winds will be light to moderate, with the breeziest weather expected over the weekend with gusts up to 20 mph on Sunday.

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.

Last year’s winner Billy Horschel didn’t have the recent win that those prior to Kisner could boast, however a 2nd place finish at the WGC Workday Championship a month before had demonstrated some good form at elite level:

  • 2021: Billy Horschel: 38/28/6938/5/24/7/MC/53/2/MC/58
  • 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. Prior to Horschel’s win 12 months ago, 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:

  • 2021: Billy Horschel: 17/17/38/24
  • 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 11 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, Bubba was 50/1 in 2018, Kisner was 80/1 in 2019 and Horschel’s win the last time this was played was the longest of bunch at 90/1.

Taking 90/1 as our limit of the potential winner, around a quarter 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 nearer the top 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 Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Bubba Watson contest some of the 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 justify.

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

Dustin Johnson 2pts EW 18/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

As 8th seed, Dustin Johnson sits in a group with Max Homa, Matthew Wolff and Mackenzie Hughes. On the strength of current form, Homa is likely to pose the biggest threat to DJ’s progression to the knockout stages, with Wolff and Hughes both struggling of late.

From there it’s a potential tussle with the winner of DeChambeau, Gooch, Westwood or Bland – in truth there’s little to overly concern the former world No.1. Rahm or Koepka potentially await in the quarter finals, however much can happen before then and an unflappable Johnson isn’t going to lose sleep over his potential path to the final from what I can see.

A win here at Austin GC back in 2017 having made the quarter-finals the year before, Dustin is vastly experienced at this format of golf at both WGC level and of course at the Ryder Cup. The 37 year-old joined an elite band of players last year at Whistling Straits by winning all 5 of his Ryder Cup matches, and having flashed some form at the Players Championship with a fast-finished tie for 9th, he should be primed for this week after a throttled-down mid-pack finish last week at Copperhead. RESULT: 4th

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Paul Casey 1pt EW 33/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

If Paul Casey is ever going to progress beyond regular PGA Tour/DP World Tour winner status before his career ends, then the WGC Match Play is perhaps the most likely candidate.

Even if he doesn’t add either a Major or a solo WGC to his tally of titles, and at the age of 44 time is starting to run out if we’re being brutally honest, then a haul of 15 DP World Tour trophies, 3 PGA Tour, a World Cup (hence the ‘solo’ above) and 3 Ryder Cup wins from 5 starts isn’t bad. Yet still there’s a hint that there may be one last hurrah before he takes his foot off the accelerator.

3rd at the Players Championship on his last start backed up a 5th place finish the year before in elite company; 4th at last year’s US PGA Championship and 2nd the year before were also impressive efforts. All post-lockdown efforts that can’t be ignored.

Twice a runner-up in this event back in 2009 and 2010, one of Casey’s early successes on the European Tour as it was at the time was the HSBC World Match Play Championship held at Wentworth, beating Shaun Micheel 10&8 over a 36 hole match. Coupled with his Ryder Cup record, it’s clear that he responds in this format of the game.

So current form, event form, format form, desire – all boxes are ticked. You can add to that Pete Dye form with 4 top-5 finishes at TPC River Highlands to accompany his aforementioned TPC Sawgrass efforts of late.

Louis Oosthuizen, Corey Conners and Alex Noren present the group stage challenge in what looks a relatively soft quarter, so if the Englishman can navigate through the first 3 days successfully then he’ll fancy his chances of pushing on all the way. RESULT: Group Stage

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Kevin Kisner 1pt EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

There’s no bet from me in the 4th quarter if working around the brackets in a clockwise fashion, so I’ll close this year’s Match Play team with Kevin Kisner.

A word on that 4th quarter first though. Patrick Cantlay is the highest ranked player, yet the last 16 has eluded him in this format thus far from 3 attempts. Scottie Scheffler is the obvious choice, if there’s such a thing in this format, with 2 wins from his last 4 starts and a runner-up finish to Billy Horschel 12 months ago. Billy himself also sits in this section and would be a fair punt given his Pete Dye record on top of last year’s success, yet he withdrew from the players through illness and this gruelling format takes no prisoners if a player isn’t 100% fit.

Then there’s Ian Poulter to consider. The postman loves this format of golf and can never be written off. If you were to push me then I’d likely take a chance on the Englishman, but ultimately it’s a no bet for me.

Back to Kisner then and his biggest, and most immediate, hurdle is Justin Thomas in the group stages. Marc Leishman and Luke List make up the quartet, however Kisner’s proven in the past that he can find a way to progress past tough-looking groups and the reward if he does could be a more straightforward route to the latter stages.

2nd here in Austin in 2018, the 38 year-old followed that up with a 3&2 victory the following year over Matt Kuchar for what still ranks as his biggest career title. The format suits, the course suits – and recent results would suggest that another big week isn’t out of the question. 8th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and 3rd the week after at the Sony was a strong start to the year, however it was his 4th place finish in elite company at TPC Sawgrass the week before last which ultimately gets him the nod. RESULT: 2nd

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:55GMT 21.3.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.