Paul Williams

Paul Williams' WGC Dell Match Play Tips 2023

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Love it or 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.

With the LIV players ineligible for this year’s renewal, we’re venturing down to 79th in the OWGR and Cam Davis to complete this week’s field of 64. Defending champion and world number 1 Scottie Scheffler rates as the bookies’ favourite this week at 8/1, with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm following closely behind in what’s always a relatively open betting heat given the format.

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 Scottie Scheffler to Sungjae Im if you work down the current OWGR rankings, with the remaining 48 players having been drawn on Monday. For a pull, printable bracket 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.

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 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 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. As per last year, and as we have seen recently at TPC Sawgrass and also at Copperhead last week, the Bermuda greens also contain 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. 2022: Scottie Scheffler, 18/1; 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.

Gusty winds look to be the main feature this week in Texas, with 25-30mph gusts likely on Wednesday and Thursday, before the thunderstorm risk peaks on Friday. It should be a little calmer over the weekend for those players who survive the group stage with sunny spells and temperatures reaching the high-70s Fahrenheit.

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.

2021 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.

Scottie Scheffler restored the order 12 months ago when winning this having already won at TPC Scottsdale and at Bay Hill in recent weeks:

  • 2022: Scottie Scheffler: MC/38/4/2/57/2/25/20/1/7/1/55
  • 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. With the exception of Horschel’s win in 2021, going back to 2013 the other 7 winners of this had reached the quarter-finals at least once in the past prior to picking up the trophy, including Scottie Scheffler who lost out to Horschel on debut before going one better 12 months ago.

None of the winners going back to 2010 were making their debut in this event, so some experience looks important when finding the winner:

  • 2022: Scottie Scheffler: 2
  • 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 12 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, Horschel’s was 90/1 in 2021 and the red-hot Scottie Scheffler was 18/1 last year.

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:

Scottie Scheffler 6pts Win 8/1 with bet365

I think you can try to get too cute with this event in terms of trying to find value where it doesn’t exist, or trying to calculate 4 perfect brackets and failing badly. This format – as ever – is fickle in the extreme.

My knee-jerk reaction to this event after seeing Scottie Scheffler win The PLAYERS a fortnight ago was that him backing that up with another win here in Austin – and retaining his WGC World Match Play crown – was a very distinct possibility.

Rocket science this is not, I grant you. The 26 year-old has been restored to world number 1, he beat a strong field in Phoenix with the pressure of 600,000 fans, and simply swatted the rest of the field away at TPC Sawgrass around the turn on Sunday which meant he could saunter to yet another victory.

Scottie is favourite for this and rightly so. Rory won this at 11/1 in 2015, Jason Day was 14/1 the year after, and DJ was 10/1 when he triumphed in 2017, so the 8/1 quoted about Scheffler this year is shorter than each of those, but that reflects where he’s at right now.

The question I ask myself though when pondering such a bet is this: right now, given how he’s playing, if we were to play this event 8 times over then how many of those 8 events would Scottie Scheffler win? I suspect the answer is more than 1, and to that end I make him viable a bet this week.

2nd here on debut in 2021 was backed up with a win last year, before he went on to win the Masters. Scottie’s early season form and how he’s performing has an eerie similarity to this time last year, and to that end I must support him here. RESULT: Lost Semi-Final

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Tyrrell Hatton 2pts EW 25/1 (4EW, 1/4) with Unibet

In Rory McIlroy’s quarter, Tyrrell Hatton looks to have one of the easier groups, if you can ever describe this event in those terms, and he’s the only other bet that I’m having this week.

Russell Henley, Lucas Herbert and Ben Griffin stand between the Englishman and a potential Saturday morning match with the segment’s top seed McIlroy, however given that Tyrrell’s managed to navigate out of the group on 3 of the last 4 occasions, his progression to the next stage may be slightly more assured than some others.

The round of 16 is as far as the 31 year-old has got on each of those occasions, granted, however he’s been on the wrong end of some matches against very good opponents at that stage, including Cam Smith (2&1) in 2018, Finalist Matt Kuchar (4&3) in 2019 and an inspired Seamus Power (4&3) last year.

Twice part of the Ryder Cup team, it’s more the level of events that Tyrrell’s won over the years that appeals to me more than his Match Play record. 4 Rolex Series wins and a pair of Dunhill Links victories have all come at the higher end of European golf and the next stage for him is a WGC or, dare I say it, a Major Championship.

2nd at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship was a strong finish to 2022 and the High Wycombe man has continued that fine form into this year, starting with a 5&4 win over Antoine Rozner in the Hero Cup singles and continuing with his strokeplay performances including 7th in Abu Dhabi, 6th in Phoenix, 4th at Bay Hill and 2nd last time out at TPC Sawgrass.

Yes, McIlroy may well await should they both progress through the group stage, however given Rory’s recent comments on his focus on golf lately, perhaps this is as good a time as any to play him, should that happen. RESULT: Group Stage

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:10GMT 20.3.23 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.