PGA Tour: WGC Dell Technologies Match-Play Preview

Golfer lines up iron shot

We preview the WGC Match-Play to take place at the Austin Country Club from 21 - 25 March. 

Inaugurated in 1999, the WGC Match-Play event forms the second leg of the prestigious WGC Series. The first event was won by 100/1 shot Jeff Maggert, where he overcame 150/1 shot Andrew Magee. The event has gone through various guises over the years, battling to maintain sponsorship interest due to the fact that many top seeds would be eliminated in their first sudden-death match.

This was the catalyst for the recent switch to a group stage, wherein 16 groups of four players battle it out over the first three days, culminating in a weekend of straight knockout matches. The top 16 players are seeded, and Dell have already renewed their sponsorship for the next two years, highlighting the success of this alteration.

WGC Dell Technologies Match-Play | 21 March - 25 March | Austin Country Club

Originally located at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsford, California, the event actually had an exodus down under, which was quickly scrapped due to a lack of player interest. The event moved to Arizona for a time, before relocating to Austin in 2016. This will be the third consecutive year that the event is held at the Pete Dye-designed Austin Country Club. Not an especially long course, this is a perfect location for match-play drama. There are four reachable par 5’s and a drivable par 4, meaning that there is a large degree of risk-reward at what is a most picturesque course, enveloped by Lake Austin. 

2015 champion Rory McIlroy is the favourite following a Bay Hill victory that echoed his glory period of a few years back. I can’t say that I have ever seen the affable Northern Irishman putt that well before. Defending champion Dustin Johnson hasn’t exactly electrified this season while Jason Day has shown himself to be a specialist at this event over the years. This event is wide open, with the likes of Casey, Mickelson, Thomas and Rahm already tasting victory this season. The winner may have to brave fairly breezy conditions his week, while the physical exertion of playing seven matches over five days cannot be ignored. This represents one of the last chances for fine tuning ahead of the Masters. The likes of Stenson, Scott, Rose and Fowler have opted to skip the event, while Brooks Koepka remains injured. 

Past Winners
2017: Dustin Johnson
2016: Jason Day
2015: Rory McIlroy
2014: Jason Day
2013: Matt Kuchar

To Win Outright
Rory McIlroy 15/2 | Dustin Johnson 8/1 | Justin Thomas 12/1 | Jon Rahm 14/1 | Jason Day 14/1

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Value Bets

Paul Casey- To Win 25/1, To Place 6/1
Paul Casey is one of four players- the others being McIlroy, Mickelson and Thomas- who is looking to win back-to-back events this week. Casey’s long awaited win at the Valspar was the culmination of years of dogged consistency. Casey already had top 10 finishes in both the AT&T and Abu Dhabi events this season, and he has an excellent record in this event. Runner-up in both 2009 and 2010, Casey has also progressed twice in the last three years through the treacherous group stages. Emboldened by his recent victory, 25/1 looks an excellent price for a man in red-hot form. 

Patrick Reed- To Win 30/1, To Place 15/2
The bullish American has been in an upward form trajectory since being cut from the AT&T and Honda Classic. He made the weekend at the WGC Mexico before that excellent T2 at Valspar. He followed that up with a credible T7 at Bay Hill, clearly demonstrating that he is finding his game ahead of Augusta. And he clearly has match-play pedigree, with a combined 12 points out of a possible 19 in Ryder Cup and President’s Cup competition for the States. 

Matt Kuchar- To Win 66/1, To Place 16/1
You have to love that price, especially considering the fact that ‘Kuuuuch’ is the only man in the field to have reached the final 16 in the last four editions of this event. The 2013 champion and 2017 Open runner-up clearly has a penchant for match-play golf. He has had a disappointing season thus far, with only that T5 at the Phoenix Open standing out thus far. But he is just the sort of feisty competitor that could emerge from the doldrums this week. 

The Man to Beat- Rory McIlroy- To Win 15/2, To Place 37/20
The trick with this event of late seems to be this: respect form and the markets. In the last two years, Johnson and Day came into the event searching for back-to-back events. Rory was magnificent at Bay Hill, with only 100 putts over the four rounds. In 2015 Rory came into this event on the back of a T4 at Augusta. McIlroy won in 2015 before narrowly losing to an inspired Day in the 2016 semi-finals. He was hugely unfortunate last season. He lost narrowly to an electric Soren Kjeldsen in the first round and was left with no chance of qualification after Gary Woodland withdrew due to family reasons. 

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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