Damien Kayat previews the 2023 edition of the PGA Tour’s WGC Dell Technologies Match-Play taking place at the Austin Country Club.
2022/2023 US PGA Tour
WGC Dell Technologies Match-Play
Austin Country Club, Texas
Taylor Moore won his maiden PGA Tour title at the 46th time of asking, holding off the likes of Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood to claim the honours at Innisbrook.
It was a nail-biting finish to what was a fantastic Florida Swing. All eyes turn to Texas this week for what could be the end of an era.
WGC Dell Technologies Match-Play
The WGC has always offered the chance to see Major Championship fields congregate outside of those four crucial events.
But the popularity of the format has dwindled and this could very well be the last WGC event ever. Dell have announced that there will be no event next year pending further developments.
Here’s to hoping that the PGA Tour is able to find a suitable match-play substitute. It’s fast becoming obsolete outside of the President’s Cup and Ryder Cup.
After enjoying a fairly nomadic existence for some time on the tour, the WGC Match-Play found some stability at Austin Country Club. This will be the seventh renewal staged at this Pete Dye creation (the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the outbreak of Covid).
Austin Country Club
Designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1984, Austin is a parkland course with plenty of risk-reward holes (which is ideal for match-play golf). The 317-yard par-4 13th perfectly exemplifies this.
While the course is Bermuda, it is overseeded with a Ryegrass/Fescue hybrid at this time of the year. The greens are also overseeded with Poa Trivalis.
Much like other Pete Dye courses, this opens itself up to the strategists. Players will need to manage water, winds and undulating fairways. A cross-section of recent winners seems to suggest that this course is open to a variety of winners.
Big hitters like DJ and Jason Day have tasted success here. But it has also favoured more accurate types like Kevin Kisner and Billy Horschel. Ultimately, players will need to putt superbly if they aim to win.
Look for players who hit plenty of GIR and can catch fire with the short stick.
This is unique, gruelling event that takes place over five days. There will be 16 groups of four golfers that will play round-robin match-play over the first three days (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday).
The winner of each group will advance to the knockout stage (which starts on Saturday). The round-robin works like this: the winner of each head-to-head match will receive a full point.
Any draw will result in split points. If two players end up tied at top of the group, head-to-head results will be used as a tiebreaker (provided they use last year’s format).
Saturday will feature the round of 16 and quarterfinal matches. Sunday will host the semi-finals and final (as well as a 3rd-4th playoff match). It’s quite a surreal event that devolves into a Sunday highlight-athon.
Paul Azinger and company show us the same thing a thousand times, with Stepford Wives’ smiles that don’t betray the banality of proceedings. It’s weird and makes for a slightly anti-climactic finale to such a fun event.
Defending champion Scottie Scheffler recently reclaimed the World No.1 ranking courtesy of a brilliant victory at TPC Sawgrass (another Pete Dye design).
His balanced all-round game makes him the ideal candidate for success here. Despite his blistering start to the campaign, Jon Rahm withdrew from the Players due to illness.
The 2017 runner-up may not be in peak condition for this arduous test. Rory McIlroy has looked a shadow of his best self of late despite coming within one shot at Bay Hill.
He missed the cut at the Players and just isn’t playing consistently enough to trust this week. Elsewhere, Texan Jordan Spieth is in excellent form and will obviously draw huge swathes of support.
There are always some massive surprises here and it isn’t the easiest event to predict.
2022: Scottie Scheffler
2021: Billy Horschel
2020: event cancelled
2019: Kevin Kisner
2018: Bubba Watson
2017: Dustin Johnson
To Win Outright:
Scottie Scheffler 9/1 | Jon Rahm 11/1 | Rory McIlroy 12/1 | Patrick Cantlay 20/1 | Collin Morikawa 20/1
Tyrell Hatton- To Win 28/1
Firebrand Englishman Tyrell Hatton seems to have the perfect combination of current form and Pete Dye form to contend this week. He has been silently collecting some massive results, finishing in the top eight in five of his last seven starts. The most recent example of this was his brilliant runner-up finish at TPC Sawgrass. He is the only player on tour to rank in the top 20 for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, Approach and Putting. This should make him a deadly adversary this week. He also has a fairly decent group featuring Henley, Herbert and Griffin.
Rickie Fowler- To Win 55/1
Rickie Fowler will be one of those desperately eyeing Masters qualification this week. This will be the final week to qualify for Augusta through OWGR points. This means that Fowler needs at least a quarterfinal finish or else he would have to go and win in San Antonio next week. The former Masters runner-up has been improving hugely of late, with four top-20 finishes in his last five starts. Silly errors have cost him at times. But this format is more forgiving as mistakes don’t have the capacity to compound. Sure, he needs to get past a tough group that features Jon Rahm. But the Spaniard has been unwell and I think Fowler has more motivation than most this week.
The Man to Beat- Scottie Scheffler- To Win 9/1
I know, I know. This isn’t exactly brimming with originality. But there is just too much pointing towards newly re-crowned World No.1 Scottie Scheffler. He lost in the final here on debut in 2021 before winning the title last year. He is just the perfect combination of power and accuracy for this course. He plays Pete Dye courses brilliantly (he won at Sawgrass just two weeks ago). And he would only meet Rahm or McIlroy in the semi-final stage. He also has quite a favourable group featuring Alex Noren, Tom Kim and Davis Riley.