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BlogDell Match Play Preview and Picks

WGC – Dell Match Play Championship

March 27th – 31st, 2019

Austin Country Club

Austin, TX

Par: 71 / Yardage: 7,108

Purse: $10.25 million

with $1,845,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Bubba Watson

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 66 of the top 64 in the latest Official World Rankings.  Those not playing are #10 Rickie Fowler and #29, Adam Scott.  This event has never been able to get all top-64 to play in it, the best was in 2007 when 63 of the top-64 played in it.

The field includes 20 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2019.  Those top-25 players in the field are: #1 Roy McIlroy, #2 Xander Schauffele, #3 Matt Kuchar, #4 Paul Casey, #5 Charles Howell III, #6 Gary Woodland, #7 Dustin Johnson, #8 Justin Thomas, #9 Marc Leishman, #11 Brooks Koepka, #12 Phil Mickelson, #13 Justin Rose, #14 Bryson DeChambeau, #15 Keith Mitchell, #16 J.B. Holmes, #19 Patrick Cantlay, #20 Jon Rahm, #22 Jim Furyk, #24 Francesco Molinari and #25 Tony Finau.

The list of those not playing are #10 Rickie Fowler, #17 Sungjae Im, #18 Kevin Tway, #21 Cameron Champ and #23 Lucas Glover.

The field includes the most past champions, 8 are playing this year: Bubba Watson (2018), Dustin Johnson (2017), Jason Day (2016 & ’14), Rory McIlory (2015), Matt Kuchar (2013), Ian Poulter (2010), Tiger Woods (2008, ’04 & ’03) and Henrik Stenson (2007).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship field is our performance chart listed by the average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the WGC – Dell Match Play Championship

Player Valspar Champ. The Players Arnold Palmer Honda Classic WGC Mexico Genesis Open AT&T Pebble Phoenix Open Saudi Inter. Farmers Dubai Desert Desert Classic Abu Dhabi
Rory McIlroy
(434.67 pts)
DNP Win
(198)
T6
(60)
DNP 2
(100)
T4
(53.33)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Dustin Johnson
(384 pts)
T6
(60)
T5
(105)
DNP DNP Win
(132)
T9
(30)
T45
(1.67)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
Paul Casey
(257 pts)
Win
(132)
CUT
(-15)
DNP DNP T3
(90)
T25
(16.67)
2
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tommy Fleetwood
(256.33 pts)
DNP T5
(105)
T3
(90)
DNP T19
(31)
T28
(14.67)
T45
(1.67)
DNP DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP T42
(2.67)
Jim Furyk
(232.67 pts)
T18
(32)
2
(150)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP T37
(8.67)
T14
(12)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jon Rahm
(208.67 pts)
T6
(60)
T12
(57)
DNP DNP T45
(5)
T9
(30)
DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP 6
(20)
DNP
Hideki Matsuyama
(194.67 pts)
DNP T8
(75)
T33
(17)
DNP T19
(31)
T9
(30)
DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP T3
(30)
DNP DNP DNP
Ian Poulter
(187 pts)
DNP T56
(0)
T23
(27)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(20)
DNP T3
(30)
DNP T6
(20)
Bubba Watson
(186 pts)
T4
(80)
T56
(0)
T17
(33)
DNP T27
(23)
T15
(23.33)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Justin Thomas
(177.5 pts)
DNP T35
(22.5)
DNP T30
(13.33)
9
(45)
2
(66.67)
DNP 3
(30)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Sergio Garcia
(169 pts)
T54
(0)
T22
(42)
DNP T9
(30)
T6
(60)
T37
(8.67)
DNP DNP DQ
(-1.67)
DNP T3
(30)
DNP DNP
Matt Wallace
(168.33 pts)
DNP T30
(30)
T6
(60)
T20
(20)
T33
(17)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T16
(11.33)
Francesco Molinari
(165 pts)
DNP T56
(0)
Win
(132)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
(161.67 pts)
T30
(20)
CUT
(-15)
T3
(90)
DNP T19
(31)
T25
(16.67)
T22
(9.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T11
(13)
Charles Howell III
(148.83 pts)
DNP T35
(22.5)
T15
(35)
DNP T14
(36)
6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(10)
DNP T34
(5.33)
DNP
Matthew Fitzpatrick
(144.5 pts)
DNP T41
(13.5)
2
(100)
DNP T27
(23)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP DNP
Keith Mitchell
(139.17 pts)
DNP T47
(4.5)
T6
(60)
Win
(88)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
73
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Bryson DeChambeau
(136.33 pts)
DNP T20
(45)
T46
(4)
DNP T56
(0)
T15
(23.33)
DNP DNP T6
(20)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP
Eddie Pepperell
(136 pts)
DNP T3
(135)
57
(0)
DNP T67
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T38
(4)
DNP T49
(0.33)
Louis Oosthuizen
(135 pts)
T2
(100)
T56
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T25
(25)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 4
(26.67)
Kevin Kisner
(133.33 pts)
T24
(26)
T22
(42)
T23
(27)
DNP T27
(23)
DNP T28
(7.33)
T26
(8)
DNP DNP DNP T57
(0)
DNP
Brandt Snedeker
(122.67 pts)
T30
(20)
T5
(105)
T50
(1)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T55
(0)
DNP T62
(0)
DNP DNP DNP
Justin Rose
(121 pts)
DNP T8
(75)
T63
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Win
(44)
DNP T34
(5.33)
DNP
Jason Day
(110 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T8
(75)
WD
(-5)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Byeong Hun An
(109.67 pts)
DNP T26
(36)
T10
(40)
T36
(9.33)
T45
(5)
DNP DNP T20
(10)
DNP DNP T12
(12.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Tiger Woods
(103.33 pts)
DNP T30
(30)
DNP DNP T10
(40)
T15
(23.33)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(10)
DNP DNP DNP
Tony Finau
(103.33 pts)
DNP T22
(42)
DNP DNP T25
(25)
T15
(23.33)
T38
(4)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T13
(12.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Gary Woodland
(95.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T30
(30)
DNP T36
(9.33)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP T9
(15)
DNP DNP DNP
Brooks Koepka
(94.67 pts)
DNP T56
(0)
CUT
(-10)
T2
(66.67)
T27
(23)
DNP DNP DNP T57
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T9
(15)
Keegan Bradley
(90 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T16
(51)
T46
(4)
DNP T10
(40)
T51
(0)
DNP T67
(0)
DNP T35
(5)
DNP DNP DNP
Kiradech Aphibarnrat
(87.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
T23
(27)
CUT
(-6.67)
T3
(90)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T33
(5.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Matt Kuchar
(87.67 pts)
DNP T26
(36)
DNP DNP 50
(1)
T28
(14.67)
T22
(9.33)
T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Billy Horschel
(85 pts)
DNP T26
(36)
T50
(1)
T16
(22.67)
T45
(5)
DNP DNP T39
(3.67)
DNP 8
(16.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Si Woo Kim
(83.67 pts)
DNP T56
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP 3
(60)
T4
(26.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP T40
(3.33)
DNP
Cameron Smith
(80.67 pts)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T6
(60)
T49
(0.67)
DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP T9
(15)
DNP DNP DNP
Patrick Cantlay
(80 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
DNP DNP T6
(60)
T15
(23.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T9
(15)
DNP
Webb Simpson
(71.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T16
(51)
DNP T36
(9.33)
T39
(11)
DNP DNP T20
(10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Phil Mickelson
(68.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T39
(11)
T37
(8.67)
Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP
Marc Leishman
(67.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
T23
(27)
DNP T62
(0)
T4
(53.33)
DNP DNP DNP T43
(2.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Abraham Ancer
(66 pts)
DNP T12
(57)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T39
(11)
T44
(4)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the WGC – Dell Match Play Championship

Player Valspar Champ. The Players Arnold Palmer Honda Classic WGC Mexico Genesis Open AT&T Pebble Phoenix Open Saudi Inter. Farmers Dubai Desert Desert Classic Abu Dhabi
Kyle Stanley
(-45 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
T58
(0)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Alex Noren
(-23 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T62
(0)
DNP DNP T44
(2)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Satoshi Kodaira
(-18.67 pts)
T37
(13)
CUT
(-15)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T51
(0)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP 72
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Andrew Putnam
(-15.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T38
(4)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T34
(5.33)
DNP
Jordan Spieth
(-8.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
T51
(0)
T45
(1.67)
DNP DNP T35
(5)
DNP DNP DNP
Chez Reavie
(6.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-15)
DNP DNP T65
(0)
CUT
(-6.67)
T38
(4)
T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
DNP
Aaron Wise
(12.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
T40
(10)
DNP T19
(31)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Kevin Na
(15.33 pts)
DNP 78
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T36
(14)
T33
(11.33)
DNP T60
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Thorbjorn Olesen
(20.17 pts)
DNP T41
(13.5)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T45
(5)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Shane Lowry
(28.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-15)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T62
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T12
(12.67)
DNP Win
(44)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

One thing that is certain, it seems everyone is happy with the course and format.  After taking it to several courses in ten years, Austin Country Club appears to be the perfect home for the Match Play.  The course may not be liked by 100% of the field like LaCosta was.  But only a small handful of players aren’t completely happy with Austin C.C.  As for the format, even though I miss the day to day shootout in which if you lose your match on Wednesday you go home only playing one day. But the players like the new round-robin in which they get to play at least three days.  Even Tiger Woods went out of his way to agree it was nicer to play all three days instead of going home on Wednesday if knocked out  About the only problem of this event is the time of year it’s being played.  It’s wedge two weeks after the Players Championship, four weeks after the WGC-Mexico and two weeks before the Masters, and many don’t like the timing.  We have talked about this before that it would be nice to play it after the Masters at the end of April, but as of now, the Tour is pretty happy with the way the schedule is now.

Another problem solved is the sponsorship issue.  When Accenture left after the 2014 event, the tournament had a problem for the World Federation in securing another sponsor.  Next was the venue, Dove Mountain was barely tolerable but did have a Ritz Carlton for the sponsors, but Tucson wasn’t the draw that many thought it would be.  The course wasn’t a favorite of many except for Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan who made that site an annuity for them.  It became a disadvantage for many, and even though they didn’t say it, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Adam Scott took a pass mainly because of the course.  Many felt that the event should be moved around so that it didn’t give a group of players an advantage each year but let’s face the one-ton gorilla, and that was the format.  For most, pure Match Play in which if you lose you go home was not a big winner with players, fans, TV, and the media.  The sight of half of your marquee names going home on Wednesday didn’t help matters either.  In the first 16 years of the tournament, you never had that one grand final with the number one ranked player against the number two.  Even with Tiger Woods making it to the final match four times, it was against Darren Clarke (who beat him), David Toms, Davis Love III, and Stewart Cink.  Guess we should have seen this when the very first final match in 1999 pitted superstars, Jeff Maggert, and Andrew Magee.

So in 2014 when Jason Day finally beat Victor Dubuisson on the fifth extra hole, it put an exclamation point onto this event.  Many felt that the event would not continue, which didn’t happen.  But with Accenture out of the picture, the contract with Dove Mountain finished it was time to reevaluate everything about the Match Play Championship.  It took a bit but a stop-gap sponsor in Cadillac was found, and the event moved dates to late April, and the venue was Harding Park in San Francisco.  That move was more of a way to appease the city of San Francisco who had a contract with the PGA Tour to play some events over an extended period.  Still Harding Park, which held the 2009 Presidents Cup and 2005 WGC-American Express Championship was a site that people could embrace.  But the most essential element that those that ran the championship did was change the format.

It was still match play, but no more single elimination matches the first three days, the field was broken up into 16, four-player groups and over the first three days everyone played the other three men in their group, and the player with the best record in each group advanced to the Round of 16.  From there the event went back to single elimination match play, but the focus was that all 64 players were around three days so that fans and TV had three great days of action.

The format worked in 2015 after Friday’s play marquee names like Rickie Flower, Hideki Matsuyama, Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Jim Furyk, and Rory McIlroy were still playing.  McIlroy went on to win which helped verify that the format worked.  In 2016 they jiggled a bit the playoff format the first three days, but the three-day round robin was a big success as the weekend saw lot’s of marquee players with Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day, with Day winning over British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.  The same in 2017 when marquee names like Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Paul Casey, Jon Rahm and Bubba Watson playing on the weekend, it was another winner.  Last year didn’t see the real top players over the weekend, but it did hold some marquee names as Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar and Louis Oosthuizen making it to Saturday play, with Sunday consisting of Bubba Watson and Kevin Kisner in the finals and a consultation match of Alex Noren and Justin Thomas.

Along with that, another winner was the course, Austin Country Club.

When the sun set that Sunday in San Francisco back in 2015, the Match Play Championship was brought back from the dead.  The crowds were good and enthusiastic, the weather was great, and the golf was spectacular, but the one negative was the course, Harding Park was very dull and not a great course for Match Play.  The biggest problem with the Match Play Championship was the previous four courses that held it along with Harding didn’t give the excitement and challenges to the championship.  Still, there was a lot of excitement with some of the changes that came out of San Francisco.  First was a new sponsor, as Dell computer would be the title sponsor, signing on through 2019.  Along with Dell, a new location and venue were named, Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.  Since this is the last year of Dell’s sponsorship it will be interesting to see if they renew the contract.

When announced not many folks knew about Austin Country Club other than legendary teaching professional Harvey Penick was the club’s resident instructor for over 70 years before his death in 1995.  Another thing was that the club, founded in 1899, built a new course in 1984 and hired Pete Dye to do the course.  Because the course is ultra private not many knew how fantastic the course was.  In 2015 they announced the course as the new home of the Match Play for the next four years, it closed for ten months as renovations were done to bring the course up to standards of the modern player.

The course held up and for three years has been a gem that many players love.  The tournament has risen in stature, but there is still one very little problem, getting a full slate of the top-64 to play.  This year #10 Rickie Fowler and #29 Adam Scott are taking a pass while last year Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka, Adam Scott, Justin Rose, and Rickie Fowler didn’t play.    It’s hard to fathom that players that are healthy like Fowler and Scott would take a pass but that is their choice and nothing can be said.  Who knows what future years bring, but 62 of the top-64 isn’t that bad.

Other news, marquee players in great form:

In the last five weeks, we have seen Dustin Johnson, Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey along with Keith Mitchell win.  Not a bad group of winners going into the Match Play but Dustin Johnson did shot a final round of 74, his highest round since his second round 74 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.  Johnson has been pretty steady and the 74 was his highest final round score since shooting 77 in the final round of the 2018 WGC-HSBC Champions when he blew a six shot 54-hole lead.  We don’t know if the effects of Sunday at the Valspar will affect him but you can’t dismiss the round considering that last year Johnson was the favorite and lost all three of his matches to Bernd Wiesberger, Adam Hadwin and Kevin Kisner.  Same with McIlroy who looked good coming into the Match Play after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks before and losing two of his three matches.  Guess these are all lessons to be learned that we can’t take anything for granted at the Match Play.

Is Tiger Woods ready to go?:

This will be the first time that Tiger Woods plays in the WGC-Dell Match Play since 2013 at Dove Mountain and that didn’t go very well as Tiger lost in the first round 2 & 1 to Charles Howell III.  Matter of fact since Tiger’s last win in this event in 2008 his match play record is 2 wins and 4 losses and his wins were against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano in 2012 and Brendan Jones in 2009.  Both aren’t household names but it again shows the difficulties of this event.  This year Tiger is in group 13 playing with Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thorbjorn Olesen and Aaron Wise all guys that on paper make it look like easy pickings to get to the weekend, but again on any given day and one of the 64 players in the field can beat anyone.  Still, Tiger is looking forward to this week as he loves match play and you know he will take it seriously.

Tournament information:

This will be the 21st World Golf Championship – Dell Match Play championship.  Austin Country Club is the sixth different course to hold this championship. In 2015 TPC Harding Park held the event for one year. The previous home was the Golf Club at Dove Mountain for six years, and before that, the Gallery Golf Club held it for two years, before that the LaCosta Spa and Resort, which held 1999, 2000, 2002 through 2006 events. In 2001 the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia was the venue.

Course information:
  • Austin Country Club
  • Austin, Texas
  • 7,108 yards     Par 35-36–71
  • The course has a 75.2 rating and slope rating of 152 from the championship tees. Austin Country Club is a private club eight miles northwest of downtown Austin.  The club formed in 1899 and the first course was nine holes with sand greens.  It’s believed that the course and club were the first of its kind organized in Texas.  The course grew to 18 holes but in 1949 was deemed to be too small, so the club moved to East Austin and had Perry Maxwell build them a new course.  This would be the course where Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw would spend so many hours under the watchful eye of Harvey Penick. The Club remained at the Riverside Drive location until 1984, at which time the decision was made to move to the current Davenport Ranch location in the hills of west Austin.
  • Dye was chosen to create the new course and given 180 acres of diverse terrain that goes from golf in the hills weaving through canyons and woodlands and then juts out to the lowlands that have a river border one side of the course.  So there are different natural features to every one of the holes making it a delight.  You will see a touch of TPC at Sawgrass, Blackwolf Run, and Oak Tree Country Club to name some courses that have held professional events on them.
  • More importantly, the course isn’t very long and will have a lot of risk and reward type of shots, the kind that will make for great Match Play golf.  All of the par 5s will be reachable, and the 12th will be the favorite, as water from the river runs the final 150 yards on the left of the hole, goes right up along the left of the green and beyond the green.  So we will see a lot of drama as players decide to go for the green and the shot that will take to get on.  The next hole plays with water in front of the green and all along the left side.  Since the hole plays 317 yards, it will challenge players to take the driver out and go for it, the only problem the player has to hold a driver on the green which makes the shot almost impossible.   But players will still try to get it close.
  • As for the par 3s, all of them are great from the shortest the 150 yard, 17th to the longest, the 201 yard, 7th.  All have a safe shot to the middle of the green, but again for match play with the greens tucked away in front of water, bunkers, and ravines, it creates a perfect match play scenario.  That will be the key to the course; it’s ideal for match play.
DraftKings with Match Play games:

Last year was the first year that DraftKings had a game and it was a lot of fun.  The game is based on winning holes and that your player goes to Sunday.  Just like the regular tournament play, you know that to win you have to get all six players to the weekend and the way DraftKings has done this game, the same is correct.

Here is how you win or lose points.  If you win a hole, you get 3 points.  If you halve, you get 0.75 points.  If you lose a hole, they subtract 0.75 points.  Now since matches end early, they have a bonus for a player that wins the match. They will receive 1.6 points for each hole not played, so that is an essential element to winning.  They also will give 5 points for matches won, and 2 points for a match halved.  There is also a bonus of 5 points for winning 3 consecutive holes won (Max of 1 per round) and the most significant bonus of 7.5 points if you can play a complete match without losing a hole.  Now for the round of 16 (weekend play), playoff holes will count toward the scoring, and the consolation match on Sunday will also get points.  So the big plum comes if out of your six picks, four of them play on Sunday.

I love this game, and it should create a lot of buzz.  It’s different in which you will have to figure out which players make it to the weekend.  For each player that doesn’t win their group (remember there are 16 groups Wed-Fri), you will be at a significant disadvantage.  Again pick the 16 that play the weekend, your chances are a lot better.

Let’s look at all 16 groups:

So the groups have been established through a random pick, there are 16 groups of four players in each group.  Each player goes 18 holes with the three other players in the group and the one with the best record moves to the round of 16.  For groups that are tied a stroke play, a hole-by-hole playoff will determine the player who advances to the 16 player, single-elimination matches.  If a game is tied after 18 holes, it’s considered a halve, with play ending.

So here are the groups and their ranking with some thoughts on who will win each of the groups:

Group 1: Dustin Johnson (1), Hideki Matsuyama (24), Branden Grace (40), Chez Reavie (55) … The defending champ gets a group in which only one player, Hideki Matsuyama can realistically beat him. But we were down this path last year and he failed, losing all three of his matches.  But last year was a fluke, Johnson is playing well and he loves Austin C.C., in 2016 and ’17 he only lost twice in 12 matches. Johnson can’t lose to Reavie or Grace who aren’t playing good, but Grace shouldn’t be overlooked, he could get things together and beat Johnson in their match on Thursday but it’s a longshot   I only see one winner in this group and that is Dustin but it won’t be decided until Friday when he plays Matsuyama who in 2019 has quietly played solidly including a T-3rd at the Farmers and a T-8th at the Players.  Won’t be easy for Dustin he will have to beat a very good player.

Group winner – Dustin Johnson

Group 2: Justin Rose (2), Gary Woodland (22), Eddie Pepperell (34), Emiliano Grillo (53) … On paper, this looks like an easy path for Rose: Woodland was beaten by Rory McIlroy in the finals in 2015 but since the Match Play moved to Austin his record is 2-3-1.  On top of that Woodland hasn’t played well since Phoenix.  As for Pepperell, he is playing his first Match Play and Grillo has only won a single match in this event and has struggled since finishing T-2nd at the CIMB in October.  Rose plays Grillo first and should have an easy time with him, but he should have a tough time with Pepperell on Thursday.  Eddie was T-3rd at the Players last week and is a streaky player, he could easily ambush his fellow Englishman.  Remember the negative for Rose, he hasn’t played in this event in two years probably because he struggles in this event only playing well once, losing in the quarter-finals in 2007.  So I am looking for Rose to go down and I can see Pepperell coming out.

Group winner – Yes I think Pepperell will win this group by beating all three of the players. 

Group 3: Brooks Koepka (3), Alex Noren (27), HaoTong Li (36), Tom Lewis (60) … This one is a very easy group to predict and you can take it to the bank that Brooks Koepka will win.  Yes, Noren has been great in this event, was third last year and a quarterfinalist the year before. Has 10-2 record at Austin CC. but since finishing T-8th at the Hero has really played terrible.  There is nothing going right for him, not only is he 188th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Strokes Gained Approach-the-Green but is 211th in putting.  So I don’t see him all of a sudden improving but if he beats Li on Wednesday and Lewis on Thursday he could ambush Koepka in his Friday match, but don’t bet on it.  Li lost all three of his group matches last year not making it past the 16th hole and Lewis has not played in this event and despite some wins over the summer in Europe is very overmatched as he has only played four times in America missing the cut twice in the U.S. Open and finishing 74th at WGC-Bridgestone in 2012..

Group winner – Brooks Koepka easily

Group 4: Rory McIlroy (4), Matthew Fitzpatrick (32), Justin Harding (47), Luke List (64) … This is again an easy pick but McIlroy will have to earn it.  His first match will be against List, who like him hits it long and despite him losing all three of his matches last year he has played well in a few events in 2019.  So he could be a sleeper if McIlroy thinks he could sleep-walk through this opponent.  Don’t think Harding, who is playing in his first Match Play, will be much of a problem but Matthew Fitzpatrick is a past U.S. Amateur champion and was 2nd at the Palmer.

Group Winner – Rory McIlroy but he can’t just show up like he tried to do last year losing two of his three matches.

Group 5: Justin Thomas (5), Keegan Bradley (31), Matt Wallace (33), Lucas Bjerregaard (50) … On paper, this is a simple win for Thomas.  He plays two Match Play rookies with Bjerregaard first on Wednesday and Wallace on Thursday.  Many may think that Bradley could give him some problem, but Bradley is still stinging from a second round 77 at the Valspar and his record is one of the worst in this event.  He won his debut match against Geoff Ogilvy in 2012 but has not won in his last nine matches

Group winner – Justin Thomas

Group 6: Bryson DeChambeau (6), Marc Leishman (17), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (39), Russell Knox (59) … This group will be very competitive as DeChambeau is making his first Match Play start.  Aphibarnrat has a 6-3-0 record including getting to the quarterfinals last year and did finish T-3rd in Mexico last month.  Knox is always a pest and he can beat anyone on any given day.  Still, it will be hard to bet against DeChambeau who is a U.S. Amateur champion and won the NCAA when it was match play

Group winner – Bryson DeChambeau

Group 7: Francesco Molinari (7), Webb Simpson (21), Thorbjorn Olesen (45), Satoshi Kodaira (63) … Don’t give much hope to Olesen and Kodaira and just by chance Molinari and Simpson will battle on Friday so look for that winner to win this group.  Many will remember how to dominate Molinari was at the Ryder Cup with his 5-0 record but in this event, he has been downright terrible.  Has played 8 times and has a dismal 4-11-0 record and his best finish was T-17th in 2012 and 2018.  Simpson hasn’t been a hero in this event with an 8-8-1 record in six starts but he does know how to win.  So this group will be determined on Friday and I see Simpson sneak by Molinari

Group winner – Webb Simpson

Group 8: Jon Rahm (8), Matt Kuchar (23), J.B. Holmes (43), Si Woo Kim (54) ... Think this could be the most productive group, any one of these players could win as Rahm got to the finals in 2017, Kuchar has a 24-9-3 with a win in 2013 and going to the final four in 2011.  Holmes also has a good record, 6-7-2 and Kim advanced to the round of 16 last year before losing to Justin Thomas.  This is another one of those groups that will have it’s best match on Friday with Rahm and Kuchar facing off.  Kuchar has had a good year but has tailed off since the west coast swing while Rahm has played well all year including leading the Players after three rounds before finishing T-12th and T-6th last week at the Valspar, so look for Rahm to win

Group winner – Jon Rahm.

Group 9: Xander Schauffele (9), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (29), Tyrrell Hatton (35), Lee Westwood (62) … A very competitive group, any one of these players could win.  Westwood has the most experience, making his 18th start in this event with a 17-19-0 record including getting to the semi-finals in 2012.  Cabrera-Bello also got to the semi-finals in 2016 but has struggled since.  Hatton has had some success in this event with a 4-3-0 record, while Schauffele lost his Friday match last year to Sergio Garcia in his tournament debut.  I like the hottest of the three which is Cabrera-Bello who finished T-3rd at the Palmer and has shown that he can play well on this course.

Group winner – Rafael Cabrera-Bello

Group 10: Paul Casey (10), Cameron Smith (25), Charles Howell III (42), Abraham Ancer (58) …I can see Casey, Smith, and Howell winning.  Ancer is making his Match Play debut and Howell III has won 10 of his 21 matches but I see this to another Friday match when Casey plays Smith.  Both of these players have done ok in this format, I give the nudge to Casey who won the Valspar on Sunday and lost in the finals in 2009 and 2010.

Group winner – Paul Casey 

Group 11: Tommy Fleetwood (11), Louis Oosthuizen (19), Kyle Stanley (41), Byeong Hun An (49) … Again look at Friday as Fleetwood will play Oosthuizen and that should determine the winner.  Stanly has struggled with his game of late and despite a leading the Players after the first round he faded fast.  Oosthuizen has a great record in not only this event but at Austin, as he lost to Jason Day in the finals in 2016 and has a 10-4-0 record in the three years he played at Austin.  Fleetwood is the best, was great at the Ryder Cup and did make it to the quarter-finals in 2015.

Group winner – Tommy Fleetwood

Group 12: Jason Day (12), Phil Mickelson (20), Henrik Stenson (37), Jim Furyk (52) … This group has more experience and age as the four players are a total of 169 years old (Day 31, Stenson 42, Furyk and Mickelson 48).  The four have played a total of 133 matches as it has two winners (Stenson & Day).  Stenson and Mickelson haven’t played that well of late and despite thinking that Day should win, I can see Furyk pulling off the longshot win, thus getting him to not only the weekend, but also the last minute invites to the Masters.

Group winner – Jim Furyk

Group 13: Tiger Woods (13), Patrick Cantlay (18), Brandt Snedeker (44), Aaron Wise (61) … Even with Cantlay and Snedeker having the potential to beat anyone in the field, I can see Tiger roll over all three of these players and easily advance to weekend play

Group winner – Tiger Woods

Group 14: Tony Finau (14), Ian Poulter (30), Kevin Kisner (48), Keith Mitchell (56) … Poulter is the king of match play, he not only won this event in 2010, has won match play events on the European Tour and made it to the final four twice.  Kisner reached the finals last year before losing to Bubba Watson 7 & 6.  Don’t like Finau and Mitchell is away from his beloved Bermuda greens and is tired from his month of good play.  So it’s down to Poulter and Kisner who open up on Wednesday.

Group winner – Ian Poulter

Group 15: Bubba Watson (15), Jordan Spieth (28), Billy Horschel (38), Kevin Na (57) … This is an easy group to pick as Bubba Watson is the only one playing well.  Spieth has seen his game disintegrate over the last year, Horschel has made all of his cuts this year and is Watson’s biggest problem when they play on Thursday.  Na has not been healthy so it’s down to that Thursday Watson/Horschel match

Group winner – Bubba Watson

Group 16: Patrick Reed (16), Sergio Garcia (26), Shane Lowry (46), Andrew Putnam (51) … This too is an easy group to pick, Garcia has a 22-18-1 record and in a group with Patrick Reed who is struggling with his game, Shane Lowry who has a 3-7-2 record in this event and Putnam making his first Match Play appearance.

Group winner – Sergio Garcia

DraftKings Tips

*Here are the guys that cost the most on DraftKings this week:
  • Rory McIlroy – $11,700
  • Dustin Johnson – $11,400
  • Justin Thomas – $11,000
  • Jon Rahm – $10,600
  • Brooks Koepka – $10,300
  • Justin Rose – $10,000
  • Jason Day- $9,800
  • Tommy Fleetwood – $9,600
  • Bryce DeChambeau – $9,500
  • Xander Schauffele – $9,400
  • Francesco Molinari – $9,300
  • Tiger Woods – $9,200
  • Paul Casey – $9.100
  • Tony Finau – $9,000

We have to look at this differently than we do with a regular event.  The most important thing that you can do is pick six guys that make it to the weekend.  It may seem easy that guys like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas are the best players in the world and just won’t lose.  But as we saw last year with Dustin losing all three of his matches to Bernd Wiesberger, Adam Hadwin and Kevin Kisner and McIlroy losing to Peter Uihlein and Brian Harman anything is possible   So the point is there will be favorites that lose, so be careful in your picks.  So the most important thing that you have to do is look at the 16 groups and pick your winners, kind of like what I did above.  When you have your 16 winners, it’s now down to doing the math work to try and get as many top players along with players that aren’t costly.  It’s also important to look at your 16 and pick which players will have the easiest group.

My first choice is Tiger Woods; I think his group was the easiest one to pick.  Also see Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, and Brooks Koepka.

These six would be great picks, but the math with them costing a total of $59,200 doesn’t work. So here is what I think is the best of those top players over $9,000 and you can find some lower than that.

Rory McIlroy is $11,700 and it’s a high price but since he has a very strong chance of winning worth the price.  The same with Dustin Johnson at $11,400, he is playing great and has won this event so he is worth it.  Only sad thing, you can’t pick the two of them it just won’t work out on the other four players.  Justin Thomas is $11,000 and again a bit of a gamble.  But he is playing in an easy group so he is a chose for you.  Jon Rahm is $10,600 and could have a tough time in his group with Matt Kuchar, still, he is worth the money.  We also see Brooks Koepka having an easy time in his group so $10,300 is ok.  Our first real problem is Justin Rose at $10,000.  See him having problems getting out of his group so he is best to skip.  Jason Day at $9,800 is another problem playing in a tough group of Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk who could beat him.  We like Tommy Fleetwood at $9,600, he should win his group.  The same with Bryce DeChambeau at $9,500, take him.  But you will not want Xander Schauffele at $9,400 or Francesco Molinari at $9,300.  I like Tiger Woods at $9,200 along with Paul Casey at $9,100 but take a pass on Tony Finau at $9,000. 

Those in the $7,600 to $8,900 range

Like Bubba Watson at $8,900, he should win his group.  Also, think that Sergio Garcia will win his group so the $8,500 price is good.  Hideki Matsuyama at $8,200 is a gamble since he is in the same group as Dustin Johnson, but you never know he could be Johnson.  Matt Kuchar at $8,100 is also a possibility since he is in the group with Jon Rahm and could beat him.  Also, like Ian Poulter at $7,700 I can see him winning his group.

Any bargains out there

Louis Oosthuizen is in a tough group with Tommy Fleetwood but at $7,500 is worth the gamble, especially with his great record in this event and this course.  Rafael Cabrera-Bello at $7,500 is a good pick, yes he is in a tough group with Xander Schauffele but Rafael is worth the price.  Also, like Jim Furyk at $7,200.  He is playing great and he could win his group.  After that is a lot of big gambles, Matt Wallace at $7,100 is ok and the same with Eddie Pepperell at $6,900.  I also like Lee Westwood at $6,600 which is the lowest player I would take.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship:

Key stat for the winner:

On the PGA Tour, some players look more at a big check instead of playing to win.  These players are dangerous in match play because they have only one thing to think about, winning.  So in some respects this year’s 10 Dell rookies (Abraham Ancer, Lucas Bjerregaard, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Harding, Tom Lewis, Keith Mitchell, Eddie Pepperell, Andrew Putnam, Matt Wallace and Aaron Wise) have just as much of a chance as Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson or Francesco Molinari.  Just look at what happened last year, tournament rookies Cameron Smith made it to the quarterfinals and Brian Harman making it to the round of 16 before he was beaten by last year’s winner Bubba Watson.  There are other factors, just look at what happened to Tiger Woods in 2002 when he got beat in the first round by Peter O’Malley or even in 2013 when Charles Howell III beat him on Wednesday.  So don’t think that just because Dustin Johnson, who is the number one draw is a better player than the 64th draw Luke List.  When you see some pairings of a superstar against a lesser name player like Byeong Hun An, Andrew Putnam, Abraham Ancer, Tom Lewis and Satoshi Kodaira on paper the match looks like David versus Goliath.  We all know what happened in that story, it’s happened before and will happen in years to come.

Here are some more key stats to look for this week:

  • We have a limited history of players at Austin Country Club.  Now Jordan Spieth has played the course more than anybody else and has a record of 6-3-1 but the players that have really done well is Alex Noren who finished 3rd last year and T-5th in 2017 with a 10-2 record, but his game is in total disarray now.  Louis Oosthuizen has also played well at Austin Country Club he was runner-up in 2016, was T-17th in 2017 and T-9th last year with a 10-5 and he was great over the weekend at Valspar.  Also, have to watch guys like Jon Rahm who was runner-up in 2017 and lost two matches and halving the third last year.  Despite Dustin Johnson playing bad last year he was great in winning in 2017 and was T-5th in 2016, plus Jason Day won in 2016 and hasn’t been healthy last year and was forced to forfeit matches in 2017 when his Mother was sick, so those are people to watch.
  • Still, everyone starts with a clean slate on Wednesday.
  • Match play is a rare format on the PGA Tour.  Even though it’s the game that is played regularly in golf clubs around the world, it’s not played that much on the PGA Tour.  The secret to winning in match play is not playing the best, but, more importantly, avoiding doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.  In a lot of matches, someone could be striking the ball perfectly and putting well while his opponent could be hitting it all around the lot, missing greens, but chipping in for halves on holes.  Before you know it, that match could come down to the final hole, and the player that isn’t doing the best could chip in and win a match.  It happens all the time.  Remember a score doesn’t mean anything in match play.
  • This is also a different format.  Just because you lose that first round match on the 18th hole doesn’t mean that you are on a plane home that night.  You still have two more matches and could all of a sudden find your game and find yourself winning your group.  So it’s vital to take each match at a time and not worry if you’re playing poorly one day.  A perfect example of this was last year when Kevin Kisner halved his first round match to Adam Hadwin but was still able to win his group and went to the finals before losing to Bubba Watson.  So the point, anything can happen in this format.
  • A couple of things that can help you pick a winner is to look at those with good match play records.  Past winners of the U.S. Amateur like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson know how to win in this format, so they have a bit of an advantage. Also look at how robust Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia have been in the Ryder Cup. Those that have won other match play events like Paul Casey and Kiradech Aphibarnrat who won the Paul Lawrie Match Play on the European Tour, those that do well in playoffs or with leads.  Also playing for the first time is Bryson DeChambeau who did ok in the U.S. Amateur.
  • Also look at players with good single records in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup,  like Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, and Patrick Reed.  Also, players that have been doing well of late like Justin Harding, Paul Casey, Jon Rahm and defending champion Bubba Watson who finished T-4th at Valspar.  Also remember Casey, McIlroy, Molinari and Johnson have won in recent weeks.
  • In the past, the most challenging place to pick winners was the first round.  You were a superstar if you chose half of them right.  Now the first round means nothing, so look for more marquee players dominating the first three days and getting into the round of 16 on Saturday morning.  Again seeds mean nothing anymore.

Some secrets to playing at Austin Country Club:

Austin Country Club is perfect for match play because the course isn’t long, it’s not very tight, and the greens are generous.  But with all of the changes, there are a lot of bunkers in the fairways that will catch wayward drives.  Making the bunkers hard, they are deep and could be impossible to get to the green.  Also, lot’s of hazards to avoid, and you will see a lot of them if you are going for a tight pin position.  In some ways hitting first to the green you control what your opponent will do based on your shot.  If you can put pressure on him, he will lose holes.  But if you don’t hit the perfect shot and get yourself in trouble, it makes it easy for your opponent to hit the middle of the green and make par to win the hole.

Greens have a lot of undulations.  Good putters and scramblers will help a player savage his match.

Driving will be key.  Just like at Augusta National, you have to place a drive in an excellent spot to have a good shot to the green.  The length is short, but if you don’t put your drives in the right spot, it will be hard to get close to your shot to the green.  So a straight driver will have an advantage over a long hitter this week.

Weather will not play a role except for Saturday.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday will be perfect, bit cloudy but in the high 70s, low 80s.  Saturday could be ugly, 80% chance of rain while Sunday will be a bit cold, 65, but ok.  Since this is match play it’s an individual thing on who plays better in wind and such.

Who to watch for at the WGC – Dell Match Play Championship

Best Bets:

Rory McIlroy

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T36 T30 4 Win T17 T33 2 T17 T17 T5

Past champion that is having the season of his career, won the Players. In a good group to win with Matthew Fitzpatrick, Justin Harding, and Luke List.

Dustin Johnson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T59 Win T5 T17 T33 T33 T9 T33 T33 T33

He also is playing great, not as good as Rory but good. Had a poor finish at the Valspar, still he loves the course and has won in the past.

Brooks Koepka

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T9 T5 T17

He is in the easiest group to win, getting to the weekend will help a lot.

Bryson DeChambeau

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
First time playing in this event

Like his chances to not only win his group but go a long way in this event.

Best of the rest:

Justin Thomas

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
4 T39 T61

Another of these marquee players that got drawn into an easy group with Keegan Bradley, Matt Wallace, and Lucas Bjerragaard. If he gets to the weekend he could run the table.

Tommy Fleetwood

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T17 T39 T5

Is good in Match Play, his only problem will have to beat Louis Oosthuizen to get into the weekend.

Tiger Woods

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T33 T17 T33 T17 Win T9

Think he makes it easily to the weekend and we will see what happens after that.

Bubba Watson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
Win T9 T28 T17 T9 T9 T17 4

Defending champion is in an easy group and should move to the weekend.

Jon Rahm

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T52 2

Playing well know, has done well in the past in this event

Solid contenders

Jason Day

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T36 T58 Win T52 Win 3 T17 T9

In a group that could present problems, but he could get to the weekend and see if he can win this again.

Ian Poulter

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T5 T34 T33 4 T33 T33 Win T9 T17 T9

I think he can win his group, makes sense he has won this event in the past plus other match play events in Europe.

Paul Casey

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T17 T9 T51 T5 T17 2 2 T9 T5

Should win his group and make it to the weekend

Sergio Garcia

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T9 T30 T18 T34 T9 T17 T33 4 T33 T17 T17

He should win his group, the only problem is if he can go further after that.

Webb Simpson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T29 T58 T17 T9 T5 T33

Think he will beat Francesco Molinari to win his group and make it to the weekend.

Long shots that could come through:

Jim Furyk

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T30 4 T5 T17 T33 T33 T17 T9 T33 T17

To think what he has done since finishing T-9th at the Honda. Important to win his group, that gets him into the Masters.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T36 T17 3 T17 T33

Has played well in this event and if he can beat Xander Schauffele, Tyrrell Hatton and Lee Westwood he can make it to the weekend.

Eddie Pepperell

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
First time playing in this event

Playing well now, think he will be the winner in the group that Justin Rose is in.

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