WGC-DELL MATCH PLAY: A little deviation from the norm is always welcome in the world of golf, and most avid fans of the sport would agree that match play is a format which is generally underutilized, so this week’s event is a welcome change. And now that it’s settled into a home at Austin Country Club and is no longer routinely skipped by the world’s best players, the WGC-Dell Match Play is quickly becoming more than an amusing sideshow that keeps us occupied until Augusta rolls around.
For bettors, this is one of the more enjoyable weeks on the schedule, due in part to a format that allows for some interesting opportunities: sixteen 4-man groups playing a round-robin over three days, followed by a 16-man single-elimination tournament that begins on Saturday. You can find some good plus-odds value in the group betting (BETDAQ is offering markets for all 16 groups, of course), and the overall market will move in unusual ways over the first three days on account of the round-robin format, with the volatility providing plenty of opportunity.
The course, Austin Country Club, is a relatively short Pete Dye design that features complex, undulating Bermuda greens and ample trouble off the tee. It’s also known for the strong, swirling winds off Lake Austin, and, somewhat surprisingly for a “short and tight” course, it seems to favor the longer players, with bombers Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, and Bubba Watson the last three to take home the trophy. Watson is the defending champion, and as we’ve seen with him over his career, when he takes a liking to a course, he can be pretty tough to beat. He’s currently trading at a very reasonable 32.0 in BETDAQ’s Win Market, so if you’re a Bubba believer, now is the time to act.
Here are a few suggestions for the group betting, in addition to a couple of picks for the overall market:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Group 2- Eddie Pepperell, Emiliano Grillo, Gary Woodland, Justin Rose
Rose is the favorite in this group, of course, but at 1.98 I’m not sure he’s much of a value, considering his only other experience at Austin Country Club was back in 2016, when he won just one of his three matches and failed to advance to the knockout stage. Pepperell is coming off a great week at The Players but will be making his tournament debut, while Grillo’s record in this event is abysmal– 1-4-1 in two previous appearances. That leaves Woodland, who has been very handy in match play throughout his career, boasting an 8-4-1 singles record as a professional, and has quietly put together a great start to the season, logging top-10s in 6 of his 12 starts. Recommendation: Woodland at 3.15
Group 9- Lee Westwood, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Tyrrell Hatton, Xander Schauffele
Match play is inherently more unpredictable than stroke play, as a player can win while playing poorly or lose despite playing well. Therefore, when looking at these group markets the criteria isn’t as straightforward as “who’s playing best at the moment”– for me, personally, price and match play history carry the most weight. In both of these categories, Tyrrell Hatton shines in this group, as his solid match play record– 8-5 as a pro (singles), including a run to the Round of 16 in this event last year– outweighs his lukewarm recent form, which includes missed cuts in his last two starts but also top-30 finishes in 5 of his 8 PGA Tour starts this season. At around 3/1 in a group that lacks a true standout, I believe Hatton is worth a bet here. Recommendation: Hatton at 4.1
Group 11- Kyle Stanley, Byeong-Hun An, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen
Considering he’s missed six cuts in his past seven starts, we can eliminate Stanley from consideration here. You don’t want to be throwing any money at him this week. And though An has been solid lately, making eight straight cuts, his record in this event couldn’t be much worse, as he’s only won one match in six attempts and lost all three of his matches last year. Fleetwood is the favorite in this group, which is perfectly understandable given his recent play and rise up the world rankings, but he too has had some difficulty in this event, advancing past the group stage just once in three attempts. Oosthuizen, meanwhile, has a richly-deserved reputation as one of the finest match-play competitors in the world, and his highlights in this tournament include a pair of quarterfinal appearances and a runner-up in 2016, when he lost to Jason Day in the final. Did I mention he’s coming off a runner-up finish at the Valspar, where he shot 66-69 over the weekend? Recommendation: Oosthuizen at 2.84
Brooks Koepka (23.0)- While Koepka hasn’t yet found his Player of the Year form this season, let’s not act like he’s been struggling: he’s just three starts removed from a runner-up finish at the Honda, and he’s finished 27th or better in four of his six starts since winning the CJ Cup last October. He’s a force in match play, compiling a 9-5-1 career singles record, and he advanced past the group stage here in both 2016 and 2017, so he obviously feels comfortable at Austin Country Club. Bombers have dominated this event lately, and Koepka certainly fits the bill.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (76.0)- Though he’s flying under the radar, Fitzpatrick may be well-positioned to succeed this week: he’s just two starts removed from a runner-up finish at Bay Hill, and he was solid at The Players, shooting par or better in all four rounds. He has lots of match play experience and has had some good moments en route to a 8-8-1 career singles record; some of those moments have come in this event, where he’s vanquished the likes of Paul Casey and Justin Thomas but has yet to break through with a deep run. At a price like 75/1, I’m willing to bet that this will be the year.