The PGA Tour is heading to Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas, for the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play. This will be the 24th edition of the match play and the seventh since it switched to a pool format to allow at least three days of TV time for the PGA Tour stars. Before round-robin pool play was introduced, the tournament was set up as an actual win and move-on bracket where we would see top seeds knocked off early and the ratings drop if they didn’t advance.
Round-robin pool play has made for better television ratings early on in the week, but it hasn’t guaranteed the top seeds any better chance at advancing. Only twice have 8 of the top 16 seeds advanced from pool play over the last seven years. Justin Thomas was so convinced about his ineffectiveness at Austin Country Club that he decided to skip the last edition of the match play altogether. For the true fans of the sport who enjoy rooting for an underdog during match play, however, this week is a lot of fun. It won’t feel quite the same this year not being able to root against Ian Poulter or Sergio Garcia, but I’m sure I can find some players who will annoy me enough to get me yelling at the television.
Hopefully, we will see some early fireworks, like when Princeton and Fairleigh Dickinson University did New Jersey proud and torched everyone’s NCAA brackets. While the occasional Wednesday upset may make headlines, my blood usually gets going on that third day of the round-robin, when my pick inevitably watches his opponent chip in for a 2Up lead heading to the back nine. That’s when I pop up in my chair and lean forward and start acting like I’m on the bag trying to steer my player back into the zone.
The stage that the players will be performing on is the idyllic Austin Country Club. The Pete Dye design plays as a Par 71 and measures just over 7,100 yards. It features two drivable par 4s, with 18 being only drivable for the longest of hitters when the wind is in the right direction. The back nine at Austin Country Club will be missed by many (this is the final year for the event) as the last six holes have been great for building TV drama. Even the short Par 3 17th has played with the minds of many players who caught an unfortunate wind gust at the wrong time. The 18th hole has a few different ways to play it and the choice is always interesting. While I will miss Austin Country Club on the schedule next year I think Scottie Scheffler will miss it a little more than I do, as he has a 2nd place finish and win under his belt at a course he has played since he was a young man. If I were Scottie Scheffler, I would be lobbying every CEO of any major corporation to save this tournament on the schedule.
Betting on the winner of the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play is a difficult thing to do if you are used to betting favorites and either winning outright or looking for hedges when those big names are in contention late. At this particular tournament, I have had more luck over the years taking players with better odds and clearer paths to the final and using them to create hedge bets when it gets to the final four. I would much rather spend the week betting head to head matchups to make up some bankroll than putting too much money in play on outright winner bets. I even enjoy the props, like highest finishing Canadian or highest finishing Korean, over outright winner bets.
I’m not going to go over the DFS pricing this week, but I am going to remind you that you need to concentrate on setting optimal lineups. You can’t have two players from the same group in your lineup and expect to win money. You shouldn’t have two players in your lineups who are in adjacent groups that would meet in the sweet 16 either. You need to have clear paths to the elite 8 for all six of your players in your DFS lineups and you also need to set yourself up with four chances for the final four. Doing this by hand is extremely tedious so I would suggest using a lineup optimizer if you can.
Jason Day +3300 (all odds pulled from BetMGM) is a match play winner both in 2014 and 2016. His current form is starting to approach those dominant years and he is fourth in my rankings despite being seeded 32nd in the tournament. Collin Morikawa could catch a heater during the round-robin, but the wind is supposed to be up the first few days with some inclement weather which Morikawa has seemed to struggle with lately.
Will Zalatoris +3300 has struggled a bit since his 4th-place finish at the Genesis Invitational. I may be responsible for that after picking him in my one and done and touting him heavily at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but that’s neither here nor there. Zalatoris has shown an affinity for match play and was able to make it to the elite eight here last year. I think he has a big advantage in his group that includes Putnam, Fox, and Harris English while he would be favored to win in the sweet 16 against anyone from Tony Finau’s group who advanced. He needs to correct whatever has gone wrong with his short game quickly. He lost over 12 strokes to the field combined at the API and The Players Championship.
Sam Burns +4200 and Seamus Power +8000 are a toss-up for me from their particular group, but I think either of them would have an excellent chance to beat whoever comes out of Patrick Cantlay’s group and advances to the sweet 16. This is Sam Burns’ first trip to the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, but he has played well in Texas and is coming off a 6th place finish that should boost his confidence. Seamus Power made it to the elite eight last year and should be happy to leave Florida after not faring too well in the sunshine state.
Tom Hoge +6600 is coming off of one of the best performances we have ever seen with a set of irons on the weekend at The Players Championship. He will be putting a ton of pressure on his opponents if he can just continue to go flag hunting this week. His short game isn’t the best which makes him not the ideal candidate to win it all in match play, but he could make a run where we can pick up a hedge against him in the final four.
Min Woo Lee and Sahith Theegala are both at +6600 and are two really exciting young players who happen to be in the same group as Matt Fitzpatrick, who is really struggling with his iron play. Theegala is amazing at making shots from difficult positions and that can wear on the psyche of an opponent in match play. Min Woo Lee seems to have lost all confidence in his driver at the moment, but he may not even need it this week as he is really long with his three wood and irons off the tee. Lee has a shot at picking up his tour card if he plays well enough this week so I would look for him to be grinding a little bit extra when it comes down to those late five footers.
A Prop To Consider: Top American
Max Homa +1200 will have to get through the ultimate match play bulldog in Kevin Kisner during his round-robin play, but Homa is up for the challenge. I think Homa has a nice path toward the final as long as he doesn’t have to face Scottie Scheffler in the final four I think we could be fairly confident with Homa.
Sam Burns +2000 Same logic as his outright bet, but getting a nice number if he makes the best run of the Americans.
One and Done
I have the first pick again this week after cursing Adam Hadwin with my pick at the Valspar. I was leaning toward choosing one of Min Woo Lee or Sahith Thegala and, after much debate, I settled on Sahith Theegala. For those of you who need to make a pick this week at the Corales Puntacana Championship, I would look to take Kramer Hickok.
(Top photo: David Cannon/Getty Images; Photo of Max Homa: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)