It’s golf’s very own version of March Madness! This week the world’s top players go head-to-head in Texas for the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club.
As always, here is your early deep-dive on the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play and a preview for how to bet.
WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play Preview: The Field
As with all WGC events, this field is full of stars. A prestigious event with a huge purse will always attract the biggest names to the golf course. Headlining the field is Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Jon Rahm.
Five players who qualified by being inside the Top 64 in the world will not compete this week. Four of them are for health reasons. Obviously, Tiger Woods will not only miss this event but likely all events the remainder of the year as he recovers from injuries sustained in his car accident. Brooks Koepka’s status is currently unknown as he recovers from yet another knee procedure. Justin Rose withdrew from the last two events citing a back injury, and will not compete this week either. And Gary Woodland did not receive clearance after popping for COVID before the Honda Classic.
The only player who is willfully skipping the event without a doctor’s note is Adam Scott. He played last week at the Honda Classic but will not tee it up at Austin Country Club. The Honda Classic was his final start before he heads to Augusta National in search of his second green jacket.
Players who will take their spots in the field include Ian Poulter, Erik Van Rooyen, Adam Long, J.T. Poston, and Dylan Frittelli.
For the full field, click here.
WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play Preview: The Golf Course
The Austin Country Club was first established in 1899, however, the site of the current club was established in 1984. The golf course itself was designed by Pete Dye, who true to his reputation created a championship-caliber golf course designed as a thorough test of all a player’s abilities. While the golf course is Bermuda, it’s not warm enough to support healthy growth this time of year. As such, the fairways and rough are overseeded with ryegrass and the greens are a mixture of bentgrass and poa trivialis. The greens typically run a hair under 12 on the stimpmeter, which is quick for PGA Tour standards.
What stands out about the golf course is a different style and feel between the front nine and the back nine:
The front nine has the look and feel of a more traditional Texas or Southwestern golf course. It’s much more rugged than the back nine. While the directional layout of the front nine isn’t all that mind-blowing, Pete Dye did a very nice job using the surrounding terrain to create obstacles and challenges for the golfers. There is a lot of sloping and sidehill lies on the front nine. The holes use the surrounding canyons as natural hazards quite well. They play a prominent role on many approach shots and can put a player down early if they hit into it.
The back nine has more of the look and feel of a traditional Pete Dye design. There are more water hazards on this side of the golf course as well as Pete’s trademark expansive, elongated fairway bunkers. The back nine is also much more interesting visually on television, particularly from holes 12 through 14 which work their way towards the Pennybacker Bridge and Lake Austin. This side of the golf course is much more wide open than the front and makes this side much more exposed to the trademarked Texas winds.
While the golf course itself is solid, the most important question is if it’s a good golf course for match play. Overall, Austin Country Club meets these criteria. The golf course isn’t overly long and is fairly generous off the tee. However, it’s penal for those who are missing fairways, particularly for a match play format. That shrinks the gap between shorter hitters and the bombers. There also are several holes that reward the bold and daring. It includes the short Par 4 13th over water and the downhill 18th. Both are great holes down the stretch for a match play format.
WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play Preview: Betting Strategies
There are a lot of things going against gamblers this week.
For starters, this event is 100% match play. Match play tournaments are some of the most unpredictable to pick. It’s entirely feasible for one player to beat another player head-to-head if everyone counted their own strokes. But because only the best score between the two is relevant, anything is possible.
There’s also not a lot of commonality of who has done well at Austin Country Club. Here’s the Final Four in each of the last four tournaments:
- Jason Day (Winner)
- Rory McIlroy
- Louis Oosthuizen
- Rafa Cabrera Bello
- Dustin Johnson (Winner)
- Hideto Tanihara
- Jon Rahm
- Bill Haas
- Bubba Watson (Winner)
- Justin Thomas
- Kevin Kisner
- Alex Noren
- Kevin Kisner (Winner)
- Francesco Molinari
- Matt Kuchar
- Lucas Bjerregaard
With the exception of Kevin Kisner, no player has made the Final Four of the WGC Match Play at Austin Country Club more than once. They also are players who do it in completely different ways. There are long bombers like Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Dustin Johnson. There are short and accurate players like Kevin Kisner, Alex Noren, Matt Kuchar, and Bill Haas who rely on getting hot with their putter. And there are all-around solid ball strikers like Francesco Molinari, Justin Thomas, and Louis Oosthuizen who do a little bit of everything really well.
In addition, there is no on-course data maintained. Strokes gained data is not tracked at the WGC Match Play because not everyone plays the same number of holes per day. In order to find out how someone won their match, a bettor would have to click through everyone’s play-by-play data. That’s not an efficient or viable option for gamblers to do.
So how should bettors approach the tournament? For starters, DFS lineups shouldn’t be done until the pods and brackets are revealed on Monday morning. Lineups will have to take into account where players fall into the bracket to better the odds of getting all 6 players into the knockout round. Those who manage to do that stand a great chance of taking down some money.
As far as gamblers, it’s probably not all that worthwhile to try and pick outright winners before the tournament had begun. Match play is way too unpredictable as shown by some of the final fours we’ve seen at the golf course. Save your bullets to live bet an outright once there’s some more clarity of the road for a champion. All pre-tournament betting should be limited to betting the winners of pods only.
This tournament, however, is a dream come true for those who love to bet head-to-head matchups. There are 32 every day from Wednesday-Friday, and there are certainly ones that can be exploited by a savvy bettor. Without in-tournament strokes gained data, bettors need to look at the long-term and short-term stats to identify good ones. Try and identify matchups featuring the wrong player as an underdog based on historical data, or find a clear mismatch at a poor price offered by a book. With March Madness going on, books might not put out their sharpest lines.
Lastly, the types of players who do well in match play are those who make a lot of birdies. It’s typically the players who perform the best with their scoring clubs – irons and putting. At the end of the day, birdies and eagles are king in a match play format. It’s those who put up explosive scorecards are the ones who’ll likely end up on top. In addition, recent ball-striking is always a plus. Guy striking the ball great will put themselves into great spots to win more holes.
Overall, though, this tournament is going to require a lot more gut handicapping than usual. Stat models won’t serve much of a purpose this week.