WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Preview

03-21-17

Austin Country Club will play host again for most of the best players in the world.

There are a few who aren’t in the field this week but gamers are more concerned about who is.

 

World Golf Championships

Dell Match Play

 

Austin Country Club

Austin, Texas

 

Austin Country Club

 

Yards: 7,108 per the official scorecard

Par: 71 (35-36)

Greens: TifEagle Bermudagrass; small, undulating on average.

Course Architect(s): Pete Dye (1984)

Purse: $9.75 million; $1.66 million (winner); 550 FedExCup Points;

Defending Champion:  Jason Day defeated Louis Oosthuizen to win for the second time.

 

Notes:

  • 64 players; match play.
  • 16 groups of four with the group winner advancing to the round of 16.
  • Groups were blindly drawn with the top 16 seeds. One player ranked from 17-32, 33-48 and 49-64 blindly drawn make up the groups.
  • Group winner determined by who wins the most points in round-robin format (1 point for winning, 1/2 point for a halve, 0 points for losing).
  • If there is a tie after the three group matches, a playoff will determine who advances.
  • The championship match and consolation match will both be 18 holes and then sudden death.

 

 

2016-17 Winners

 

Frys.com: Brendan Steele

CIMB: Justin Thomas

WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama

Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**

Shriners: Rod Pampling

OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez

RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**

SBS TOC: Justin Thomas

Sony Open: Justin Thomas

CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*

Farmers: Jon Rahm*

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama

AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth

Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson

Honda: Rickie Fowler

WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson

Valspar: Adam Hadwin*

Arnold Palmer: Marc Leishman

 

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

 

Previous Champions

Hard to believe that Kuchar, Day and McIlroy are the only ones in the field this week!

 

2016: Jason Day

2015: Rory McIlroy

2014: Jason Day*

2013: Matt Kuchar

2012: Hunter Mahan

2011: Luke Donald

2010: Ian Poulter

2009: Geoff Ogilvy

2008: Tiger Woods

2007: Henrik Stenson

2006: Geoff Ogilvy

2005: David Toms

2004: Tiger Woods

2003: Tiger Woods

2002: Kevin Sutherland

2001: Steve Stricker

2000: Darren Clarke

1999: Jeff Maggert*

*playoff

 

Persons of Interest

Who’s NOT competing this week

Henrik Stenson (No. 5): He’s publically said that he’s not playing this event again as long as they use this format.

Adam Scott (No. 8): Masters prep

Rickie Fowler (No. 9): Masters prep

Justin Rose (No. 13): Doesn’t believe match play is the proper prep for the Masters.

Adam Hadwin (No. 51): Nuptials. Smart man.

 

 

Facts and Figures:

  • Jason Day joins Tiger Woods (3) and Geoff Ogilvy as the only multiple winners in this format.
  • Last year, Rory McIlroy was defeated by Day in the semifinal as he looked to join Woods as the only player to defend this title.
  • Dustin Johnson has four WGC wins, the most of any player in the field and second all-time to Woods (18).
  • The last two winners (three events) have been major champions.
  • McIlroy, 25, is the youngest winner. David Tomas was 38 when he won in 2005.
  • Woods and McIlroy are the only winners who entered the week as the No. 1 seed.
  • Kevin Sutherland was seeded No. 62 when he won, the lowest seed to do so.
  • There are 11 players with multiple WGC victories.
  • Only Sutherland, Stenson and Poulter have made Match Play their maiden victory on Tour.
  • There are nine debutants this year.

 

 

The Particulars

 

The Austin Country Club (ACC) returns as host and will do so through 2019. The Pete Dye design is a classic risk-reward track that will test the space between the ears as much as the 14 clubs in the bag. Playing barely 7,100 yards should force plenty of decisions on whether to attack or play prudently. Dye’s courses will also tease the eye and force players to trust their yardage books.

The players who have last year under their belt will have a better idea of the tricks and trades that Dye has laid out in nine holes in the hills and nine around the lake. The players from last year will also have points of reference on the greens and to the blowing Texas wind and that shouldn’t hurt either.

For the “newbies” reading along, thanks for taking a peek. I’d suggest to you that Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup record is a nice gauge but is hardly the only factor this week. As McIlroy and others have suggested over the years, it’s not the same as the stakes aren’t as high. The pros aren’t playing for their teammates or for the pride of their nation or continent so dress it up as so.

This week, I’m going to take a look at guys who play well in THIS event and either stripe it tee-to- green or have nasty short game. With smallish greens, those who hit the most of them will put the pressure on those who don’t. Also, I’ll argue this is NOT the week to break a guy out of a slump because it’s not stroke play and the field is obviously loaded. Don’t worry, there will somebody, there is every week, who will surprise us all. I’m just not going to go out on a limb to find him.

It’s not a surprise that these events, match play or stroke play, at this level see the cream rise. Dustin Johnson reaffirmed his status as world No. 1 by picking up the first WGC event of 2017 in Mexico City. Day and McIlroy have won the last three match play events. Last year, almost 75% of the seeded favorites won their matches so I’ll remember that when filling out my bracket.

 

 

The Bracket

OWGR rank in parentheses

 

 

Group 1

 

Dustin Johnson (1): He’s hit the top six in his last six where he’s played the weekend. He’s won in his last two starts. He’s a monster from tee-to-green. His wedge play and putting are currently dialed in. The only downside is that this format hasn’t been kind to him in the past but his best finish, a QF appearance, was last year on this track. Choo! Choo! All aboard!

Jimmy Walker (18): He has no problem smashing it off the tee and will be able to putt his way out of trouble. The big question this week will be keeping his tee ball out of trouble as he’s 173rd SGOFTT and 157th in fairways hit. The PGA champ must be wondering who’s he’s annoyed by landing in DJ’s group for the second year in a row (L, 2-1 to DJ last year).

Martin Kaymer (41): The 2011 runner up went 2-1 last year at ACC that included being steamrolled 8 & 6 by Zach Johnson. He enters the week on a trio of T-23’s with a T-4 at Honda smashed in there. With two majors under his belt he’s not going to be bothered about who’s in his bracket but I wonder if he can hole enough putts.

Webb Simpson (58): He has nothing to show for since losing in a playoff to Matsuyama at WMPO in early February. It’s also his first time at this event on this course. Bad combo.

 

Group Winner: Dustin Johnson

 

 

Group 2

 

Rory McIlroy (2): His 22 wins in this format plus his 2015 title shouldn’t dissuade gamers from his this week. He enters the week off top five finishes in his last two starts and is THIS CLOSE to putting it all together. I say his best is the best of the best.

Emiliano Grillo (26): He played three fantastic rounds last week under tough conditions at API and would be a favorite in five other groups. He went 1-2 in his maiden last year.

Gary Woodland (33): McIlroy beat him in 2015 final but he’ll have to handle Grillo to make any revenge count. He didn’t qualify for this event last year and his excellent start to 2017 has stuttered with seven of his last eight rounds in the 70’s.

Soren Kjeldsen (62): He’s never won in this event (0-4) and has nothing better than T-27 to show from seven events in 2017 on Tour. This would be a massive upset.

 

Group Winner: Rory McIlroy

 

 

Group 3

 

Jason Day (3): He could barely walk or bend over last year and he mopped up McIlroy and Oosthuizen to win his second title in this format. He was also third in 2013. He’s a monster in this format (21 wins) because his power and short game cover up plenty of ball-striking blemishes.

Marc Leishman (28): He’ll try and mock Day’s 2016 by backing up his win at API with a victory here. Similarly to his countryman, Leishman can get the putter rolling but he’ll hit more GIR. Day’s recent form makes this potentially a tasty upset.

Lee Westwood (43): It was painful to watch him crumble on Sunday in Mexico City as he racked up four doubles and three bogeys in carding 78. He’s played enough of these to have learned that he just doesn’t make enough putts to pull off the upset.

Pat Perez (56): He’s a fantastic dark horse as he’s in form and frankly doesn’t worry about anything except his game. He doesn’t have any problems making birdies and is currently fourth in par four scoring.

 

Group Winner: Marc Leishman

 

 

Group 4

Hideki Matsuyama (4): After backing up his win at WMPO he limps into this week MC, T-25 and T-45 in his last three. He couldn’t advance last year as he was knocked out by No. 52 Rafael Cabrera Bello and entered on better form.

Louis Oosthuizen (23): 13-3 lifetime plus runner up last year after consecutive years as a beaten quarterfinalist. He should be comfortable on this track again this year.

Ross Fisher (47): 2009 semifinalist enters the week off T-3 in Mexico City his last time out. His strength is tee-to-green, like everyone else in this group!

Jim Furyk (51): He missed last year with wrist injury and now he’ll get a chance to learn quickly against a very difficult trio. With nothing better than T-39 from four starts in 2017, I’m not stretching.

 

Group Winner: Louis Oosthuizen

 

 

Group 5

Jordan Spieth (5): The former U.S. Amateur champ has an 8-3 record in this event and has played this layout a few times from his days at UT-Austin. He’s struggled his last two events as he’s only finished T-22 and T-12 which ended his run of top 10’s at six in a row. Until they move this to another venue, he’s going through for me.

Ryan Moore (32): Match play maestro has proven his chops by winning the U.S. Amateur, Ryder Cup and Public Links. His driver is the club that will win him this event but he must beat Spieth to advance. He won his group and made the QF here last year before falling to Rafael Cabrera Bello.

Yuta Ikeda (37): He wrapped up 2016 with a win and three seconds from his final five events but hasn’t found that form since the calendar changed.

Hideto Tanihara (54): His form has been the hottest of the group outside of Spieth but it has all been overseas. I can’t sit here and tell you he’s going to defeat Spieth AND Moore to move on, sorry.

 

Group Winner: Jordan Spieth

 

 

Group 6

Justin Thomas (6): He’s won in the breeze of Hawaii so that won’t hurt this week. With three wins on the season his confidence should be through the roof as well. He was taken out by three Ryder Cup players in his group last year (Donaldson, Dubuisson and Spieth) and finished 0-3. He’ll have two more Euros to deal with this year.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (27): 2013 U.S. Amateur champ keeps it down the sprinkler line off the tee. All the British kids grow up playing match play through the ranks so the format won’t bother them a bit. He was in the hunt last week before crashing out on Sunday with 76 for T-13. He was T-16 in Mexico City the week before.

Kevin Na (46): He lost to McIlroy in a tiebreaker to determine the pool play winner last year but he limps in this season off T-50, MC and MC. His record in this format doesn’t inspire either.

Chris Wood (49): The more fairways and greens he hits, the more of a nuisance he’ll be this week. Last year he bowed out 0-3 here and he has never advanced past the second round in any format.

 

Group Winner: Matthew Fitzpatrick

 

 

Group 7

Sergio Garcia (7): He’s in love with a girl from Austin so he’s been hanging around these parts recently. Love works in mysterious ways as the Spaniard has won and added three other top 15’s in five events in 2017. He won twice here last year and lost his match 1-dn.

Jon Rahm (21): He’s good. He’s bummed out that he’s been drawn with his countryman and I think we all might agree on that. Rahm’s first WGC event was three weeks ago in Mexico City and he damned near won the thing. His two late bogeys saw Dustin Johnson pip him at the wire but he’s not scared or intimidated by much of anything. Let’s see how he handles match play versus his countryman!

Kevin Chappell (38): I wish the debutant in this format would have had his form from last summer! This group would have been on fire! He has nothing inside T-35 since losing in the playoff at TTC at East Lake to McIlroy. Omit.

Shane Lowry (53): Along with Russell Knox is one of only two players to win a WGC event on their debut. He proved he was no fluke the following summer as he led the U.S. Open at Oakmont after 54 holes. He also beat McIlroy the first time he played in this event. He’s been steady to open 2017 but he’ll need spectacular to knock off the Spaniards.

 

Group Winner: Jon Rahm

 

 

Group 8

Alex Noren (8): His recent quiet play will need to heat up quickly as the Italian is the favorite based on current form. The Swede hasn’t had any success is the Western Hemisphere this year with T-55 in Mexico City and T-49 at API.

Francesco Molinari (25): His last nine weekends are T-20 or better with five top 10’s. There’s not much secret to his success as you’ll find him down the sprinkler line and comfortably two putting most greens.

Bernd Wiesberger (36): Very steady Euro form makes him the second choice for me even though his record in this event is dire. His last MC’s were the final two majors of last season.

Thongchai Jaidee (57): He hit the quarterfinals in his first trip in 2010 and has never advanced past the second round in four subsequent visits. He did finish second in a group with Casey, Day and McDowell last year so that’s something.

 

Group Winner: Francesco Molinari.

 

 

Group 9

Patrick Reed (9): He’s the best player in the group but not the best playing this week. The one angle I love about this format is his short game should translate, especially on a course where he won’t need driver every hole. He went 3-0 here last year before losing to DJ in the round of 16, 3 & 2.

Brooks Koepka (20): You provide the evidence and I’ll support your decision. He’s ice cold.

Kevin Kisner (34): He’s by far the hottest player in this group and I could make an easy argument of how easily he should have won last week. He’s turned the corner and has a hatful of top 10’s to back that assumption. He won’t be one bit upset about another week on TifEagle on the greens.

Jason Dufner (59): He’ll qualify as the best ball-striker in the group but he’s easily the least efficient with the putter. He’ll need a scorching week with the putter to knock off the top two players in here.

 

Group Winner: Kevin Kisner

 

 

 

Group 10

Tyrell Hatton (10): With four top 10’s on the bounce all on courses he’s never played before, there’s nobody hotter entering the week.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello (22): He’s MC once in his last 34 events worldwide and defeated McIlroy for third here last year. He’s the only player in the group to tee it here last year.

Jeunghun Wang (40): Massive step up in class but he figured something out last week at Bay Hill with T-23.

Charles Howell, III (61): He might be the best putter in the group and has plenty of power to go with it. He’s making cuts but finishing T-50 or worse where Hatton is hitting the top 10.

 

Group Winner:  Rafael Cabrera Bello

 

 

Group 11

Danny Willett (11): He’s not until he does and I won’t until I see it. There’s nothing here that sticks out in a good way.

Russell Knox (17): He backed up his T-11 at Sony with MC, MC, 70th and MC.

Bill Haas (42): He’s rattled off 10 weekends from his last 10 events and sticks out like a sore thumb in this group of shite. He’ll par the place to death like normal but his current form blows the rest of this group to smithereens. He went 3-0 against three internationals last year before losing in the round of 16.

K.T. Kim (64): He was last in Mexico and last into the field.

 

Group Winner: Bill Haas

 

 

Group 12

Paul Casey (12): His 20 wins in this event places him in the top 10 all time. He was sniffing around the leaderboard last Sunday before a 78 knocked him off most people’s radar. Not mine.

Charl Schwartzel (24): It looks like his solo sixth in defending at Valspar is the exception, not the rule, for 2017. His ball-striking numbers are atrocious.

Ben An (45): 2009 U.S. Amateur champ beat Scott Piercy in a one-hole playoff last year to advance only to WD to Rafael Cabrera-Bello in the next round. He’s never lost on the course here but only has one win (two halves). Similarly to Schwartzel, he’s posted a solo sixth this year and everything is on U.S. soil is T-48 or worse.

Joost Luiten (60): In four events in 2017 he’s T-29 or better but nothing inside the top 20.

 

Group Winner: Paul Casey

 

 

Group 13

Bubba Watson (13): He’s stated more than once that he prefers courses that are right in front of him and this doesn’t qualify. For those of you checking history, he had most of his success in this event on a 7,800 yard course in the wide-open desert. He didn’t fire here last year after winning at Riviera and finishing second at Doral. His form this year is the exact opposite.

Thomas Pieters (30): His Ryder Cup record will garner attention. His T-2 at Riviera and T-5 in Mexico City should as well. He’s MC the last two events on TifEagle.

Scott Piercy (39): He’s the best putter in the group by a mile and that should count for something this week. His recent form suggests it might not.

Jhonattan Vegas (55): UT alum has flashed the most consistent form and will be the most comfortable in these surroundings.

 

Group Winner: Jhonattan Vegas

 

Group 14

Phil Mickelson (14): The rematch with Berger should be fun stuff but it’s always fun to see which Mickelson shows up every week. If he can keep the golf ball on the planet he should be fine in this group of average.

J.B. Holmes (31): He usually feasts on courses where length off the tee is rewarded. He’ll have a better idea of how to attack ACC this year after 1-1-1 last year. The last time was on a Pete Dye track he was T-4 at Crooked Stick.

Daniel Berger (35): Walked off hurt last year after injuring his wrist on the final hole against Phil Mickelson. He lost to Reed (1 down) barely as well. My favorite part was watching him make Mickelson putt an 18-incher last year. #Boog.

Si Woo Kim (63): WD machine who has been ineffective or hurt most of 2017.

 

Group Winner: Daniel Berger

 

 

Group 15

Branden Grace (15): He fell last year to Chris Kirk in a one-hole playoff to win the group. It’s hard to lean on a guy who enters the week WD, T-32 and MC but he’s proven he can play tee-to-green.

Brandt Snedeker (19): He won his group last year by torching Charl Schwartzel 5 & 3 on the final day. There’s no secret that his short game can keep him in matches or put the heat on his opponents to make knee-knockers. Last year he faced No. 2 Jason Day in the round of 16. This year, if he gets through again, will be Rory McIlroy.

William McGirt (48): I’ve leaned on him on tracks like this because he doesn’t have the premium length. He’s usually efficient tee-to-green but the pedigree here scares me off more than his recent cool play.

Andy Sullivan (52): He quietly had two wins here last year but lost on the last day to Louis Oosthuizen in a winner-take-all match. He’s awfully steady and has been for the last year or so.

 

Group Winner: Andy Sullivan

.

 

Group 16

Matt Kuchar (16):  The former champ has four other top 10’s plus 20 wins to go along with the trophy in seven starts. He keeps it out of trouble and can really chip and putt. He’s death by 1,000 paper cuts and the impatient will have no chance against him.

Tommy Fleetwood (29): He was beaten in the quarterfinals in only other start in 2015 but the Englishman is on complete fire. He finished second in Mexico City and cracked the top 10 last week at Bay Hill after opening with 78.

Zach Johnson (44): He crashed and burned at Bay Hill last week on a course he’s had recent top 10 successes. Having to take out Kuchar and Fleetwood isn’t impossible but I haven’t seen anything in his last three events that suggests it will be easy.

Brendan Steele (50): Here’s another debutant that has no problem getting tee-to-green. He’s a wonderful outsider but he’ll need something special lining about with these other three. I’d like him as a sleeper but not in this group. #Bad Draw.

 

Group Winner: Tommy Fleetwood

 

 

Round of 16

 

Johnson def Fleetwood

Kisner def Molinari

Spieth def Casey

Oosthuizen def Vegas

McIlroy def Sullivan

Rahm def Cabrera-Bello

Haas def Fitzpatrick

Berger def Leishman

 

 

Quarterfinals

 

Johnson def Kisner

Spieth def Oosthuizen

McIlroy def Rahm

Berger def Haas

 

 

Semifinals

 

Spieth def Johnson

McIlroy def Berger

 

Third

 

Johnson def Berger

 

Final

 

McIlroy def Spieth, 3 & 2

 

 

 

Next:

 

Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @MikeGlasscott for more information.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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