WGC-Dell Championships Match Play Preview

The rest is in here.

For those of you who can’t wait, search mikeglasscott at PGATOUR.COM/Fantasy and you’ll find my bracket.

 

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: $10 million; $1.7 million (winner); 550 FedExCup Points;

Defending Champion:  Dustin Johnson NEVER TRAILED in winning seven matches in five days to become the first player ever to win the WGC Grand Slam. His five WGC trophies trail only one man, Tiger Woods (18).

 

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.

 

2017-18 Winners

Frys.com: Brendan Steele

CIMB: Pat Perez

WGC-HSBC: Justin Rose

Sanderson Farms: Ryan Armour*

Shriners: Patrick Cantlay*

OHL Mayakoba: Patton Kizzire*

RSM Classic: #- Austin Cook*

Sentry TOC: Dustin Johnson

Sony Open: Patton Kizzire

CB Challenge: Jon Rahm

Farmers: Jason Day

WMPO: Gary Woodland

AT&T Pebble Beach: Ted Potter, Jr.

Genesis Open: Bubba Watson

Honda: Justin Thomas

WGC-MC: Phil Mickelson

Valspar: Paul Casey

API: Rory McIlroy

*- First-time winner

#- Rookie

 

Previous Champions

2017: Dustin Johnson

2016: Jason Day

2015: Rory McIlroy

2014: Jason Day*

2013: Matt Kuchar

2012: Hunter Mahan

2011: Luke Donald

2010: Ian Poulter

*playoff

 

Persons of Interest

Who’s qualified but NOT competing this week

I wrote these last year:

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.

In 2017, Stenson (No. 14), Scott (No. 59), Fowler (No. 8) and Rose (No. 5) are still not here. Neither is Brooks Koepka (injured and will miss the Masters) or Joost Luiten.

 

Facts and Figures:

  • Jason Day, Tiger Woods (3) and Geoff Ogilvy are the only multiple winners in this format.
  • Woods is the only player to successfully defend his title and that was in the knockout format. #Boss.
  • The last three winners have been major champions.
  • Youngest: Rory McIlroy (25).
  • Oldest: David Tomas was 38 when he won in 2005.
  • Woods, McIlroy and Johnson are the only winners who entered the week as the No. 1 seed. Woods is the only winner in the knockout format from that position. #Boss.
  • Lowest Seed to win: Kevin Sutherland was seeded No. 62 in 2002.
  • There are 11 players with multiple WGC victories.
  • Only Sutherland, Stenson and Ian Poulter have made the Match Play their maiden victory on Tour.
  • There are 16 Match Play newcomers this week.

 

The Particulars

 

The Austin Country Club (ACC) returns as host and will do so through next year. Pete Dye constructed one of his classic risk-reward tracks that will test the space between the ears as much as the 14 clubs in the bag. The risk-reward is for all kinds as this track barely stretches over 7,100 yards and plays to par 71. All 14 clubs in the bag, as usual, will be put to the test.  As always, his design features will mess with the brain and eye balls so a bit of experience around here won’t hurt this week.

Most weeks on TOUR there’s wind so that shouldn’t be a major issue. The severity of the wind will be. The best news is it’s going to blow from the same direction all four days. The pros hate when it swirls or changes direction as they have to adjust more and more often.

Plenty of folks are peddling Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup stats this week. I think even the most novice of gamers can tell you, without looking, who the best players are, historically, in this format. This is NOT the Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup. There are no teammates. There is no pressure to become immortal. It’s completely apples and oranges so don’t get caught up in that jetwash.

Dustin Johnson sashayed into town last year with two wins under his belt in his previous two events. I couldn’t tell you what his match play record is/was/will be. In 2016, Jason Day won the week before at Arnold Palmer. In 2015 Rory McIlroy finished fourth at the Masters in his event before claiming his title. #GetHotStayHot.

 

The Bracket

OWGR rank in parentheses

 

Group 1

Dustin Johnson (1): With four top-10 finishes in five starts in 2018, I don’t think I’m going to fade him defending his title. Although, if you’re going to win one of these, I’d start here. He’s already “disappointed” at Riviera and WGC-Mexico in his other two defenses this year. I’m not sure there’s enough ammo in this group to slow him down.

Kevin Kisner (32): Man, I’m at a crossroads here as nothing in 2018 has worked for Kisner. Maybe this will be exactly what the doctor ordered as nothing else has jump-started his season. I’d be more optimistic if Johnson wasn’t in his group.

Adam Hadwin (38): He skipped this event last year to take his honeymoon so we’ll see if the GOLF GODS have any sense of humour. My guess is sticking him with Dustin Johnson isn’t “Canadian Bacon” funny but his form entering the week (four top 12’s in his last six starts) is also no laughing matter. He’ll be the one if it’s not DJ.

Bernd Wiesberger (52): This is his fifth consecutive Match Play. He’s never finished inside the top 16.

Group Winner: Dustin Johnson

Cheeky Upset: Adam Hadwin

 

Group 2

Justin Thomas (2): He won The Honda Classic in a playoff over Luke List and his reward is having him complete the group. He lost in a playoff to Phil Mickelson the following week in Mexico City so I’m not concerned about his form. His history in this event suggests a crack in the door. I don’t this group has enough juice to kick it open.

Francesco Molinari (21): He’s a wonderful ball-striker but it’s usually the guy who holes the most putts that mops up in this format. With nothing better than T25 in 2018, it’s an easy fade. After checking his record in this event, it’s a no-brainer.

Patton Kizzire (48): With two trophies on the mantle already, it’s all house money in these events for the rest of the year. The last two times on Bermuda he’s MC which is strange.

Luke List (60): Man, I was all about him until the draw came out. He’s playing the best golf of his life and has been for six weeks. He was a late entry and didn’t get any rub of the green on this draw with Thomas. He’s the obvious “anti-Thomas” for me.

Group Winner: Justin Thomas

Cheeky Upset: Luke List

 

Group 3

Jon Rahm (3): Beaten finalist to DJ a year ago, the Spaniard comes back locked and loaded. Similarly to last year, he already has a win under his belt and he’s not going to be bothered by anyone in this group, friends or not.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat (28): With a nice match play win at the ISPS Handa Perth Super Six and another payday at something called the Richard Mille Brunei Championship, he looks a right bother. After taking a look at who he beat in those events, I’ll take a pass. If you believe hot golf is hot golf and were burned by your NCAA bracket selections, by all means jump in with both feet.

Chez Reavie (43): The second of two ASU alums in this group, Reavie’s blistering last eight months has finally burned out. After back-to-back runner-up finishes he’s rattled off T73, T52 and MC in his last three. First timer for both event and course makes an impossible selection.

Keegan Bradley (63): He sticks out as the best of the other three but that’s as far as it goes for me. The last time I remember him in Match Play his caddy, Pepsi, was getting into it with Miguel Angel Jimenez. Woof.

Group Winner: Jon Rahm

Cheeky Upset: Kiradech Aphibarnrat

 

Group 4

Jordan Spieth (4): I’ve said above that the most important club in this event is probably the putter. His = icicles right now and not even the “Austin” angle is going to save him this week. He hasn’t made it past the round of eight the last three years. I’ve learned over his short time that there are a few courses he just doesn’t enjoy playing. This seems to qualify.

Patrick Reed (19): I wrote him down as my favorite before the draw and I’m not changing it now. He’s been in the top 10 the last two week on TOUR and in the top two in birdies in both of those events. His short game will save his blushes from the tee and his ruthless attitude flourishes in this event.

Haotong Li (34): He’s the first player in this event from China but the draw has done him no favors. He’ll need (what’s A+ in Chinese) his best stuff this week to finish second. His formed has dipped as he’s jaunted across the globe this winter.

Charl Schwartzel (49): Gamers thought he was going to break out after solo third at the Masters and T2 at FEESJC last spring. Nope. If this was at Leopard Creek, I’d take him to win the group. It’s not. So I’m not.

Group Winner: Patrick Reed

Cheeky Upset: Charl Schwartzel > Haotong Li for me

 

Group 5

Hideki Matsuyama (5): Was last week the rust buster  or the present state of affairs with a gimpy wrist? Are you going to be the one who guesses wrong? I’m a big believer if I don’t know, I run away. He’ll knock the dimples off the ball but I’m not sure if he can hole enough putts. His injury knocks him down a peg.

Patrick Cantlay (30):  Almost every week is a brand-new venue and every week he takes home a check. His ball-striking isn’t in the same category as Matsuyama’s but it’s awfully close. He was a beaten finalist at the 2011 U.S. Amateur (Kelly Kraft) at Erin Hills.

Cameron Smith (37): He’ll give it a knock and scramble eggs around the greens but his best results this year have been on Bent/Poa. The Bermuda tracks haven’t been kind. He won’t be bothered by the field or this group as he’s played in six major championships.

Yusaku Miyazato (54): Plenty of newbies will point out his record overseas. I’ll point out his tournaments over here, you know, where they’re playing THIS course and THIS field. This is not Hideto Tanihara from last year, folks.

Group Winner: Patrick Cantlay

Cheeky Upset: Cameron Smith

 

Group 6

Rory McIlroy (6): Any and all questions about his play were answered with aplomb last week as he mowed down the field at Bay Hill with 64 on Sunday. His putter came to life and that spells trouble for any and all comers. He’s had no problem winning consecutive events or this format before. Clear favorite.

Brian Harman (18): Unlucky draw for the player who leads the TOUR in top-10 finishes! The lefty is a gritty grinder and won’t be afraid of the three bombers in this group. He’s the best putter by a mile and will cause a bother regardless if it’s his first event here or not.

Jhonattan Vegas (46): Group runner up last year after beating Scott Piercy and Thomas Pieters suggests the former UT Longhorn isn’t bothered with such names. He’ll look to keep his momentum from T20 at Mexico City rolling and has the power to do so.

Peter Uihlein (57): One top 25 in eight starts in 2018 doesn’t  shout PICK ME, DAWG! The three guys listed above him doesn’t add any optimism either.

Group Winner: Rory McIlroy

Cheeky Upset: Jhonattan Vegas

 

Group 7

Sergio Garcia (7): I wrote this last year when he was the No. 7 seed: 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. He was steamrolled (who wasn’t?) by Rahm 6 & 4 and finished second last year. Then he won the Masters and got married. Now he’s a dad. The end.

Xander Schauffele (20): He’s collected checks for T17, T9 and T18 in his last three and will be a force to reckon with this week. The downside it’s his first one of these. The upside is he doesn’t care. Take a look at his record from last year as a rookie on all of those new courses!

Dylan Frittelli (41): Another UT alum coming “home” this week! He flashed signs at The Honda Classic with T11 but wasn’t inspired at altitude in Mexico City against a WGC field as he finished T55 of 64.

Shubankar Sharma (62): Where Frittelli was limping around in Mexico City, Sharma was holding the 54-hole lead before finishing T9. The following week he flew halfway across the world to New Delhi, set the course record and finished T7. Since then he’s been exempted into the Masters and a couple of other events. Count him out at your peril.

Group Winner: Shubankar Sharma

Cheeky Upset: See above

 

Group 8

Jason Day (8): He’s won this event in the even years (2014 and 2016) so numerologists are rejoicing. He couldn’t bend over or pick the ball out of the hole while winning here in 2016. Something was wrong with him last week in Orlando as he was messing with his left shoulder and finished T22. PERFECT!

Louis Oosthuizen (25): He was beaten by Day in the finals in 2016 so he’ll be relishing the chance for sweet, sweet revenge. He lost in a playoff last year and finished second to Ross Fisher after smoking No. 4 Matsuyama 6 & 4. If Day’s not healthy…

Jason Dufner (42): He’s not a very good putter and that doesn’t fly in this format. Once into the Round of 16 in six tries is hard to defend.

James Hahn (58): I don’t mind a first-timer with nothing to lose AND he’s made 12 cuts in a row. I don’t think the draw helps with three major champs though.

Group Winner: Jason Day (Oosthuizen if Day WD)

Cheeky Upset: James Hahn

 

Group 9

Tommy Fleetwood (9): He’s in the form of his life regardless of where he’s teeing it up. He’s not satisfied with winning the Race to Dubai and his ambitious schedule reinforces that. He’ll hit the most GIR this week or be very close.

Daniel Berger (20): I hope he’s recovered from beating the shit out of that rock last year in his match against Mickelson. He ended up WD with a wrist injury if you recall. His only hiccup in 2018 was MC at Riviera. He has the total game to bother anyone. He’s the best putter in the group by a mile.

Kevin Chappell (34): Chappell has three top-10 finishes from his last six on TOUR so he’s in the mood. If the angle is playing in the wind, don’t forget Fleetwood is from the English coast by Royal Birkdale.

Ian Poulter (59): This Englishman sets up as the perfect foil this week after laying a complete egg at Bay Hill. With the Ryder Cup potential candidates overflowing for Team Europe, he’s going to need to catch Thomas Bjorn’s eye in big event like this. He’s even using an old Ryder Cup putter this week! He’ll be picked for the team but it might be as a Captain’s assistant.

Group Winner: Tommy Fleetwood

Cheeky Upset: Daniel Berger

 

Group 10

Paul Casey (10): He’s walking on water after his win at Valspar. He beat Tiger Woods and took home his first TOUR win since 2009. He’ll be free as a bird and should cruise. He was runner up here in 2009 and 2010.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (31): Last week at Bay Hill he found the water five times. In the first round. His 71 in Round 2 just adds to the mystery.

Kyle Stanley (41): I don’t like the course or the putting numbers this week.

Russell Henley (51): If the two Englishmen get tied up with each other, this dude call roll in birdies for fun. I don’t see any form to suggest he’s knocking out Casey though.

Group Winner:  Paul Casey

Cheeky Upset: Russell Henley

 

Group 11

Marc Leishman (11): He made a very nice run to the top 10 on Sunday in defense of his title at Bay Hill. He won his group last year before getting thumped by Mickelson in the Round of 16. He was fresh off a victory at Bay Hill last year. Momentum.

Branden Grace (23): Don’t forget he hit the top 10 at Valspar his last time out! I’m not sure he makes enough putts to bother.

Bubba Watson (35): He’s a fantastic lag putter and that won’t hurt in this group. He won’t be bothered being overlooked either.

Julian Suri (64): He was last into the field. The experience and the check will be nice but this is the wrong group for the inexperienced.

Group Winner: Bubba Watson

Cheek Upset: Same

 

Group 12

Tyrrell Hatton (12): Roller coaster rolls on! 3rd, MC, T3 and T69 last week at Bay Hill. He was my OAD so don’t mind if I’m a bit SALTY here.

Charley Hoffman (24): The solid veteran ball-striker should be right at home in this group where putting isn’t an asset.

Brendan Steele (45): It wouldn’t surprise me to see the two Californians battle it out for the top spot, especially with their respective records in Texas and in wind.

Alexander Levy (60): He would have loved this at Marana at Dove Mountain in the Arizona Desert. His last three top-10 finishes are in the Middle East.

Group Winner: Charley Hoffman

Cheeky Upset: Brendan Steele

 

Group 13

Alex Noren (13): The tortoise in this group of hares. Well, not in terms of pace but he’s the steady Eddie.

Tony Finau (29): He’ll need to be on point off the tee and into the fairways as his putter doesn’t always cooperate. I’d prefer him on 7,800 over 7,100.

Thomas Pieters (39): He’ll hit it a mile. Will he find it? Struggled last year with Vegas and Watson. Noren and Finau rate higher in the form department this year.

Kevin Na (61): He’s the best putter in the group by a mile and that should count for something this week. His recent form has involved a T2, a WD and T36. He’ll battle Noren for the top spot.

Group Winner: Alex Noren

Cheeky Upset: Kevin Na

 

Group 14

Phil Mickelson (14): He defeated Justin Thomas in a Playoff the last time we saw him at WGC-Mexico Championship. He gave it a run here last year before losing to Bill Haas in the Quarterfinals. His game is in better shape this year.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello (17): He finished third here in 2016 and should be the best putter in the group. He also has no problem hitting fairways and greens and will be completely overlooked by the Mickelson tidal wave. Bad idea.

Satoshi Kodaira (40): In events with major TOUR players he’s afterthought. This qualifies.

Charles Howell III (59): Last year he won a playoff with Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Tyrrell Hatton to win and advance as No. 61. He won’t care who he’s playing again this year.

Group Winner: Rafael Cabrera-Bello

Cheeky Upset: Charles Howell III

 

Group 15

Pat Perez (15): We learned last night #NappyFactor. That’s all I need to know.

Gary Woodland (24): He should contend every week with his game. He has disappeared after his win at TPC Scottsdale.

Webb Simpson (37): It will be one thing to knock off #NappyFactor but he has the putter to do so.

Si Woo Kim (50): Look up his SG: putting numbers and get back to me.

Group Winner: Webb Simpson

 

Group 16

Matt Kuchar (16):  The former champ has four other top 10’s plus 21 wins to go along with the trophy in eight starts. He won’t be pleased to see Johnson again! He’ll need to kick it up a gear or two like we saw in Scottsdale. It’s been a while.

Ross Fisher (27): I love his power and his ball-striking but I’m not a fan on Bermuda. A hot week with the putter will go a long way.

Yuta Ikeda (47): Sorry, I don’t buy any of the guys from the Japan Tour. Look up his recent events and tell me why I should.

Zach Johnson (54): Steady as he goes and a course that isn’t going to knock him out standing on the tee box. He won his group last year ranked No. 44 with Matt Kuchar as the No. 16 seed so why not again?

Group Winner: Zach Johnson

 

Final 8:

Dustin Johnson

Jason Day

Patrick Reed

Patrick Cantlay

Justin Thomas

Paul Casey

Rory McIlroy

Jon Rahm

 

Final 4:

Jason Day

Patrick Reed

Paul Casey

Rory McIlroy:

 

Championship Match:

Patrick Reed

Rory McIlroy

 

Winner:

Patrick Reed

 

 

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