American sports fans have spent the last few weeks filling out their brackets in anticipation of the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. Golf fans have their own chance to pour over brackets, seedings and potential matchups this week with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Unlike March Madness, the Match Play is no longer a straight knockout tournament. Instead, the field is split into groups of four for the first round. The winners of the 16 groups then progress to the knockout stages of the event. As this is a World Golf Championship event the world’s best players are in attendance and the best of the lot, world number one Dustin Johnson, can outlast the competition to win the Match Play for a second time at 10/1 with bet365.
The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play has not always had it easy as a tournament. The change to a round robin first round helped attract more of the world’s best players but the main reason that the best of the best now mark this in their diaries so close to the Masters is the move to Austin Country Club. Designed by Pete Dye, the par 71 course is an excellent blend of risk and reward which makes it perfect for match play golf.
The course includes changes in elevation, drivable par fours and challenging par threes which will all pose real tests of tactics. The players have multiple ways of approaching Austin Country Club subject to how they’re faring in their match which should promise plenty of dramatic swings in momentum.
|Austin Country Club||Austin, Texas||7,108 Yards||$10,250,000|
The three winners of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play since the move to Austin Country Club – Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day – are all big hitters who have no problem taking a bit of a risk. It’s fair to say that the rough is not particularly penal in Austin so those who give it a rip off the tee do look to have a real advantage.
The trend for big hitting winners goes beyond the last three renewals with Rory McIlroy utilising his power at TPC Harding Park and Day doing likewise at Dove Mountain even if it took him 23 holes to see off the stubborn resistance of Victor Dubuisson.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Bubba Watson||Austin Country Club||Beat Kevin Kisner||7 & 6|
|2017||Dustin Johnson||Austin Country Club||Beat Jon Rahm||1 Up|
|2016||Jason Day||Austin Country Club||Beat Louis Oosthuizen||5 & 4|
|2015||Rory McIlroy||TPC Harding Park||Beat Gary Woodland||4 & 2|
|2014||Jason Day||Dove Mountain||Beat Victor Dubisson||23 Holes|
Analysis: Market Leaders the Way to Go
It’s not just big hitting that links the recent winners of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. It’s also proven to be a tournament in which backing players from towards the top of the market is the way to go. Some outsiders are sure to make it out of the group stage and even to the final eight or perhaps four, but it would be something of a shock if the winner does not come from towards the top end of the betting.
DJ Can Win a Seventh WGC Title
The market suggests that the Match Play is shaping to be a head to head between Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. McIlroy is in excellent form which he backed up to win the Players Championship for the first time just a couple of weeks ago. The Northern Irishman also has the game to go well at Austin Country Club but preference goes to Johnson for a few reasons.
Before winning the Players, McIlroy was facing questions about his ability to see out tournament wins. The head to head between McIlroy and Johnson over the weekend of the WGC Mexico Championship in February added fuel to that fire. Johnson was almost faultless whereas McIlroy just wasn’t good enough with his scoring irons or wedges. DJ showed in Mexico that he is a big time player who raises his game for these sort of huge events and arrives with form that reads T6-T5-1-T9-T45-1-T16-T4.
It’s never easy to guess what is going on in Johnson’s head but there is little doubt that his laid back demeanour helps him in a match play scenario. While his opponents get worked up, Johnson just gets on with business, which makes him the man the others all have to beat at 10/1 with bet365.
Pepperell the Outsider to Support
Having an each way bet on an outsider for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play should add to the excitement of the tournament and may return handsomely. Several players fit the bill potentially – Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen and Gary Woodland are all available around the 50/1 mark – but the most tempting option is Eddie Pepperell at 110/1 with bet365.
Pepperell enjoyed himself during his recent run on the PGA Tour and came close to winning the Players Championship thanks to a stunning performance on the Sunday and he made his World Golf Championship debut in Mexico. His excellent play from tee to green should set up plenty of chances to win holes so if his putter gets hot Pepperell may well secure an each way payout by making it to the semi finals.
Final Verdict: Dustin Johnson to Win
If you were building a golfer with the perfect combination of mental and technical skills to win the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club it wouldn’t be much different to Dustin Johnson. The world number one is playing as well as ever and knows exactly what it takes to win this event so a bet at 10/1 with bet365 looks very much in order.
About the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
The WGC Match Play has had several sponsors over the years, but the World Golf Championship tournament has been called the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play since March 2016. The Austin Country Club in Texas has hosted the tournament for the last few years, although it has had a number of host venues since its inception.
The WGC Match Play has been one of the most unpredictable events on the golfing calendar since the first edition at La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California in 1999. The tournament is certainly one of the best non-majors of the year and the fact it is a match play event gives it something of a special feel.
The World Golf Championships are made up of four annual events and were first held in 1999, although the fourth event, the HSBC Champions, wasn’t granted WGC status until 2009. Along with the WGC Match Play and the HSBC Champions, we also have the Mexico Championship and the FedEx St. Jude Invitational. The other three tournaments, like most events on the golfing calendar, are stroke play, with the WGC Match Play now the most important match play event anywhere in the world. With great prestige and prize money similar to a major, the top players are attracted to this tournament and a stellar field is guaranteed.
Format and Eligibility
In common with all of the WGC events, only the very best players in the world are eligible for this tournament. Criteria vary among the four but for the Match Play you have to be ranked in the top 64 of the Official World Golf Rankings 10 days before the tournament. If any of the world’s best 64 can’t make it, the next highest ranked player will take part.
There are 16 groups of four with a seeding system used to make these of broadly similar quality, based on the rankings. From Wednesday to Friday the four play each other in an 18-hole match play format. Winning a match earns a point, with half for a tie and only the top player from each group qualifies, with a sudden death play-off used to separate any golfers tied at the top.
From the last 16 onwards players again compete over 18 holes of match play but this time in a straight knockout format. The last 16 ties and quarters are played on Saturday with Sunday seeing the semis and final (plus the always-pointless third-place play-off).
America’s Dominance on Home Soil
Over the years, there have been winners from only four different countries, with those being America, Northern Ireland, Sweden and Australia. The first event, which was held in California in 1999, was won by Jeff Maggert, as the Missouri man beat fellow American Andrew Magee in a thrilling inaugural final.
The only non-Americans to have won this event are Darren Clarke, Geoff Ogilvy (twice), Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Jason Day (twice) and Rory McIlroy. Since the event started in 1999, we have seen 10 different players from the States win the WGC Match Play. The US stars dominated the early years, winning six of the opening seven and have also done very well of late, winning three in a row prior to the cancellation of the 2020 event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Whilst that table shows how well US players have done, in truth their dominance goes even further when we consider not just champions but final appearances. There have been nine all-USA finals and, as of 2020, only six that didn’t feature at least one player from the States.
Tiger’s Impact on WGC Match Play
Tiger Woods is without doubt one of the best golfers of all time and arguably the most popular player to have ever lived, despite his off-course misdemeanours. Woods has had a huge impact on a number of golf tournaments since turning professional way back in 1996 and, although not the most prestigious of events, the WGC Match Play has played an important role for Tiger over the years.
Only three players have won this event on multiple occasions, with Woods being one of them. The American’s first victory was a 2 & 1 triumph over David Toms in La Costa back in 2003. Woods went on to win it a year later, and then again in 2008, bagging $1,350,000 in prize money in Arizona. The now 44-year-old is the only player to have won it three times. He has also recorded the most consecutive match wins in this competition, winning an incredible 13 in a row from 2003 to 2005.
Despite Woods’ unrivalled success, the WGC Match Play has not always been kind to the Californian. Nick O’Hern caused an upset on two occasions against Tiger, in 2005 in California and then again two years later in Arizona. Also, Darren Clarke outplayed Tiger in 2000, with the Ulsterman beating Woods 4 & 3 in a 36-hole match, becoming the first non-US player to win a WGC event in the process.