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WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Jump on the Spieth Rollercoaster

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

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Let the real madness begin as the PGA Tour readies for its own version of bracketology at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Waving goodbye to the Florida Swing, 64 of world’s best will travel to the capital of the Lone Star State as they take to Austin Country Club for the sixth consecutive edition of this tournament.

A highly anticipated event, not all will be making the trip to Texas as Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy, Sam Burns, Hideki Matsuyama, Harris English, and Phil Mickelson are notable omissions from the field. As is the case, this opens the door for those players just outside the top-64 in the official world golf rankings.

If this year resembles last, this should be remembered as longshots and underdogs came through with regularity. In fact, eight players who were bucketed into “Pool D” (seeds Nos. 49-64) advanced from group play. For reference, only one player from “Pool A” (seeds Nos. 1-16), three players from “Pool B” (seeds Nos. 17-32), and four players from “Pool C” (seeds Nos. 33-48) proceeded to the bracket portion of the tournament.

This year’s No. 1 overall seed and favorite at PointsBet Sportsbook, Jon Rahm (+1200), was the No. 3 seed and if not for a two-hole playoff victory over his pal Ryan Palmer, “Pool A” would have been completely shutout. This was one of eight groups to need extra holes in addition to the three-match round-robin as numerous big names were eliminated in sudden-death fashion. Those included Patrick Cantlay (+2000), Xander Schauffele (+2200), Daniel Berger (+2500), Joaquin Niemann (+3300), Abraham Ancer (+5000), Max Homa (+6000), and Lee Westwood (+12500).

It was not all bad news for those who participated in a playoff as both members of the championship match were nearly knocked out early. Eventual champion Billy Horschel (+3300) and runner-up Scottie Scheffler (+1600) needed multiple holes to move onto weekend play and took full advantage of their opportunities.

Horschel was the final member of “Pool B” as he was seeded No. 32 and continued the run of unlikely winners set forth by Kevin Kisner (+6600) who was seeded 48th in 2019 and Bubba Watson (+8000) who was seeded 35th in 2018. As before this trio of champions, the Pete Dye design produced back-to-back chalky victors in the No. 1 overall seed, Dustin Johnson (+2000), in 2017 and No. 2 overall seed, Jason Day, in 2016.

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WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Bracket:

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Bracket

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Bracket

With question marks surrounding many of the top seeds, I believe the current trend of outsiders will prevail once again. The two most recent winners in Horschel and Kisner have shown us the potential path as it is clear variance must be embraced. Factor in the annual appearance of a random European player such as Victor Dubuisson, Lucas Bjerregaard, or Victor Perez and this line of thinking is only emboldened.

Not to say tee-to-green play is minute, but seeing Collin Morikawa (+1600) and Corey Conners (+6000) both go winless last season does give way for a player like Mackenzie Hughes (+12500). So, much to the dismay of the world No. 1, I am treating this week as a “piece of sh*t putting contest.”

Now out of the way, the next task becomes analyzing the draw and those players who have the path of least resistance. Either (1) spreading selections across quadrants or (2) loading up in one region and all but securing yourself a semifinal bid, these are the angles I have previously attacked in this tournament.

Very much a fluid situation, I believe the former is the correct avenue this year. As much like last, Jordan Spieth (+3500) has been gift wrapped a group to emerge from. A “Pool D” player just last season, the Texan got the better of Matt Fitzpatrick (+3300), Matthew Wolff (+12500), and Conners.

This time around he will be faced with Adam Scott (+5000), Keegan Bradley (+8000), and Justin Rose (+9000) all of whom have issues. Spieth is not without his own, but last year’s Sweet 16 exit to Matt Kuchar felt premature based on how he arrived as he left with a career record of 9-5-3 on this par-71.

Compared to his dreadful singles record in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cup, he has been more competent outside of the team events. Perhaps it is due to the course itself as Austin CC has often drawn parallels to TPC River Highlands where Spieth won in 2017.

Echoing the need to clutch onto the volatility of this event, Spieth’s game is oftentimes described as a rollercoaster. A decent history and in decent form, the draw and the price were deciding factors in this investment. If able to get past his initial three competitors and into the weekend, he will face the battled-tested Group 6 winner hopefully not named Justin Thomas (+1300).

Spieth’s name is listed in the bottom right of the bracket, but I do believe it is the top left which is the weakest. Rahm should like his chances to reach the Final Four, but Group 8’s winner will have a say in this. While Johnson is the likeliest of candidates and the potential for Hughes and Wolff to pose issues is there, Max Homa’s (+6000) current form cannot be overlooked.

Connecting on four straight top-20 results, the Californian has posted +4.3, +4.4, +7.9, and +8.7 Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green in this span. Combined with his ability to run as hot as anyone on the greens when the putter is cooperative, this is a format well-suited for the three-time winner on Tour.

2-1-0 in his tournament debut last season, Homa fell just short of advancing out of his group when he lost in a three-hole playoff to Horschel. A path which was very conducive to a late run into the tournament, I do believe Homa could have reeled off victories just as Horschel did. Once again receiving a favorable draw, if able to get through his group, a date with Rahm may be waiting for him in the Elite Eight.

Zigzagging our way through this bracket, we move to the top right as Morikawa’s recent form leaves plenty to be desired. However, it is not Group 2 I am targeting, but rather Group 15 as Brian Harman (+6600) fits the Kisner mold.

Just a left-handed version of his fellow Georgia Bulldog, Harman arrives off a top-5 result at the Valspar Championship. Getting past Cantlay in last year’s tournament, the 35-year-old was able to reach the quarterfinals before he was halted by Kuchar.

An event where he can more than hold his own, Harman said this after his final round in Tampa, “I’m really excited, got into the Match Play by the skin of my teeth, love that event, love that course, glad my game’s doing pretty good, so I’ll go give ‘em hell next week and then rest up for the Masters.”

In a pod with fellow Pete Dye specialists, there is certainly some worry, but the upside for the winner of this group is apparent. Between Simpson not yet being 100% and questions surrounding the form of Ancer and Watson, I will roll with Harman.

To the bottom left we go where Groups 5 and 13 are littered with strong match play competitors. Avoiding those two, Tom Hoge (+10000) in Group 12 was considered, but I cannot seem to quit Keith Mitchell (+8000) in Group 4.

In what will only be his second appearance, Mitchell fits the same profile as the first three winners at Austin CC as they were some of the strongest in the field off-the-tee. In a group with Cantlay, Sungjae Im (+4000), and Seamus Power (+10000), it will be a tall ask to just get out of his pod, but the 30-year-old arrives playing some of the best golf in his career.

Capable of overpowering venues, it is reassuring to see Mitchell put together a quality outing on a Dye design just two weeks ago at TPC Sawgrass. Losing steam over the weekend after a hectic beginning to his Florida Swing, he should now be recharged and rejuvenated. If the case, it is hard to not like his chances versus anyone, especially if he is able to discover a sense of stability with his putter.

The original plan was to leave it at four selections, which is more than enough in this type of event. However, the other half of Spieth’s region is ripe for the picking in my opinion. Between the crop of ball-strikers in Viktor Hovland (+1400), Will Zalatoris (+5000), and Russell Henley (+5000) this could go in a number of directions.

Very much putting our working theory to the test, this portion of the bracket will decide if this week’s handicap has some merit. Potentially on an island of my own with this thought, if it does come to fruition, Kevin Na (+12500) makes for an intriguing option.

Unable to advance out of his group last season as he was busy lecturing his playing competitors, Na has a record of 8-8-2 at Austin CC. A couple poor results have driven his odds down, but a shorter, positional based venue where you can get by with short-game prowess has captured my interest.

It will not be a cakewalk as Niemann headlines his quartet alongside Henley and Mr. Irrelevant, Maverick McNealy (+7000). Yet if able to get through, the path to the semifinals is attractive as Na rarely concedes putts and Hovland is a top seed I envision falling early.

Patrick’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Bracket:

Finished WGC Bracket

Finished WGC Bracket

Outright Selections:

Jordan Spieth +3500 at DraftKings (0.94 units)

Max Homa +6000 at PointsBet (0.55 units)

Brian Harman +6600 at BetMGM (0.50 units)

Keith Mitchell +8000 at PointsBet (0.41 units)

Kevin Na +12500 at PointsBet (0.26 units)

Outrights YTD: +71.53 units, +241.82%

Total YTD: +55.24 units, +72.11%

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