While many NCAA tournament brackets have been busted after just two rounds, the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play offers golf fans a mulligan. It won’t be easy pickings, as this tournament offers a new venue to the top players in the game. Rory McIlroy is the defending champion, but faces Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.
Many golf fans and gamers love this week and this tournament. I used to fall in that category. Frankly, this is now my least favorite tournament of the season. It’s not because I don’t like match play as a format, rather because it is a very tough tournament for which to pick as a true gamer. I look at this tournament as a week to hold one’s breath and try to escape unscathed.
Throw in a new venue, and welcome to my fantasy golf nightmare.
Here is what we think we know.
The Pete Dye design of Austin Country Club (ACC) will play to a par of 71, tipping out at a very light 7,073 yards and featuring three par 5s. Listening to the chatter of those that have played ACC, accuracy takes a front seat to distance. Throw in the variable of the Texas winds, and strategy should matter over bomb-and-gauge.
Forget the Stats
Typically, we can use past performances on a course to determine relevant stats. We don’t have that luxury this week. Instead, past match play experience is a much more reliable metric. That could come in the form of history in this particular WGC, the Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup or other amateur events.
It’s worth mentioning that this is the first time the TOUR has turned to Texas in 2016. Much like the Florida Swing and West Coast Swing have their intricacies, so too does Texas. The biggest trademark of Texas layouts has less to do with the course and more to do with the threat of wind. It’s not uncommon to see sustained winds of 20 MPH or more. Just like players from the southeastern U.S. fare well on Bermuda greens in Florida, Texans and Aussies often show well in the Lone Star state.
Here are a few disclaimers before we dive into the power rankings. For starters, we are taking this 20 deep this week instead of 15. The natural cutoff to the list just fell closer to 20 than 15, so we adjust. The other thing to mention is that this ranking does not take into account brackets. It is simply a look at who should perform the best on this layout under these conditions. Two players in the top 10 might happen to be in the same bracket. That’s just what happens.
Here we go!
1. Jason Day – Winner last week and past Match Play champion is quite the duo of tricks. Throw in another third-place finish in this particular event and plenty of Presidents Cup history, and we have a dangerous player.
2. Adam Scott – Dude’s on fire. I was shocked to find that he hasn’t advanced out of the second round of this tournament (old format) since 2006. That said, who cares. He’s one of the hottest players on the globe.
3. Danny Willett – This is actually the easiest call of the tournament. He placed third in this event last year and was third in both the WGC-HSBC and WGC-Cadillac Championship. He’s third. Deal with it.
4. Jordan Spieth – Texan returns to his college town for some home cooking. Form isn’t great, but perhaps a home game is just what he needs to get things going.
5. Rickie Fowler – Has three top 10s in this event in five tries, highlighted by a third-place finish in 2014. Also has the requisite team experience with match play and solid form of someone in this stratosphere.
6. Bubba Watson – People talk about Adam Scott’s current form, and rightly so. The truth is, Bubba has gone Win (Riviera) and runner-up (Doral) in his last two starts. That said, this may not be the best course fit for Bubba golf. We shall see.
7. Rory McIlroy – McIlroy was as good as anyone in the world two of his four rounds last week at Bay Hill. The other two rounds were not good. He can’t afford an off round in this format, and certainly can’t afford two. That’s the biggest reason he isn’t in the top five.
8. Charl Schwartzel – Enters off a win at the Valspar Championship that highlighted a really strong start to 2016. Presidents Cup veteran scored a respectable T9 last year in this event, winning his pool, and has only been bounced in the first round once in seven tries. Expect him to be a handful.
9. Paul Casey – A match play giant, with a T5 last year and two other runner-up finishes on his resume in this event. That doesn’t even take into account his Ryder Cup experience for the Euros. Back-to-back top 10s show strong form entering this week.
10. Matt Kuchar – What I love about Kuchar is that his game can play on any course. With the course being a bit of a mystery this week, he’s a safe lean. He won this event in 2011 and has two other top fives.
11. Justin Rose – I have not figured out how he fell this far given his last four PGA TOUR starts have all ended inside the top 20. That is, until I saw that nine of his 10 starts in this event have failed to see him advance to the sweet 16.
12. Graeme McDowell – One of two players in the “D” group that stand out as good fits for both the course and the format. He’s posted top fives in this event both in 2013 and 2014, and has been a European Ryder Cup stalwart. Been feast-or-famine this year, but set your expectations high.
13. Jason Dufner – The other “D” player that appears to pack some punch. A winner earlier in 2016, Dufner is a strong fit for target golf. Only once has he advanced to the second round of this tournament (old format), and that was a sweet 16 loss. The new venue may benefit him more than anyone.
14. Sergio Garcia – Earned a runner-up at The Honda Classic and a T11 at Doral. Also owns five top 10s in this event and a great Ryder Cup record.
15. Phil Mickelson – Lefty has shown some strength in 2016, so don’t count him out by any stretch. Relegation to the “B” list of players might fire him up a bit. Wedges will need to be sharp this week.
16. Hideki Matsuyama – Growing in reputation, he has some Presidents Cup experience and also won his pool in this event last year before falling in the round of 16.
17. Patrick Reed – Since Ian Poulter isn’t in the field this week, it’s safe to say nobody loves match play as a format more than Reed. He’s been a bit all over the place in 2016, but would be a serious value if he falls this far in a weekly draft.
18. Jimmy Walker – Texan who’s won in Texas.
19. Louis Oosthuizen – Back-to-back top fives in this event and went T14 (Doral) T7 (Copperhead) over the last three weeks.
Want a dark horse?
Check back tomorrow for Playing the Tips for all of the Rotoworld staff picks. We will also be back with a quick look at the Puerto Rico Open for those gamers playing the opposite-field event.