My March Madness brackets were busted by about 2:00 p.m. this past Thursday and I’ve been looking forward to my second chance at bracketology ever since. This week, the PGA TOUR enters the fold with a new March Field-of-64, bracket-style tournament. The short week kicks off Wednesday and we’ll handicap 2023 WGC Dell Match Play odds at Austin Country Club. Below, I dive into everything you need to know about this unique, once-a-year format.
This tournament, not unlike the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, is an entertaining change of pace to watch. Albeit, it’s a fool’s errand to over analyze SG data and course fit research from a betting perspective. With WGC’s sunsetting from the PGA TOUR schedule, this will be the final time this event plays at Austin Country Club. Uncertainty exists as to whether there will be a home for Match Play on the schedule going forward. Hopefully this is not the last time we are breaking down a PGA TOUR Match Play slate, because I really do love the variety it brings to the season.
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WGC DELL MATCH PLAY FAVORITES
Find odds for WGC Dell Match Play when sportsbooks release them Monday.
TOURNAMENT FORMAT FOR DELL MATCH PLAY ODDS
Every year, WGC Dell Match Play odds feature the top 64 eligible OWGR-ranked players entering the week of competition.
The first round of the bracket features round-robin matchups. Four golfers are in each group, similar to World Cup group play and the groups are randomly drawn on “Selection Monday.” However, each opening group features one player from four OWGR quadrant tiers:
This change was introduced in order to avoid premature exits from the world’s best, which used to be a prevalent issue in the old single-elimination format.
While that makes the opening rounds a little more interesting (Wednesday-Friday), this inverted format naturally front loaded all the action to the opening rounds. It inevitably makes for a relatively anti-climactic and painstakingly slow final round.
This event stretches Wednesday through Sunday, so we often see a pretty gassed final pairing laboring through on the final day. Recent finals between Scheffler and Horschel, and Scheffler and Kisner exhibited that. Dustin Johnson was visibly ready for this week to come to an end by the time of his defeat to Corey Conners in the Third Place Consolation match. This is definitely the type of tournament you want to have some action on come Sunday to tolerate the slow pace of following one group around for 18 holes.
WGC Dell Match Play Odds And Randomness
Match Play format welcomes more randomness than a traditional four-day stroke play tournament. It’s the reason Team Europe won seven of the last 10 Ryder Cups despite inferior talent. In the 2021 WGC, just one top seed (Jon Rahm) advanced from opening group play. The next year, seven top-seeded players advanced out of Group play as well as two of the lowest-seeded players from their respective groups.
In Match Play, you can shoot the second-best round of the day and lose, and you can shoot the second-worst round of the day and win. You can even shoot a better overall score than your opponent and lose. So much variance exists in this one-on-one format, making it difficult to bet favorites with much conviction. Instead, value lies in identifying players who embrace the unique test of Match Play. We’ll look to those with proven results at the WGC Match Play or recent Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups.
ADJUSTING BETTING STRATEGY FOR THE WGC DELL MATCH PLAY
With this randomness in mind, my betting approach for this event is typically to start under-exposed with a handful of longshots at 80-1 or longer odds and hope that a couple of those players advance out of group play. If not, I’ll reload on one live add in the Round of 16. I always recommend waiting to place any WGC Dell Match Play bets until after the groups are drawn. Sportsbooks are often slow to reshuffle odds for players who land a favorable group Monday.
From a DFS perspective, this is a great week to experiment with wider player pools in GPPs. Identify groups with the highest upside for a lower seed to advance from and diversify lineup construction to have equitable exposure across the four quadrants of the bracket. Casual DFS players or users who simply feed a player pool into lineup optimizers may overload a particular quadrant. That limits their total scoring upside from the jump, so plenty of opportunity exists to gain an edge in DFS this week.
It’s difficult to prepare for this event before the groups are determined on Monday morning. However, this preview will go over all the need-to-know course-fit profiles and values from each player tier to get you prepared before odds and pricing drop Monday. Let’s get to it!
THE FIELD AT A GLANCE
Technically speaking, this could have been a rare event where PGA TOUR, DP World Tour, and LIV players all converged. Qualification criteria is simply to fall inside the top-64 OWGR. It seems Jay Monahan found a loophole, however, as the eight LIV players who meet that criteria continue to be banned from TOUR competition. In turn, we see less-deep groups than in years past. In theory, that provides a clearer path for top players to advance out of group play.
If a player withdraws, the next highest OWGR-ranked player slots in their place. There are no automatic qualifiers, exemptions, or conditional status needed to qualify. As it stands, Justin Thomas and and Justin Rose are listed as in the field, but have noted to the media that they do not intend to play.
Should any of the top-64 eligible players withdraw, Brendon Todd (OWGR 78) becomes the first alternate to join the field. After Todd, the order of alternates to follow includes: Kazuki Higa, Thomas Detry, Trey Mullinax, Addrian Otaegui, and Thriston Lawrence.
Scottie Scheffler returns to defend his title. Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner, and Jason Day join Scheffler as past winners at the WGC Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club. Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar also return in the field as past winners of this event prior to its move to Austin.
INTRODUCTION TO AUSTIN COUNTRY CLUB
Austin Country Club has hosted the WGC Dell Match Play each year since 2016. The Pete Dye design features desert-style firm and fast conditions on Bermuda greens and plays to about 7,100 yards in total. Course fit can often be overlooked when it comes to the Match Play format, especially on a course like Austin Country Club, which can neutralize the advantage of longer hitters.
Performance in other individual Match Play events like the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup prove to be strong indicators of success at the WGC Match Play. However, the most recent bomber-heavy venues in Whistling Strait and Quail Hollow may not translate well to Austin. At the 2022 Presidents Cup for example, Scottie Scheffler, Kevin Kisner, and Billy Horschel were among the weakest contributors to Team USA, despite being the last three winners of the WGC Dell Match Play.
Generally speaking, strength in putting is key in Match Play more so than in Stroke Play. Strong putters can put the pressure on opponents and dictate momentum. Elite putters like Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, and Billy Horschel posted wins at this course in its short history. It will be worth identifying players who are capable of sinking testy putts in high pressure moments.
For Austin Country Club course specs, hole-by-hole breakdown with yardages, and past WGC Dell Match Play winners with their pre-tournament odds, visit our WGC Dell Match Play odds page.Editor’s Note
Narratives at Austin Country Club
Lefties and Longhorns continue to demonstrate a strong trend of success at Austin. Three left-handed players were in the field in 2021, and all three (Watson, Harman, MacIntyre) advanced out of group play into the round of 16. Three Texas Longhorn alumni also were in that field, and all three (Spieth, Scheffler, Frittelli) advanced to the round of 16. Scheffler, the University of Texas alum, went on to win in 2022, continuing this strong trend of success from the Longhorns in an Austin “home game.”
The angles at Austin Country Club tend to favor a right-to-left ball flight as Bubba Watson showcased in his 2018 victory. The course sits a stone’s throw from the University of Texas, so Longhorns have some familiarity with the grounds. This year, Brian Harman is the only lefty in the field, although Robert MacIntyre is on standby as a potential alternate. Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth are the only two Longhorn alumni in the field, but KH Lee, Sahith Theegala, Tom Hoge, Tom Kim, and Will Zalatoris fit the narrative as current residents in the state of Texas.
EVENT HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS
Without the aid of any Strokes Gained data or traditional Stroke Play results to go off, it’s a bit more of a challenge to identify the players with the best course history. Strokes Gained metrics aside and simply looking at match play results, Matt Kuchar has been the most consistent here. He advanced out of Group Play four times over the first six years in Austin. His best Austin finish was a loss in the 2019 finals. He won this event back in 2013 at Dove Mountain (Marana, Ariz.).
In totality, Kevin Kisner’s event history stands out on top. He advanced past the Group stage three times and made the Finals in each instance. Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton join Kuchar and Kisner as the only four players to advance out of the Group stage three or more times.
In the next tier, Billy Horschel, Brian Harman, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, and Scottie Scheffler each advanced out of the first Group stage twice at Austin Country Club. Scheffler notably reached the finals in each of the last two years, winning least year.
Nine other players in this week’s field advanced from initial Group play once: Adam Scott, Chris Kirk, Collin Morikawa, Corey Conners, Jason Day, Mackenzie, Seamus Power, Si Woo Kim, Tommy Fleetwood, Victor Perez, and Will Zalatoris. With event history proving sticky in this format, this list of players presents some potential value to advance again in 2023.
I’m looking broadly at Course Comps this week as a loose reference point. Absence of Strokes Gained data and Stroke Play format create a bit of a mystery in terms of how this course compares to TOUR average, but we know for certain that it is a Pete Dye Course that shares the characteristics of TPC Sawgrass, TPC River Highlands, TPC Louisiana, Stadium Course, and Harbour Town. TPC Scottsdale, TPC San Antonio, and Sea Island Resort also present similar characteristics as non-Pete Dye courses to reference.
Of these comp courses, Sea Island seems to have the most overlap with success at Austin Country Club. Both are short, Bermuda, wind-exposed courses that share Kisner, Scheffler, and Horschel in common as regular contenders.
Looking across all comp courses, the top 10 players in SG: T2G are Sungjae Im, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Russell Henley, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Keegan Bradley, Scottie Scheffler, and Seamus Power.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER
- SG: APP
- Par 4: <400 Yards
- Pete Dye Course History
- SG: T2G (<7,200 Yard Courses)
- SG: P (Bermuda)
- Match Play History / Event History
- Recent Form (SG: TOT, SG: T2G)
This is definitely not the type of week you want to run a model and blindly follow it. The intangible makeup of a good Match Play player is hard to find in a stat model alone. Players who excel on comparable course layouts and have a history of success in the Match Play format. That’s a great place to start narrowing down a player pool before groups release.
I think four stat categories are worth sinking into as far as modeling goes.
Recent form (SG: TOT L36 rounds) stands out as the first place to look. The tiered groups this week will be determined solely by OWGR-ranking, which features a rolling look-back across years.
Looking at a shorter window of recent form should be an easy way to identify value this week. The top 10 players in SG: TOT L36 include Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Jason Day, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland, and Tyrrell Hatton. A more immediate look-back over the last 12 rounds features Justin Suh, Keith Mitchell, and Ben Griffin as potential trending values to look out for.
Approach play is the most important characteristic every week on the PGA TOUR. Its importance usually heightens when we get to a sub-7,200 yard course like Austin Country Club. The top-10 players in SG: APP leading into this week include Tom Hoge, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, and Tyrrell Hatton.
In a similar vein, Birdies or Better Gained is a crucial stat for Match Play. Birdies win holes in this format and a par can often be as detrimental as a bogey. The top 10 in Birdies or Better Gained feature Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler, Rickie Fowler, Taylor Montgomery, Cameron Young, and Will Zalatoris.
Five par-4s measure under 400 yards – a key range for players need to capitalize on in their matches. The top 10 from this scoring range include Xander Schauffele, Denny McCarthy, Rickie Fowler, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Brian Harman, Cameron Young, Aaron Wise, and Tony Finau.
Finally with this being Match Play, I want to put a particular emphasis on putting. Specialists like Kisner, Poulter, Horschel, and Kuchar continue to show repeat strong performances at this event. The top 10 Bermuda putters include Tyrrell Hatton, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Brian Harman, Cam Davis, Seamus Power, Denny McCarthy, Taylor Montgomery, Min Woo Lee, JT Poston, and Matt Kuchar.
Combine those characteristics together, and the top 10 players in this weighted key stat model include Scottie Scheffler, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm, Sungjae Im, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Viktor Hovland.
FINDING VALUE IN EACH TIER
WGC Dell Match Play divides the field into four groups or tiers based on their OWGR ranking:
- 1st Tier: Players ranked 1-16
- 2nd Tier: Players ranked 17-32
- 3rd Tier: Players ranked 33-48
- 4th Tier: Players ranked 49-64
When groups are randomly drawn, each foursome features one player from each tier. For example, no opening group will feature both Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, just as no opening group will feature J.J. Spaun and Nick Taylor.
Even still, there’s always a Group of Death. An elite player is paired in a group with other players who either have great event or Match Play history, or are playing better than their current OWGR ranking might suggest. As a result, it’s usually best to wait until groups draw before placing outright bets.
Looking at the tiered breakouts this week, a sample Group of Death could potentially look like Scheffler/Day/Conners/Fowler or Rahm/Tom Kim/Si Woo Kim/Cam Davis. Using the model system above, I’ve broke out the full list of four Tiers along with OWGR ranking and my model ranking below for reference.
Tier 1 (1-16)
Player to Watch: Tyrrell Hatton
With the usual suspects of Rahm, Rory, and Scheffler sure to be targeted among the top-tier favorites this week, Hatton is likely to be the trendy value bet on the board.
Hatton’s history flies under the radar here, as he’s advanced out of Group Play three times since the move the Austin Country Club in 2016. Hatton trends well coming off a strong Florida Swing (including second place at THE PLAYERS). He should be favored to come out of his group again this year.
Tier 2 (17-32)
Player to Watch: Jason Day
Day catches a slight break here as the last man in Tier 2. He’ll likely be favored ahead of half the group. A two-time winner of the WGC Dell Match Play, his game perfectly suits Match Play. He’s a steady ball striker who can catch fire with the putter. With a current streak of six consecutive top-20 finishes, he is one of the hottest players in the field.
Tier 3 (33-48)
Player to Watch: Si Woo Kim
We all know Si Woo’s reputation on short Pete Dye courses by now. He already picked up wins at TPC Sawgrass and the Stadium Course in his early career. Kim advanced to the group stage once before at Austin CC and should carry some extra momentum into this event this year. He leads the International Team in points earned at the 2022 Presidents Cup and picked up a win at the 2023 Sony Open.
Tier 4 (49-64)
Player to Watch: Rickie Fowler
Fowler stands out clearly among this last tier. Whichever group he lands in surely earns the “Group Of Death” label. Fowler notched three top-15 finishes over his last five starts. His resurgent form has been slow to update in his OWGR rank, meaning he’ll have a tough path when groups are drawn. Nonetheless, he’s a great fit leading into this week.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2023 WGC DELL MATCH PLAY
All 16 First Round groups draw Monday morning, dubbed “Selection Monday.” Until then, we can only speculate which players stack up best to advance out of the first round.
Despite the volatile nature of the event, it’s not a bad idea to consider a bet on favorites like Scottie Scheffler or Jon Rahm. Double-digit odds are appealing in this limited field considering their proven track record. Depending where groups fall, I’ll also have my eye on Tyrrell Hatton, Jason Day, and Si Woo Kim as potential pre-tournament bets.
For DFS purposes, I’ll also be looking to target against groups with weaker players relative to their OWGR rank. Groups that feature Sam Burns, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sepp Straka, and Lucas Herbert are where I’ll look to actively target value players. I expect these to have comparatively less resistance to advance out of for other value players.
Best of luck navigating 2023 WGC Dell Match Play odds!
COMPARE 2023 WGC DELL MATCH PLAY ODDS
Check back Monday for updates after Group Play is announced. Compare WGC Dell Match Play odds across top sportsbooks below.