2019 WGC Match Play picks, bracket, format: Loaded field set for Austin Country Club
We get our final pre-Masters look at several stars, including Tiger Woods, this week in Austin
The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play rarely lives up to its hype (name me a memorable final), but there are a lot of fun, interesting pre-Masters storylines as we get one final tune-up for Augusta as most golfers will skip the Texas Open next week. We'll take a gander at the brackets and see a refresher of the rules below, along with some narratives I'll be following this week in Austin.
Let's take a look at this week's contest.
What: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play | When: Mar. 27-31
Where: Austin Country Club -- Austin, Texas
Ranking the field (odds)
- Rory McIlroy (9-1): He is the best player on the PGA Tour in 2019 and also a former champ here.
- Dustin Johnson (9-1): The same sentence above could be applied to D.J.
- Justin Thomas (14-1): Made the final four last year and one of just three golfers at two or more strokes gained per round this season.
- Jon Rahm (16-1): My pick to win it this week following two straight strong weeks at Players and Valspar.
- Jason Day (20-1): According to Adam Sarson, Day is 8-3 on this course in his match play history, and according to the Players leaderboard, he's playing pretty solidly right now.
- Ian Poulter (40-1): I need this! Poulter is 4-1 on this course and 28-14 overall at this tournament.
- Bryson DeChambeau (25-1): It's crazy to think that DeChambeau has never played this event.
- Tommy Fleetwood (20-1): Given his recent run, I should like him more than I do.
- Tiger Woods (22-1): It doesn't really seem like he's going to win this week, but I have to do something with his 33-10 record here.
- Justin Rose (20-1): I have to respect the game, but he's just 10-11-1 at this event.
Field strength -- A+: The only top 50 players who aren't teeing it up this week are Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler (who both also missed last year's edition).
Three things to know
1. Playing for Augusta: There are several golfers playing this week to get into the Masters. The top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings on Sunday evening after this tournament is over will join the winner of the Texas Open (if he's not already in) at Augusta. Here's a look at a few of those on the outside looking in (for now).
2. Bubba's defense: The last golfer to win two in a row was (of course) Tiger Woods in 2002-2003. Bubba doesn't sound like he's going in with loads of confidence either.
"But it would be awesome, I would accept it. But we're just looking forward, six months from now and see if we have improved. And if that means throwing in a win here or there, great. But we're just trying to improve and get more consistent so we have chances on Sundays instead of last place."
3. Rory regroups: The Players champ has also won this tournament, although not at this course. I'm curious to see if his Sawgrass victory was the culmination of an elite two-month run or if he's going to keep playing at a nearly three-strokes-gained-per-round pace. My guess is the latter, but we will see.
Rules were changed in recent years that allowed golfers to get at least three rounds in. Group play takes place on Wednesday-Friday, and the top performer in each pool (you play the other three golfers in your group) will advance to Saturday's knockout round. Two match-play rounds are played on Saturday, and two are played on Sunday before a champ is crowned at the end of the week.
Group scoring: 1 point for a win, 0.5 points for a tie and 0 points for a loss. Whichever player in each pool has the most points at the end of three matches advances. If there is a tie (or if multiple players are tied), there will be a sudden death playoff on Friday.
Here's a look at all 16 groups going into Wednesday's festivities.
- Group 1: Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Branden Grace, Chez Reavie
- Group 2: Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, Eddie Pepperell, Emiliano Grillo
- Group 3: Brooks Koepka, Alex Noren, Haotong Li, Tom Lewis
- Group 4: Rory McIlroy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Justin Harding, Luke List
- Group 5: Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley, Matt Wallace, Lucas Bjerregaard
- Group 6: Bryson DeChambeau, Marc Leishman, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Russell Knox
- Group 7: Francesco Molinari, Webb Simpson, Thorbjorn Olesen, Satoshi Kodaira
- Group 8: Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Si Woo Kim
- Group 9: Xander Schauffele, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood
- Group 10: Paul Casey, Cameron Smith, Charles Howell III, Abraham Ancer
- Group 11: Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Kyle Stanley, Ben An
- Group 12: Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk
- Group 13: Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Brandt Snedeker, Aaron Wise
- Group 14: Tony Finau, Ian Poulter, Kevin Kisner, Keith Mitchell
- Group 15: Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel, Kevin Na
- Group 16: Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry, Andrew Putnam
Woods returns to the state of Texas for a PGA Tour event for the first time since 2005 (!) and his first WGC-Match Play showing since 2013. He's the three-time winner here, but he hasn't played this course and hasn't been out of the Round of 32 since he won it in 2008.
- 2018: Bubba Watson
- 2017: Dustin Johnson
- 2016: Jason Day
- 2015: Rory McIlroy
- 2014: Jason Day
WGC Match Play picks
Winner: Jon Rahm -- We do this thing with guys that implode where we think that implosion equates to bad golf. The reality is that Rahm, who has a good history on this course, has finished in the top 12 in nine of his last 10 starts worldwide and should thrive again in the match play environment. After their Ryder Cup matchup last fall, I hope he gets Tiger again with something on the line.
Sleeper: Rafa Cabrera Bello -- He's 8-4-1 on this course and has one of the better match play records overall of anyone in the field. Toss in a T3 at the API and top 20 in Mexico and that 66-1 number looks pretty tasty.
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