Golf Preview – WGC Matchplay

This week’s Word Golf Championship in Texas is the second leg of the four-competition format and features an all-star field with only a handful of the top 64-players in the world not taking part.

Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler have all pulled put of the event, citing scheduling issues as all four have their eyes on Augusta next month and they don’t feel this format will help their preparation for The Masters.

Despite those non-starters – the fact the world’s biggest names in Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are in the field, means the event – in it’s second year at the Austin Country Club – will be a fascinating affair.

World number one Johnson arrives in Texas in good mood, and said: “I feel like my game is in very good shape. Starting the beginning of last year, it has felt really solid and it hasn’t really let up any. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the game.

“I feel like I’m controlling my ball very well and I feel I’m starting to drive a little straighter. If I can drive it straight, I’m going to play well every week. I’m going to continue to work hard, continue to try to get better, but I think right now everything is working pretty well.”

The round-robin format sees 16 pools of four players. The winner of each pool progresses to the knockout stage which takes place over the weekend.

The groups are as follows:
Dustin Johnson (1), Jimmy Walker (18), Martin Kaymer (41), Webb Simpson (58)
Rory McIlroy (2), Emiliano Grillo (26), Gary Woodland (33), Soren Kjeldsen (62)
Jason Day (3), Marc Leishman (28), Lee Westwood (43), Pat Perez (56)
Hideki Matsuyama (4), Louis Oosthuizen (23), Ross Fisher (47), Jim Furyk (51)
Jordan Spieth (5), Ryan Moore (32), Yuta Ikeda (37), Hideto Tanihara (54)
Justin Thomas (6), Matthew Fitzpatrick (27), Kevin Na (46), Chris Wood (49)
Sergio Garcia (7), Jon Rahm (21), Kevin Chappell (38), Shane Lowry (53)
Alex Noren (8), Francesco Molinari (25), Bernd Wiesberger (36), Thongchai Jaidee (57)
Patrick Reed (9), Brooks Koepka (20), Kevin Kisner (34), Jason Dufner (59)
Tyrrell Hatton (10), Rafa Cabrera Bello (22), Jeunghun Wang (40), Charles Howell III (61)
Danny Willett (11), Russell Knox (17), Bill Haas (42), K.T. Kim (64)
Paul Casey (12), Charl Schwartzel (24), Byeong-Hun An (45), Joost Luiten (60)
Bubba Watson (13), Thomas Pieters (30), Scott Piercy (39), Jhonattan Vegas (55)
Phil Mickelson (14), J.B. Holmes (31), Daniel Berger (35), Si Woo Kim (63)
Branden Grace (15), Brandt Snedeker (19), William McGirt (48), Andy Sullivan (52)
Matt Kuchar (16), Tommy Fleetwood (29), Zach Johnson (44), Brendan Steele (50)

Early morning practice at the @dellmatchplay. Course in beautiful condition.

A post shared by Rory McIlroy (@rorymcilroy) on

The pro’s point of view…

Our resident golf expert is Cliff Jackson. Cliff is a leading youth coach and PGA professional at the famed Seaton Carew Links – one of the oldest courses in the world.

I’m going for non European here with the Matchplay format – Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey are such competitors and with them I will go with Louis Oosthuizen.

The Bookie says…

We caught up with Ladbrokes’ senior golf trader Peter D’Arcy ahead of the weekend’s action to gauge the markets and ask him about our fancies.

In terms of turnover it’s usually only the majors that take more than this event. The groups and brackets mean punters are able to use more skill in picking their “winners” which encourages them to bet more. Match Play has always been the most exciting form of the game to watch and the fantastic TV coverage leads to increased turnover.

Rory McIlroy goes off favourite as he’s such a great exponent of Match Play. Of the field this year no-one has more wins in the WGC Match Play, whilst DJ only has a 43% winning record in this tournament. A strong performance could see him being favourite going in to the Masters.

We usually see a couple of the outsiders backed and this year it’s 42nd seed Bill Haas who has a fairly easy draw. On the other side of the draw it’s Ross Fisher who we’re seeing money for. The Englishman is in a very tough group though and it’ll be a struggle for him to make it out of the group.

If Gary Woodland can pull off a big shock and get revenge for losing to McIlroy in the 2015 WGC Cadillac Match Play Final by qualifying from his group I can see him doing very well.

TheGamblingTimes says…

Hideki Matsuyama is such a talent and he could have a good week but hard to see past Rory McIroy. Young English duo Matt Fitzpatrick and Ty Hatton could also be worth keeping an eye on.


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