Tournament Preview WGC Dell Match Play

2021 WGC Dell Match Play Tournament Preview: Everything You Need To Know Before Group Play Begins at Austin Country Club

Hate it or love it, the world’s best are taking a week off from Stroke Play as we head on over to the second WGC event of the 2021 season: The WGC Dell Match Play! I told myself I was going to take the week off when I looked ahead at the schedule to see the WGC Dell Match Play coming up, however whether it be gambling addiction or #content addiction, I found myself picking up more and more interest as the week went on. So alas, we have ourselves another Tournament Preview: Austin Country Club edition.

As this is not a Stroke Play event, there’s no SG data we can go off of at Austin Country Club, and therefore we’re limited on the amount of data we can pull to project success. The best we can do is look at each player’s Match Play records and comp courses to Austin Country Club, assess the strength of each Group when those are released, and use all that to glean insights as to who will prevail in golf’s version of March Madness.

Like the NCAA tournament, we’ll have ourselves a 64-man field in bracket formats. There are 16 groups of 4 to start, with the top player from each group advancing to the Round of 16, and so on until the last man is left standing. While we don’t have the exact assigned groups ironed out yet at this time, the below information should be a healthy precursor and primer for the week ahead until then.

Austin Country Club Course Specs

  • Yards: 7,128
  • Par: 71 (4x 3’s / 11x 4’s / 3x 5’s)
  • Grass: Bermuda Greens; Bent Fairways
  • Course Architect: Pete Dye
  • Comp Courses: TPC River Highlands, TPC Sawgrass, Harbour Town, The Stadium Course
  • Past Winners: Kevin Kisner (19), Bubba Watson (18), Dustin Johnson (17), Jason Day (16, 14), Rory McIlroy (15)
  • Other Past Winners In The Field: Matt Kuchar (13), Ian Poulter (10)

Austin Country Club is a strategist’s course. Players will need to manage water, winds, uneven lies in sloping fairways, and deep fairway pot bunkers which can at times require lateral pitch outs. It also features one of my favorite risk/reward holes in the 317-yard Par 4 13th, which depending on the wind direction, can either be a very gettable Eagle opportunity or a surefire way to lose a hole if you come up short in the water.

This event has endured plenty of change over the years, but has settled on a more permanent home at Austin Country Club for the last 4 years it’s been contested going back to Jason Day’s win in 2015. The Match Play format has also undergone a much welcomed adjustment to feature round robin matchups within assigned groups in the opening rounds (think World Cup) in order to avoid premature exits from the world’s best, which was a prevalent issue in the old single elimination format. Naturally however, this inverted format is destined to frontload all the action and leave an anti-climactic and painstakingly slow final round. I’m sure the WGC felt incentivized to revise the early round format to keep the best players in the world in contention for as long as possible and avoid instances where, I don’t know, a pairing like Kevin Kisner vs Matt Kuchar is what viewers are stuck watching for the entire final round coverage. At least they tried!

Austin Country Club tends to favor a right-to-left ball flight, as Bubba Watson proved in 2018, so other lefties Brian Harman and Robert MacIntyre get a slight bump for me as potential values. This course is also a stone’s throw from the University of Texas campus, so the Longhorns in the field – Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler, and Dylan Frittelli – may also feel at home here.

Of all the comp courses out there, I’m looking very closely at TPC River Highlands, another sub-7,200 Pete Dye track that Bubba Watson has had success at in particular. The Top 5 SG: TOT at TPC River Highlands over the last 24 rounds all happen to be in this tight WGC Dell Field this week: Paul Casey, Bryson DeChambeau, Kevin Streelman, Brian Harman, Bubba Watson.

Key Stats

  • Pete Dye Course History
  • SG: T2G (<7,200 Yard Courses)
  • SG: P – Bermuda
  • Event History
  • Match Play History
  • Recent Form (SG: TOT, SG: T2G)

As much as I love a good deep dive into SG analytics week-to-week, I won’t be running any models for this 64-man field. For the most part, I’ll be leaning on the good old fashioned eye test to identify the guys who are in good form coming in and have made deep runs at the WGC Match Play in recent years. Since this is another sub-7,200 Pete Dye track on Bermuda greens, I’m looking to rinse and repeat a similar player pool to THE PLAYERS. You can look back at that Tournament Preview for a stroll down memory lane that got us onto the JT winner.

In terms of DFS Strategy, make sure you are diversifying your lineups across Groups to maximize your potential of getting 6/6 through to the Round of 16 and/or Round of 8. If you pick multiple players for your DFS lineup from the same opening group (and so many people do this every year without fail), your lineup is effectively dead from the start. So lineup construction will ultimately come down to evaluating the Groups with the best potential to take down the group favorite in order to identify your values. Looking at the current Top 16 OWGR players, the Groups headlined by Matthew Fitzpatrick, Webb Simpson, and Daniel Berger (if still not 100% healthy), are the ones I’ll be taking a chance on to find DFS value within.

If you’re just looking for pure Match Play mavens, Jason Day, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, and Louis Oosthuizen carry the best career Match Play records in this field between the WGC Dell, Ryder Cup, and Presidents Cup combined.

What To Look Out For at the 2021 WGC Dell Match Play

Kisner becoming a Match Play demon

We are two years removed from the last time the WGC Dell Match Play was contested, with COVID forcing to cancel the event in 2020, and much has changed in the golfing world since Kevin Kisner took down Matt Kuchar for the 2019 title.

For starters, we welcome young guns Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff, Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris, and Joaquin Niemann to the event for the first time. The event will also feel different without Tiger Woods in the field (for obvious reasons), but he leaves behind great memories from the previous WGC Dell Match Play, where he defeated Rory McIlroy in a titanic Round of 16 showdown.

I’m not going to attempt to project pricing and tiers as I normally do for this week, as that will be entirely dependent on how the Group matchups are assigned, and as of this writing, those have not yet been released. I will however be posting a full group-by-group breakdown later this week with my picks to advance from each group, so stay tuned for that!

Group pairings aside, I feel myself leaning towards a bet on Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler, not just for the #TexasNarrative, but because they’re playing some very hot golf right now and have shown birdie stretches that could prove to make them Match Play nightmares.

I also won’t hesitate going back to Abraham Ancer who I loved at THE PLAYERS, as he gets to test his luck on another short Pete Dye track. Based on no data and all feels, I also think this could be a sneaky get right week for Matthew Wolff, whose #21 OWGR ranking may help land him a favorable opening group pairing. His recent woes seem to be due to isolated blow up holes, which can’t kill you in Match Play, and a nagging hand/wrist injury which has now had a full month to heal since we saw him at the Genesis Invitational.

In closing, you better have some skin in the game when it gets to the later rounds, or you’re in for a real snooze fest, so research accordingly!