Recent Dell Technologies Match Play Winners
Tiger Woods hasn’t played well, but he wasn’t the story last week. The story was Rory McIlroy absolutely blitzkrieging the back nine on Sunday, storming past Henrik Stenson, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Rose. McIlroy birdied five out his last six holes, finishing 18-under for the tournament, three shots ahead of Bryson DeChambeau. McIlroy hadn’t looked like himself recently, but with that amazing performance, he looks ready to try and become the sixth player in history to have won all four majors. Last season was all about Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas. This year you have guys like McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, and Phil Mickelson all bouncing back from down years in 2017. Two of the next three weeks we will see all of these guys battle it out in different contexts. Bragging rights in the golf world may sway heavily in that time.
From Bay Hill, we move across the Gulf to Austin Country Club, where the best in the world will gather for another WGC event. Unlike virtually every other Tour event, this week the field will be playing in head-to-head match play format rather than traditional stroke play. The 64 players are separated into four pools based on their rank, and one golfer from each pool will be selected into 16 different groups of four players. The groups of four will play round-robin matches on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The 16 winners from each group will then play a single-elimination Match Play tournament with the round of 16 and quarterfinal on Saturday and the semi-finals and finals being played on Sunday. For fantasy purposes I suppose this format is a little more practical, as you’re guaranteed at least three rounds played from each golfer. But man, I miss the pre-2015 version of this tournament where it was a simple 64-man March Madness style knockout event. For actual golf purposes the new format is problematic with some 15 or 20 matches each year proving meaningless, as golfers are playing their third match while already eliminated.
As a WGC event we have a stacked field that would have been made up of the Top 64 golfers in the world. However, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, and Joost Luiten, will not be playing this week. That means our new friend Shubankhar Sharma, along with Charles Howell III, Kevin Na, Luke List,, Keegan Bradley, and Julian Suri will get the call up to the big time. Everyone else that you care about, excluding Tiger Woods will be in Austin for some match play. From the Top 10 in the world rankings, Dustin Johnson will be there to defend, along with Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, and Sergio Garcia.
So let’s talk strategy. Hopefully you did not wait until the groups were released to make your picks. You don’t want to pick players that are all within the same group, since only one golfer makes it out of each group. You want the chance that all six of your golfers will make it into the knockout stage, so picking from six different groups would be in your best interest. DraftKings’ scoring system is based on winning holes, halving holes, and winning matches, losing holes and matches will negatively affect score. So if you’re picking golfers that are playing against each other and they’re each making birdies on the same hole, there is no birdie bonus, they would simply be halving holes against each other.
The Dell Technologies Match Play will be held at Austin Country Club in the capital city of Texas. I will focus less on the course and more on what it takes to win match play l, but if you want some sort of course knowledge of who may do well here, consider it’s a Pete Dye Course. There are multiple Pete Dye courses played on Tour, such as annual stops at Harbourtown (RBC Heritage) and TPC Sawgrass (Players Championship). Pete Dye courses reward great shot-making off the tee, (strokes gained: off-the-tee), and have brilliantly complex greens that require precise touch on and around them. (scrambling/strokes gained: around the green)
What I will focus on more are the traits that it takes to win match play events. An aggressive mentality, the ability to execute, and a relative amount of steadiness, are what I’m looking for. I know it’s tough to quantify those abilities, but if you’ve been a golf fan for the last few years, you can get an idea of who has that incredibly type of competitiveness.
Blow up holes will be not be as damaging as they are in stroke play events, a triple bogey is just as bad as a par if an opponent makes a birdie on that hole We’re looking for BIRDIES. I may be stating the obvious, but I’m looking for golfers who can make a lot of birdies (birdies per round) in a short amount of time. If one f your picks make four or five bogeys, you can make up for it by just reeling off six birdies on the back nine. Some players have that ability to get hot, while others rely on steadiness to get by in stroke play events. I don’t want any part of that. Give me a guy who can shoot 69 with four birdies and five bogeys. As opposed to the four and one guy.
I know it’s protocol to look at recent form for all of our fantasy golf selections, but beyond recent form, take a deeper look at the guys your considering. Do they have the ability to turn a one-over front nine into a three-under round? Do they thrive under pressure? Do they crumble near the end of 36 or 72 holes, or do they step it up and find a way to make the cut, or do they bogey the hole when they need a birdie to make it to the weekend? What about on Sundays? I’m not just talking victories here. For example, if your guy started in 32nd on Sunday, does he find a way to back door a Top 10 finish? Or does he fall to 57th? These are the kind of grind it out types I like in my golfers for a match play event.
Of course in a match play event, we’re looking for players who have success in match play itself. I wouldn’t necessarily fade a player that is 11-14 in their career in match play, make sure you look at all of the other contributing factors such as recent form, and recent match play history. Maybe they began their career 2-9 in match play, and have been improving as their career has worn on. But there are some players who just seem to love match play and step their games up when playing head to-head golf.
Birdies per round
Strokes gained: off-the-tee
Strokes gained: around the green
Match Play Record