PGA Tour Picks: WGC-Match Play Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
Rory McIlroy can be a little whiny you know what at times, as he complained about galleries at least week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, but the dude's got game as evidenced by his brilliant final-round 64 at Bay Hill to win his first tournament since, somewhat ironically, the Tour Championship on Sept. 25, 2016. That was the day Palmer died. More irony? Palmer and McIlroy's wife, Erica, shared a birthday - Sept. 10.
Starting the final round two shots back of Henrik Stenson, McIlroy made the turn in 33 and grabbed a share of the lead on the 11th hole. He started a run of four straight birdies on 13, and that was that. He had not played very well in the USA this year, including missing a cut the previous week in the Tampa Bay area. It was McIlroy's 14th career PGA Tour win overall. Last season was the first since 2008 that McIlroy had failed to win on any tour, but he was going through quite a bit, including a rib injury, change of equipment and a caddie as well as getting married (I blame the wife).
Needing birdies on the last two holes to tie, Bryson DeChambeau just missed one at 17 and then bogeyed 18 to finish three back. Stenson took a one-shot lead into Sunday but struggled to a 71 and fourth. Tiger Woods brought out huge crowds all week and briefly got to within a shot of the lead Sunday but shot 69 and finished T5 - his third straight T12 on Tour. Barring something unforeseen, he won't play again until Augusta. I took a shot on Tyrell Hatton at +3000 last week, and he disappointed with a T69. Not too much else right, so let's move on.
It's the March Madness style of golf this week in Austin - which if you have been following the news needs some good karma right now - for the WGC-Match Play at Austin Country Club, which is a par 71 measuring 7,108 yards. This event has been staged since 1999 and has shifted locations and dates a few times but appears locked into this spot and location at least through next year. It has been held there since 2016.
It's a pretty simple setup in that the 64-man field is seeded via world rankings (so Tiger isn't eligible even if he wanted to play). There are 16 pods split into the four segments of the bracket (like the NCAA Tournament regions). The top 16 in the rankings each anchor one pod. Then there's a blind draw to put one player in each pod from Nos. 17-32, Nos. 33-48 and No. 49-64. Now, every member of Top 64 rarely plays because of injury or they simply don't want to potentially play seven rounds over five days - it's round-robin play inside each pod Wednesday-Friday, then each winner moves on to single elimination with the Round of 16 and quarterfinals on Saturday and the semis and finals (and third-place match) on Sunday. Five big names are skipping for choice or injury: Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott. Julian Suri had been the first alternate (ranked 70th at the cutoff point last week) but got in Monday morning when Joost Luiten withdrew because of a wrist injury.
The defending champion is world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who beat Jon Rahm 1 up in the final to become the first player to win all four current WGC events (Bridgestone, Mexico and HSBC Champions) in his career. DJ amazingly never trailed in 112 holes in winning his third straight tournament at the time. He was taken to the 18th hole in the semifinal before making an 8-foot putt to beat Hideto Tanihara, Luke Donald in 2011 was the only other player to never trail in the Match Play, but back then was full single elimination with six matches. Johnson won seven.
Golf Odds: WGC-Match Play Favorites
McIlroy is the +750 favorite at Bovada . He won this tournament in 2015 over Gary Woodland in the final but that was when it was played in San Francisco. McIlroy has a career record of 23-9-2 in the Match Play. Johnson is +850 to join Tiger as the only player to repeat in this tournament. DJ has 12-3-0 record here the past three years, although obviously inflated by his 7-0 in 2017.
Justin Thomas is +1100, Jason Day and Rahm each +1200. Day, Tiger and Geoff Ogilvy are the only players to win this twice, with Day doing so in 2014 in Arizona and two years later in Austin. Rahm had that strong run last year and also won two matches in the 2014 U.S. Amateur and reached the quarterfinals in 2015. Thomas just won the Honda Classic a few weeks ago.
Golf Odds: WGC-Match Play Picks
The only props up as of this writing are winners of individual groups. Johnson is even money in his group against Adam Hadwin (+330), Kevin Kisner (+375) and Bernd Wiesberger (+450). Jordan Spieth is favored at +135 in a tough group with Patrick Reed (+185), Charl Schwartzel (+400) and Haotong Li (+600), who makes his debut. I like Schwartzel's price there.
But I'm going with another South African to win the tournament at a great price of +5000, and that's Louis Oosthuizen. I wish he wasn't in a group with Day (+105) with Louis at +225 there (also Jason Dufner and James Hahn). But Oosthuizen is 15-4-0 in this event since 2014, losing the finals to Day in 2016, and he also usually plays well in the Presidents Cup.
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