This week the PGA tour heads to Austin, Texas for one of my favorite events to watch all year, the WGC Dell Match Play. The Match Play event has not typically been a contest that lent itself to DFS purposes in the past, and the simultaneous tournament, The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship is a new stop on the tour this year, so there is no course history here. With those things in mind, my fellow DFF DFS Golf writer Matt Jones and I have decided to have a little fun this week. Let’s be honest; most people don’t care about The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. So, focusing on the WGC Dell Match Play event combined with college basketball’s ongoing March Madness we decided to give you our “Final Four” for the tournament and a Cinderella (or two) to watch this week.
A few quick notes, this is a match play tournament, not a stroke play tournament. Although once featuring single elimination matches, it now starts with pool play, with 16 groups of four players playing round robin style matches, Wednesday through Friday (Tourney starts a day earlier than usual too, on Wednesday opposed to the usual Thursday opening). Per ESPN, “The winners of each group advance to a single-elimination bracket on the weekend, with the round of 16 and quarterfinals on Saturday, including live prime-time quarterfinals coverage on network television, and the semi-finals, finals, and consolation match on Sunday, with the finals reaching again into prime-time network television.” With the breakdown in hand, and without further ado let’s dive into our Final Four picks and our cinderella sleepers!
MATT’S FINAL 4 PICKS
Dustin Johnson ($11,800) is the number one overall seed, and I can’t imagine him pulling a Virginia and losing in the first round. His group is pretty weak with Kevin Kisner and Bernd Wiesberger not bringing their A game. Adam Hadwin has played well recently, but I’m not sure he has it in him to take down DJ.
My non-chalky (from a tournament perspective) pick is Tony Finau ($7,900). I’ve said it all over the place, but I think this is the weakest quadrant of the bracket this week. If he gets out of his group, he’ll face off against Jordan Spieth or Patrick Reed, but it doesn’t scare me. Finau has an excellent all-around game and can hang with anybody when he’s on. He’s 7th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, over the past 24 rounds.
Jon Rahm ($10,800) has scored the most DK Points over his past 24 rounds. He’s 1st in Strokes Gained: Total and 2nd in Strokes Gained: Approach in that time frame. Do I need to say much more? His first real test would be Rory McIlroy, but that isn’t until the Elite Eight.
Justin Thomas ($11,400) has a shot to overtake the #1 spot in the OWGR with a win this weekend. While I don’t think that factors in for him too much, I do believe that he’s motivated by showing that he can beat anyone straight-up. Thomas will face a pretty weak Group 15 if he makes it out of his group. Then, he’ll most likely see Sergio Garcia ($8,900) or Paul Casey ($8,800). There’s always the chance that some lower seed gets hot, but I’ll take my chances with the chalk of that quadrant of the bracket.
JOHN’S FINAL 4 PICKS
Dustin Johnson ($11,800): DJ is once again (and rightfully so) the #1 overall seed in the tournament and should have a relatively easy time getting into the final 4 again this year. He shouldn’t have too much trouble in group play, and nobody from group 16 is a very strong threat to unseat him in the following matchup. I see him cruising into the finals after a tough final 4 matchup against my next pick.
Thomas Pieters ($7,600): Pieters emerges from what I’m calling the Group of Death against Alex Noren, Tony Finau, and Kevin Na. After being battle testing the first three days, his matchups on Saturday against whoever emerges from Groups 4 and 12 or 5 should feel like practice rounds.
Paul Casey ($8,800): Casey is 23-13-1 at the Match Play and should emerge from Group 10 easily. Whoever he faces in the next round out of group 7 will pose a challenge. Coming off of his first win in years, Casey is in great recent form and does well at this course. I’m not too worried about any matchups for him from groups 2 or 15 he might face to squeeze into the final 4. I’ll ride him until he runs into the man below.
John Rahm ($10,800): Last year’s runner-up here, Rahm went through most of the field like a buzzsaw in 2017 and should do so again this year. There’s not too much more to say as he’s my pick to win it all in a rematch with DJ.
Dylan Frittelli ($6,900), 41 seed, Group 7
His familiarity with the course/area and potential road to the quarterfinals make him interesting to me. Group 10 doesn’t scare me at all which means you could get at least 5 rounds out of him before his inevitable loss to Justin Thomas. Group 7 is ripe for the picking, and I think whoever makes it out moves on at least one more round.
Patrick Cantlay ($7,400), 30 seed, Group 5
This whole quadrant of the bracket doesn’t scare me at all. The Group 5 and 12 winners, especially, have a clear path to the quarterfinals in my mind. Yes, they may face Jordan Spieth or Patrick Reed once they get there, but I’m looking for the path of least resistance to the Elite Eight. Cantlay is one of the most naturally talented golfers out there and has impressed at every turn in his comeback. People that aren’t as plugged into the golf world or are new to it might not realize just how special Cantlay was on his way up through the amateur ranks.
Shubankhar Sharmar ($7,200), 62 seed, Group 7.
Sharma draws a tough group, facing Sergio Garcia, Xander Schauffele, and Dylan Frittelli. A case can be made for each player to emerge from this group, but Sharma flew under the radar a few weeks ago at the last WGC and will probably do so again this week. Overlook him at your own risk; if he can make it out of his group, his possible future matchups appear favorable for a deep run.
Ian Poulter ($6,800), 58 seed, Group 9.
My biggest reservation here is that he would have to play DJ to get into the final 4, which would be less than ideal. However, Poulter is 23-14 in match play and can’t be counted as an easy out for anyone in the field.
Marc Leishman ($8,600), 11 seed, Group 11.
Can the #11 seed be a Cinderella sleeper? The Aussie draws a group with Bubba Watson and Brandon Grace, and the prize for advancing out of the group stage is a matchup with the winner of group 6, most likely Rory McIlroy. It’ll be tough to beat a suddenly surging McIlroy, but sandwiched between a win last week and the upcoming Masters. Leishman might be able to squeeze past him for a deep run.