WGC Dell Matchplay guide: Overview, tips, TV and more
It’s the second WGC of the season and we have two 50/1 shots to take a flutter on
Matthew Fitzpatrick – who impressed last week – showed his matchplay strengths in winning the 2013 US Amateur Championship. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Course: Austin Country Club, Austin, Texas.
Prize money: €9 million (€1.5 million to the winner).
Length: 7,073 yards. Par: 71. Field: 64.
Format: 16 groups of four play each other over the first three days with the winners advancing to the last 16 on Saturday morning. The quarter-finals are then played on Saturday afternoon with the semi-finals and final on Sunday. That means that the winner could potentially play 126 holes of golf in just five days – and even more if any of his gamnes went to a playoff! That’s a lot of golf.
Defending champion: Jason Day.
Course overview: The second World Golf Championship of the year takes place on the stunning shores of Lake Austin for the second year in a row. At just over 7,000 yards the course is far from one of the longest on the PGA Tour and for that reason, as well as the elevation changes (it sits right in the middle of Texas hill country), deep pot bunkers and use of the lake as a hazard, it provides a perfect setup for risk and reward matchplay. The front nine plays more up in the hills with the inward stretch along the lake where many fans moor their boats to watch the action on the 12th, 13th and 14th holes.
A look at the field: If the matchplay element of this week doesn’t set up for excitement in itself, then the fact that the top three players in the world come in here with serious claims to win just tops it off.
Dustin Johnson tees it up in Austin as the world number one and looking to become the first man to win in three consecutive starts since Rory McIlroy in 2014.
It is McIlroy who is just behind Johnson in the world golf rankings and also comes into the week with strong hopes of victory in what will be his last tournament before the Masters.
McIlroy won the event in 2015 and was beaten in the semi-finals last year by eventual champion Jason Day.
Meanwhile Day himself is looking to pick up his third matchplay trophy in the last four editions after winning last year and previously in 2014.
A total of 61 of the top 64 players in the world will tee it up this week with many skipping next week’s Shell Houston Open to complete final tune ups before the first major of the season. Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Adam Hadwin are the three players opting not to play in the matchplay.
Tips: Rafa Cabrera-Bello looks to be great value at 50/1 after reaching the semi-finals on this course last year. He’s also recorded five top 15s from 10 starts so far this year and showed his matchplay credentials again in the Ryder Cup.
Another 50/1 shot is Matt Fitzpatrick. He was right in with a chance at Bay Hill last week until a closing 76 derailed him.
However, there’s no doubting his talent – his win at last year’s DP World Toyr Championship in Dubai made him the youngest Englishman ever to win three times on tour ahead of a certain Nick Faldo – and he’s serious about setting down a marker in the US, already saying that he plans to buy a house there and play full-time on the PGA Tour.
However, perhaps the main pointer for this weel came back in 2013.
Four years ago Fitzpatrick won the prestigious US Amateur Championship – widely regarded as the biggest amateur title in the game – and in doing so became the first Englishman to win it since 1911.
The key factor is that the latter stages of the US Amateur are matchplay. That experience, as well as last year’s debut at the Ryder Cup, are sure to help him this week.
Weather forecast: Warm throughout the week but thunderstorms are expected on Friday.
Irish in action: Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry.
On TV: Sky Sports 4 from 6pm.