Who to back at the WGC Match Play

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Betting expert Keel Timmins has picked out a trio of players to follow at this week's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

WGC Match Play betting: Assessing the groups

The draw has thrown up a few cracking ties and the pick of those appears to come in Group 4, where Ryder Cup duo Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed will face off. Spieth doesn’t have a great record in this event, so he’s worth opposing given that he’ll also have to face the brilliant youngster Haotong Li as well as former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.

Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm have all been given kind groups, so expect them to sail through, but look out for Group 13 which appears to be the toughest of the lot. Alex Noren will be the favourite to advance, but he’ll have to fend off Tony Finau, Thomas Pieters and Kevin Na. I wouldn’t like to pick a winner there.

As is always the case in match play events, the draw will hurt some of the bigger players, but also give some outsiders a chance of progressing. History tells us that it’s worth siding with a big-name player to win outright – the last three winners of this event have either been the number one or two seed – but nearly always a long shot makes it through to the latter stages, throwing up some terrific punting opportunities.

WGC Match Play betting: Keel’s top tips

I didn’t even have to wait for the groups to have been drawn before I settled on my biggest fancy this week, as Jon Rahm looks to be the pick of the market leaders.

The Spaniard’s incredible rise to the top of the game began at the start of last year, but the performance that really stood out to me was his charge to the final here on debut last year.

Rahm sailed through his group, dispatching the likes of Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry, before crushing Charles Howell III, Soren Kjeldsen and Bill Haas. A seemingly unbeatable Johnson, who came into the event off the back of two straight wins, had his work cut out against Rahm in the final, but he was able to narrowly hold on to a 1-up win on the final hole.

A year on from that defeat, Rahm has managed to chalk up another three wins worldwide and I really fancy him to call on his ruthless streak yet again to advance deep into this year’s renewal.

He strikes me as the perfect match play competitor, and it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see him become a thorn in the US Ryder Cup side for many years to come.

And if you needed any more convincing, he shot a 59 a few days ago…

WGC Match Play betting: Keel’s each-way bets

While the recently-changed format of this tournament undoubtedly suits the better player, we have seen big outsiders go close in the last three years.

Last year, Hideto Tanihara gave Dustin Johnson a good run for his money in the semi-finals, the year before Rafa Cabrera-Bello advanced to the same stage, while in 2015 Rory McIlroy had to get the better of Gary Woodland in the final.

With bookies offering four places, we only need to pick a semi-finalist to bag some profit. Indeed, that is easier said than done, especially in this 64-man field.

ross fisher

But the draw has thrown up a few good opportunities. The easiest group appears to be 16, where Matt Kuchar will go up against Zach Johnson, Yuta Ikeda and Ross Fisher.

The latter managed to advance to the quarter finals here last year on his course debut, where he managed to progress from a brutal group of Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen and Jim Furyk. I don’t see Fisher having any problems of getting out of his group this time, either.

Of course, he’ll probably have to face Dustin Johnson in the round of 16, but match play is often a lottery – he could well end up facing Kevin Kisner, Adam Hadwin or Bernd Wiesberger instead. At 100/1, he has big claims at a big price.

I’m expecting Hideki Matsuyama and Tyrrell Hatton to meet in the round of 16, and I’d fancy either to make a run and potentially make the semi-finals. With the two fairly similarly priced, my preference would be to side with the proven class of Matsuyama.

The Japanese made his return to golf last week after a lengthy injury layoff, so that’s a concern, but he looked fine last week and managed to put in a respectable performance in the circumstances. He will have to get the better of Patrick Cantlay in his group, but if he comes through that unscathed, he looks to have a nice route to the semi-final stage at least. 33/1 is an inflated price for a player that really belongs at the very top of the game among the elite.

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