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By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
One More Time For Austin
Admittedly it’s a bittersweet week for me as a PGA Tour fan and Austin, Texas resident as the FINAL playing of the WGC Dell Match Play is here. The tournament had a special place in my heart from the day it landed here in 2016, but due to the lack of agreement between Austin Country club members and the Tour, it’s the end of the run for match play on tour…for now. The match play’s six iterations have been set at ACC on the shores of Lake Austin, and as usual, 64 of the best in the world are gathering and ready to compete head to head and get some much-needed pre-Masters reps in. The world-cup style format has the 64 golfers divided into 16 brackets of 4. One player from each bracket emerges to form the 16 who play in a single elimination tournament on the weekend for the trophy.
At The Valspar last week we nipped at the heels of a W and lived the entire Jordan Spieth betting experience to a tee. Now, SPieth heads to another course he’s had success at, but nothing close to the recent success at Austin Country Club of Scottie Scheffler. It’s another “elephant in the room” week for picking – lean in hard on the Scottie repeat or look elsewhere.
Two Courses In One
Austin Country Club presents a parkland-style course with shades of New England woodland vibes, and a contrast of California hills backdrops on the front nine. Then, as you head down hole 12 arrives the other course where matches are decided – a waterside shotmaker’s track with ample opportunities for birdies and eagles. The yin and yang add to the drama of match play, and it’s often the player that just gives himself the most birdie looks and has that match play mindset in place who will be victorious. Everything gets decided down by the water, and short-game screw-ups get magnified.
A vast majority of the invited top 64 in OWGR are gladly headed to Austin for big-time guaranteed pay and match play shenanigans, with the notable exceptions being Justin Thomas and Justin Rose. Outside of that, match-play bulldogs like Jon Rahm, Rory, and Jordan Spieth are all nipping at the heels of defending champion and world #1 Scottie Scheffler. The former Texas longhorn has the love of the course and greens, love from the hometown fans, and recent success on his side.
Forecasting The Match Play
The elephant in the room is clear this week. Off of a 2nd in 2021 and a win here in 2022, the former Texas Longhorn Scheffler is the prohibitive favorite to be back with the trophy on Sunday evening. In looking outside of value for picks, it will take a currently hot putter that takes to these greens to outduel him – good luck finding that (but we’ll try). Also, I wouldn’t look past a Friday night/Saturday AM re-bet for the degenerates out there once the bracket goes from 64 to 16.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top-10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
At The Valspar Championship, I’ll put my hand up and say that the Sam Burns three-peat prediction was a flop, but there was never a doubt that Jordan Spieth would give us a golf heart attack and he did. One swing short in reality, but we go another week without an outright. The picks overall were a B-.
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Jon Rahm – I have the audacity to pick away from Scheffler this week, only because Rahm is so due to win here. Multiple trips to the final four on Sunday in years past and it feels like a good week for him to pronounce himself again.
2: Max Homa – The tweeting golfer is a good fit for this course, and positioning and putts from 5-10 feet are pivotal in match play, where he’s been automatic of late.
3: Corey Conners – Another ball-striking wizard coming at a good value in the books this week: he’s finished in the final four here twice before.
4: Keegan Bradley – A match-play bruiser that’s up for the challenge and seems to be in decent form this spring.
5: Billy Horschel – I’ll take the 2021 champ on my card, as he has a good bracket draw that should allow him to get to Saturday.
6: Taylor Montgomery – It’s a putter’s course where you’re never out of any hole with a short game like ontgoery’s – the rookie should enjoy success.
RYP One and Done Pick: Jon Rahm
Where to watch: Golf Channel and NBC all week – you can wave to me out on my boat Friday afternoon during TV coverage.
Why to watch: It’s the final iteration of the match play event that has been a top-tier event for two decades on tour, in a fantastic setting. I’m not crying, you are.
What to eat: Welcome to Austin! Obviously, you can’t stay and leave here without a trip for tacos and a trip for BBQ. Fire up the smoker.
Purse: $20 million
Winner’s Share: $3.6 million