WGC-DELL TECHNOLOGIES MATCH PLAY
Winner's Share: $1.7M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the Winner
Location: Austin, Texas
Course: Austin Country Club
2017 champion: Dustin Johnson
The PGA Tour barely rests. From the beginning of January with the Tournament of Champions until the end of September with the Tour Championship, there is a golf tournament every single week, sometimes two. But in daily fantasy golf, there was always one week -- one single week during that nine-month stretch -- when you couldn't play the biggest names in golf. Not any longer. For the first time, DraftKings will provide games for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. Besides the immediate excitement on social media, gamers were positively gleeful in anticipation of potential Ryder Cup contests on DK this fall. That development is for another day, though..
For now, we're focusing on the 64-man tournament beginning Wednesday, and with it, all the new scoring rules that DK has implemented. Since it's brand new, let's get to the basics: players still pick six golfers with a $50,000 salary cap, but "unlike regular stroke-play golf, scoring will be based on holes won, halved and lost," the DraftKings website says.
Here's how the scoring will shake out: three points for a hole won, three-quarters of a point for a hole halved and minus three-quarters of a point for a hole lost. So, just as in DFS stroke play, winning a hole is far more beneficial than losing a hole is penal. Further, golfers will get 1.6 points for holes not played (if they win their match early), five points for winning a match and two points for halving a match. Lastly, a streak of three consecutive winning holes nets five points, and not losing a hole in the entire match lands a hefty 7.5-point bonus. That's the crux of it.
Okay, now we move on to lineup strategy and construction. There will be 16 groups of four golfers playing a round-robin format in the first round. The winner of each group advances to single-elimination match play. So, you could take more than one guy in a group to better the chances of having someone advance, but it seems far more prudent to pick six guys from six different groups, hoping all of them will advance, however unlikely it is that you'll nail a full six-pack. Taking the planning a step further, consider taking three guys in each half of the draw, further increasing the chance to make it deep into the tournament. Filling out the bottom of your lineup, look for weak four-man groups and get your long shots there. All in all, the strategy is fascinating, and we'll likely learn things this week that couldn't have been foreseen, knowledge we'll be able take with us to next season's tournament.
As for the field, 59 of the top 64 in the OWGR are entered, and the five who aren't are all bold-face names: No. 5-ranked Justin Rose, No. 8 Rickie Fowler, No. 9 Brooks Koepka (still injured), No. 14 Henrik Stenson and No. 59 Adam Scott. In their stead, the less-stellar quintet of Kevin Na, Charles Howell III, Keegan Bradley, Luke List and Julian Suri join the fray. Four past champions are on hand: defending champ Dustin Johnson, 2014 and '16 winner Jason Day and 2015 champ Rory McIlroy, plus 2010 winner and European Ryder Cup stalwart Ian Poulter. Fourteen golfers in the field are making their WGC-Match Play debuts, and there are always some surprises, as we'll detail in the Champion's Profile below.
For the third straight year, the tournament takes place at Austin Country Club. But we will be looking at more than just the last two tournaments. There isn't a lot of match-play history going around, but it's a completely different animal from stroke play, and info can be gleaned even from entirely different courses. The Pete Dye-developed ACC features distinct nines -- the front is much hillier on high ground, which is more traditional for Texas, while the back is referred to as the "lowlands nine" along Lake Austin. The track features vast elevation changes and deep pot bunkers. The signature hole is the 12th, a downhill 578-yarder leading to a smallish, water-protected green. Then comes the risk/reward par-4, 317-yard 13th in which golfers could go for the green -- if they decide to challenge a small lake. Talk about Liquid Courage.
Weather-wise, temperatures are looking warm with an increasing chance of rain as the week progresses. The forecast calls for double-digit mph wind all five days, typical of courses in Texas and the Southwest.
Remember, the tournament begins on Wednesday, so don't get locked out.
Key Stats to Winning at Austin Country Club
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Other golfers in 4-man groupings
• Greens in regulation, especially from 200+ yards/strokes gained: approach
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
2017 - Dustin Johnson
2016 - Jason Day
2015 - Rory McIlroy
2014 - Jason Day
2013 - Matt Kuchar
2012 - Hunter Mahan
2011 - Luke Donald
2010 - Ian Poulter
2009 - Geoff Ogilvy
2008 - Tiger Woods
There certainly has been a lot of chalk or near-chalk among the winners over the past decade, but some big long shots tend to make it pretty deep into the week, too. Over the past three years, a bunch of golfers seeded in the 40s, 50s or even 60s have reached at least the quarterfinals: John Senden, Danny Willett and Tommy Fleetwood three years ago; Chris Kirk and Ryan Moore two years ago; and Hideto Tanihara and Soren Kjeldsen last year. Willett and Tanihara were semifinalists. Such is the capricious nature of match play, in which a golfer needs to beat only one guy at a time, as opposed to around 150 in a stroke-play event. A great putter has a puncher's chance every match. And with the two finalists needing to play seven matches over five days, including two matches on both Saturday and Sunday, fitness surely plays a part in success or failure.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
No. 1 seed Dustin Johnson - $11,800 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 8-1)
Not only is Johnson the defending champion and the top seed by virtue of being atop the world rankings, he got as easy a draw as possible. He drew the lowest possible seed from the second grouping, No. 32 Kevin Kisner, plus No. 38 Adam Hadwin, a great putter not to be overlooked, and No. 52 Bernd Wiesberger, a so-so putter who can be overlooked. If Johnson advances out of round-robin play, he then would face the winner of No. 16 Matt Kuchar's group, one of the weaker foursomes in the tournament. Further, No. 2 seed Justin Thomas, No. 3 Jon Rahm and No. 6 Rory McIlroy are all on the other side of the brackets.
No. 3 Jon Rahm - $10,800 (12-1)
We're going to skip Thomas and his potentially tough round-robin group and go with Rahm, last year's runner-up. With No. 28 Kiradech Aphibarnrat, No. 43 Chez Reavie and No. 62 Keegan Bradley, Rahm should cruise into single-elimination play in the round-of-16.
No. 6 Rory McIlroy - $10,000 (7-1)
The 2015 champion is coming off his first win in a year and a half last week at Bay Hill -- that's why he is the oddsmakers' favorite. McIlroy does draw a bulldog in No. 18 seed Brian Harman, but should handle the other two golfers in his round-robin group, No. 44 Jhonattan Vegas and No. 51 Peter Uihlein, with ease. The only downside to picking both Rahm and McIlroy is that they are in the same part of the draw and could face each other in the quarterfinals. But the winner of that potential match would have a great path to the finals.
Tier 2 Values
No. 10 Paul Casey - $8,800 (20-1)
Higher-priced golfers No. 8 Jason Day, No. 9 Tommy Fleetwood and No. 14 Phil Mickelson all face tough round-robin challenges, so we're dipping down to Casey. A winner two weeks ago at the Valspar, the Englishman has been stellar through the years in match play with a 23-13-1 record. His group mates -- No. 31 Matthew Fitzpatrick, No. 45 Kyle Stanley and No. 51 Russell Henley -- don't exactly strike fear into others in the field.
No. 13 Alex Noren - $8,700 (40-1)
The Swede is grouped with No. 29 Tony Finau, No. 39 Thomas Pieters and No. 61 Kevin Na -- not the strongest of match-play adversaries. Noren has been playing great on the PGA Tour the past month or so, and he was a quarterfinalist here last year before falling to eventual champion Johnson.
No. 25 Louis Oosthuizen - $8,000 (60-1)
Despite the South African's stellar history in this tournament -- two quarterfinals and a runner-up from 2014-16 -- this is a bit of a gamble. But with a relatively low price for someone with such a track record, it's worth it. It's a gamble because Oosthuizen must overcome two-time champion Day. No. 42 Jason Dufner and No. 56 James Hahn round out the group, but whoever wins the Day-Oosthuizen match should be the one to advance. The winner would go up against the winner of the weak Hideki Matsuyama group. Oosthuizen beat Johnson in the quarterfinals two years ago.
Tier 3 Values
No. 19 Patrick Reed - $7,700 (30-1)
The most-anticipated match of round-robin play will be Reed vs. No. 4 Jordan Spieth. Reed has thrived in Ryder Cup play -- often while paired with Spieth -- but playing for country adds an element of desire not there in individual match play. Still, Reed is tenacious and, unlike Spieth, has been playing well. The winner of the group -- which also includes No. 34 Haotong Li and No. 49 Charl Schwartzel -- should be the Reed-Spieth survivor.
No. 20 Xander Schauffele - $7,400 (60-1)
The first-time match-play entrant got a favorable draw, winding up with No. 7 seed and potentially sleep-deprived Sergio Garcia, who just last week became a first-time father. Neither No. 41 Dylan Frittelli nor No. 62 Shubankhar Sharma should be overlooked in this section of the bracket, but if Schauffele plays to his capabilities, he should advance.
No. 60 Luke List - $7,300 (80-1)
List is just outside the top-64 in the OWGR, and he needed others to skip the tournament to get in. He's grouped with world No. 2 Thomas, plus two superior putters in No. 21 Francesco Molinari and No. 48 Patton Kizzire. List added yet another strong result to his 2018 resume on Sunday with a T7 at Bay Hill, and no doubt will want to reverse things against Thomas, who won a playoff between the two at the Honda. List is a gamble, for sure, but this is a another good spot to take one.
No. 46 Cameron Smith - $6,900 (100-1)
At a long-shot price and often armed with a dynamic putter, the young Aussie has a decent chance to emerge from the Matsuyama section. The Japanese star could still be rusty after returning from an injury just last week, and No. 53 seed Yusaku Miyazato might be a bit overmatched. The fourth golfer, No. 30 Patrick Cantlay, surely is formidable, but we think Smith's putting could be the difference.
No. 54 Zach Johnson - $6,700 (80-1)
At this price, we might've backed Johnson no matter his draw. But he landed in perhaps the cushiest round-robin quartet, opposite Kuchar, No. 27 Ross Fisher and No. 47 Yuta Ikeda. The tenacious Johnson has a world of match-play experience, playing in this tournament every year since 2005, along with years of Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup play. Johnson reached the round-of-16 the past two years, losing last year to eventual winner Dustin Johnson.
No. 55 Alexander Levy - $6,500 (125-1)
We can't say we're overly enamored with Levy, a Californian by birth who now plays on the European Tour and calls France -- where both his parents are from -- his home. But being one of four golfers with the lowest price on the DK board, and in far from the toughest of groups, Levy is a great place to make a reach pick. Sure, if No. 12 Tyrrell Hatton's putter gets hot, it could be an early exit for Levy, No. 22 Charley Hoffman and No. 36 Brendan Steele. But if not, Levy has current form on his side. He already has three top-10s in 2018, including in strong fields in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.