Will Zalatoris highlights WGC-Dell Match Play picks on Day 1
5 Min Read
Written by Brady Kannon @lasvegasgolfer
'Tis the season for brackets, and the golf world has been joining the fray with a match play event on TOUR for over 20 years. This will be the sixth edition of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play held at Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas.
Different from a traditional four-day stroke play tournament in which one is competing against the entire field, players will square off head-to-head. A field of the top 64 players has been assembled, seeded, and broken down into 16 groups of four players in each. For the first three days of the tournament, players will compete in a round-robin format, playing a match with each of the competitors in their group. The players with the best records in group play will advance to the weekend for the single-elimination portion of the tournament.
While this makes for a great watch, filled with drama on each and every shot, I personally find it a thrilling championship – but far more difficult to handicap versus a regular stroke-play event.
When handicapping a stroke-play tournament, I am leaning on a player's tendencies – skill set, course form, and current form – to materialize over the course of four days. Here in Austin, the traditional four days are broken up into individual matches, played against a handful of different opponents rather than against an entire field - and that development of the handicap doesn't necessarily reveal itself - maybe in spurts, but not always in full. With all of that being said, if you are getting involved in betting this tournament, I suggest minimizing the risk. While exciting, the results can be very random and difficult to predict - more so in my opinion than a stroke play tournament.
For the most part, in every other tournament on TOUR, we are subject to choosing head-to-head matchups from a list created by the oddsmaker. Here at the Match Play, we are given a menu of the actual matchups taking place, between two players in direct competition with one another. This is Player A trying to beat Player B, playing alongside each other in a known competition. That cannot be said necessarily for a typical head-to-head across a tournament.
Seems like a lot of disclaimers here going in, doesn't it? As I said prior, this is one of my favorite tournaments to watch but a tough one to bet. Nonetheless, let's see if we can find a few winners. Here’s a look at the matches (and players) I have circled in the 2-ball market, meaning match ties end in a push:
First Round (Wednesday) head-to-head Matchups (odds via BetMGM Sportsbook)
(44) Taylor Montgomery (+100) over (21) Shane Lowry
Montgomery is making his first-ever appearance at this event, and that is not always a scenario that leads me to making a play but I have confidence in this young player holding his own this week, primarily due to his short game. Often a good putter can win a match just with that skill alone. Montgomery is No. 1 on TOUR in Putting Average, One Putt Percentage, Putts Per Round, and is second in SG Putting. Over the last 36 rounds, he is 17th in this field for Scrambling.
Lowry is certainly no slouch and has fared well in this event in the past, but his short game numbers so far this season pale in comparison to Montgomery's. I'll bank on the rookie getting off to a hot start. Note that the wind is supposed to blow in the 10-20 MPH range for the first two days in Austin. Lowry is a very skilled wind player but having played at UNLV and all over the Southwest, I feel Montgomery has the experience to negotiate the Texas breezes as well.
(7) Will Zalatoris (-150) over (58) Andrew Putnam
Residing in Dallas, Texas, Zalatoris is familiar with this course and the wind conditions. Putnam has been struggling on TOUR as of late, missing the cut in four of his last five starts. Putnam is an excellent putter and that is an area of concern here, but Zalatoris has been much improved this season with his putting, especially his lag putting. Over the last 36 rounds, Zalatoris ranks 12th in this field for SG: Approach and is 10th for Birdies or Better Gained. I noted that putting can carry a player a long way in this type of event, but birdies are often what win holes. Zalatoris is 9th on TOUR in Birdie Average and Putnam ranks 93rd. Zalatoris is 4-3-1 in match play in his professional career to Putnam's 1-2.
(47) Corey Conners (-150) over (18) Sepp Straka
Conners finished third at this championship last year and seems to flourish on courses of this length, as he ranks 10th in the field for SG: Total over the last 36 rounds played on courses under 7,200 yards. Straka carries a solid short game but has been struggling in getting to the green. He is 159th on TOUR in SG: Off the Tee and 95th in SG: Tee to Green. Conners conversely ranks 23rd and 44th, respectively. Conners' lone win on TOUR came in the state of Texas and he's had excellent success in his career on Pete Dye courses, with a seventh at THE PLAYERS Championship, a fourth at Harbour Town, and a 17th at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
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