March 21, 2022
By Justin Ray, Twenty First Group, PGATOUR.COM
- Dustin Johnson has one of highest "holes won" percentages at Austin CC at the WGC-Dell Match Play. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Officially the month of the bracket, March annually has the world talking seeds, breaking down matchups and making picks more than any other time on the calendar.
Hoops has its madness, but the unpredictability in basketball is pedestrian compared to this week’s World Golf Championships - Dell Technologies Match Play. Each of the last three winners of this championship were seeded outside the top-30. That’s like having three 8-seeds (or lower) in a row cut down the nets after winning it all. If you’re looking at seeding alone, good luck predicting what will happen this week in Austin.
This is the seventh year this championship has been contested under the group play format, where everyone in the 64-man field is guaranteed three round-robin matches before the 16 group winners move on to single elimination. Twenty First Group dove into the numbers behind one of the PGA TOUR’s most unique events.
Significance of Seeding
- If you want to sum up the unpredictable nature of this championship with one statistic, it’s this one: last year, players with the worse seed in a match had a winning record (48-45-18).
- In 2021, half of the players who advanced to the round of 16 came from the “D” group of seeds – players tabbed between 49 and 64. Only one player from the “A” group moved on – third overall seed Jon Rahm.
- That isn’t to say chalk hasn’t had its good years in this event: the top overall seed has won five times, including twice since pool play started (Rory McIlroy in 2015, Dustin Johnson in 2017). In 2016, 12 of the 16 players to advance out of pool play came from either the A or B seed groupings.
- Since pool play began in 2015, the ‘A’ group has just a slight edge in percentage of players to reach the round of 16: 30.2%. The B and D group have sent 24.0%; the C group 21.9%. Truly, anybody who gets into this elite field is capable of having a big week: the last five times this championship has been played, a player seeded 61st or lower has moved on to the round of 16 five times.
- The tournament moved to Austin Country Club in 2016. Since then, the opening hole has been a significant harbinger of match outcome: players who win the first hole either win or tie the match more than 68% of the time. No player has won the opening hole more at Austin CC than Bubba Watson (12 times in 21 matches). He went 4-0-0 when taking the first en route to victory here in 2018.
- Overall, players who lead at the turn at Austin CC go on to win the match 75.5% of the time. That percentage fluctuates wildly depending on the size of the advantage: players 1 up at the turn win 59.2% of the time – 2 up, that rate jumps to 77.1%.
- The short par 4 13th, one of Austin CC’s most memorable holes, isn’t just an entertaining risk-versus-reward decision for the players. It also might be the most important hole on the course when it comes to determining the outcome of a match. Since 2016, the 13th has been won 30.4% of the time, the highest rate of any hole on the golf course. No player has won the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play with a losing record on the 13th hole over the course of that week.
- Walking off the 13th green has proven to be a key point in the match: players with a 1 up advantage through 13 holes have won the match 60.3% of the time, and have either won or halved 84.4% of the time. A player with a 2 up lead going to the 14th tee has gone on to win at a clip of nearly 87%.
- The unique closing hole has proven to give players one final opportunity to make up ground. There have been 139 instances so far at Austin CC where a player has been 1 down in their match going to the 18th tee. In 47 of those instances – 33.8% - the player trailing has won the 18th to tie the match and salvage a valuable half-point.
|Match Win Percentage at Austin CC - At the Turn|
|Won match||Won or tied|
|Match Win Percentage at Austin CC - Player With The Lead|
|Through 6 holes||72.5%|
|Through 9 holes||75.5%|
|Through 13 holes||82.6%|
|Through 16 holes||84.9%|
Players to Watch
- World No. 1 Jon Rahm has won 32% of his career holes played in this event. Among players in the field this week with at least 60 holes played in competition, that’s the highest clip of anyone. Rahm’s 94 holes won since 2017 are tied for second-most of any player in that span, trailing only Matt Kuchar (not in this year’s field).
- This is a week where bettors and fantasy players can find significant value in C and D group players. For example, there are four players in the field this week who have won 30.3% or more of their holes played in this championship since 2018: Bubba Watson (33.0%), Alex Noren (31.1%), Keegan Bradley (30.6%) and Mackenzie Hughes (30.3%). Each of those players is seeded 50th or worse entering the tournament.
- A pair of European Ryder Cup legends in the field this week have seen their match play success carry over into this event. Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia have each qualified for the round of 16 on eight occasions, tied for most all-time (Tiger Woods, Kuchar). Garcia has been especially successful on the 13th hole – his nine wins on that hole are tied for second-most since 2016.
- Poulter is a perfect 9-0-0 in his career at Austin CC when holding the lead at the turn in a match. Two other players in this week’s field are also perfect in five or more opportunities: Kevin Kisner (9-0-0) and Patrick Reed (6-0-0).
- Scottie Scheffler nearly broke through with his first career PGA TOUR title in his college town of Austin last year. He ultimately lost in the championship match to Billy Horschel, 2 and 1. Now a multiple winner on TOUR, Scheffler hopes to continue a trend of players following up runner-up performances with strong weeks at Austin CC: the previous two players in his shoes – Kevin Kisner in 2019 and Matt Kuchar last year – combined to go 12-2-0. Kisner won it all, while Kuchar made it to the semifinals.
|Highest Percentage of Holes Won at Austin CC - Players in Field This Week|
|*Minimum 60 holes played|