WGC-Dell Match Play: Best Bets Entering Day 2, Including Jason Kokrak as a Longshot
Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Jason Kokrak.
Match Play is always a refreshing change in the schedule and it never fails to disappoint. The first day of group matches at Austin Country Club saw just six of the top 16 seeds walk away with a win and four more escape with a half-point. Top players like Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy walked off the course defeated by the lowest-ranked players in their groups, and will find themselves in must-win matches on Thursday. Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm escaped with wins, but they both had to earn it on the 18th hole.
It’s always amazing how this change in format can level the playing field and put players in poor form like Matt Kuchar in a spot to dominate the No. 2 player in the world and recent PLAYERS champion. Luckily, we get two more days of this before anyone is sent home, which will provide us with ample drama before the weekend.
There is no strokes gained data this week for the WGC Dell Match Play, so we will just focus on my best bets going into each day. I have run through the cards to give a breakdown of the top players and their birdies or better made on the day to provide some baseline of how they played.
Matthew Wolff +150 to Win Group 15 (DraftKings)
There has been a lot of unknown around what is going on with Matthew Wolff lately, as twice this year he has shown up with awful opening rounds and promptly withdrawn. He did so most recently at the WGC Workday, then also elected to skip The PLAYERS. It’s been cited as a wrist injury, which is always a big concern in golf.
Wednesday’s match with Corey Conners seemed like it was headed for another poor day for Wolff as he was down two through 11 holes before he seemed to find his game. Wolff won five of the final six holes they played, making birdie on four holes during that stretch. He now heads into a match with Jordan Spieth — who beat Matthew Fitzpatrick on Day 1 — in what seems like a match to decide the group.
I’m going into this match with the mindset that the winner moves on and will take a little better odds on Wolff to win the group, rather than just the match over Spieth. I like his potential to carry the positive momentum from the final few holes on Wednesday and to carry that into Thursday. I am intrigued by the +4000 available for Wolff to win on DraftKings, but I am a bit hesitant with the wrist issue and all of the golf required to win this WGC.
Will Zalatoris +112 over Tony Finau (DraftKings)
One of the best matches of the day came from Will Zalatoris and Jason Kokrak, both of whom would shoot under par on the day from a stroke perspective. Kokrak would come away with the point on the final hole, as he simply made a couple more putts than the youngster.
Zalatoris still played a great round, and showed why so many are bullish on his upside. The same can’t be said for Tony Finau who didn’t win a single hole in his match with Dylan Frittelli and was closed out 6&5. Finau had just one birdie on his round and got off to an ugly start with a double on the first. I didn’t see a ton of him Wednesday, but he just seemed disinterested and it’s hard to see it turning around Thursday. I’ll happily grab the plus money on Zalatoris, who is playing better right now and seems to be dialed in for this event.
Jason Kokrak to Win +4500 (William Hill)
Let’s have a little fun with this last one. I already mentioned the impressive match between Kokrak and Zalatoris above, and Kokrak came away a big winner in that matchup. If we dare to look ahead, the player who comes out of this group has to like their chances to make a run this weekend. Kokrak and Frittelli may decide the group Thursday, and I lean with the guy that had to get it done with the grind on Day 1.
Kokrak made huge putts down the stretch to win three of the final four holes against Zalatoris and steal the full point. He would make seven total birdies on the day — which is always a key to match play — and the most impressive part is how he has done it with his putting. He was ranked 151st on TOUR in putting last season, and now nearly through the same amount of rounds he ranks eighth. Kokrak is also long off the tee and a great ball striker, all of which makes for a lethal combination, especially in match play.
The added bonus for this group is looking around at what’s next in regards to taking either Kokrak or Frittelli (+6600) to win the group and tournament at this stage. Their Group 12 will match up with Group 5 next round, which was expected to be led by DeChambeau before his upset to Antoine Rozner Wednesday. They would then get the winner of the Group 4 vs. Group 13 matchup led by Billy Horschel and Abraham Ancer, respectively, through one day.
That is certainly a path that can be navigated deep into the weekend by either player at long odds. Kokrak is that guy for me and will certainly need to win his match Thursday. But if he does, the +4500 at William Hill for him to win this event will likely be long gone.