WGC-Dell Match Play: Finding Value in the Final Four
Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Golf’s version of March Madness is down to its final four, and after the vast majority of the game’s top players were knocked out in group play, the bracket pretty much held to form on Saturday in the round of 16 and the quarterfinals.
Justin Thomas (pictured above), Bubba Watson, Alex Noren and Kevin Kisner will tee off Sunday needing two wins for the championship. Thomas remains the favorite and saw his number drop from +400 to +165 on Bovada. He will match up with Watson in the semifinals. Watson is down to +300 after maneuvering through his portion of the bracket.
Kisner and Noren will meet in the other semifinal. Noren is available at +250, and Kisner is listed at +350.
Bookmakers are expecting a Thomas/Noren finals matchup. Thomas opened at -175 to knock off Watson, who is available at +135. Meanwhile, Noren is -165 to win over Kisner, who is the underdog at +125.
Overall, it’s not really a huge surprise for Thomas, Noren and Watson to be in this spot. Thomas has been the hottest player in the world for over a year now, and if he wins his semifinal match, he’ll jump past Dustin Johnson as the No. 1 player in the world rankings. Watson and Noren have both been strong early in 2018 as well. Watson won a few weeks ago at the Genesis Open, while Noren has been in contention multiple times over the past couple of months.
Kisner, who has struggled for much of the season, is the only real surprise of the bunch. He had missed three of the last four cuts and hasn’t had a top-10 finish in 2018.
We tabbed Watson at +900 on Friday because he had a relatively easy draw into the semifinals. His path to a tournament victory is more challenging, however. Thomas stands in the way, and if you’re jumping in at this stage, Thomas is really the only guy I could recommend. His form is just too good to overlook at any plus number. Watson will be tough, and a matchup with Noren or Kisner would be a grind, but Thomas is just a notch above right now.
The losers of the semifinals will compete in a third-place match. This is a spot where I like to target the underdogs. The lower-ranked player has won the third-place match in five of the past six years, including Rafa Cabrera-Bello over Rory McIlroy two years ago.
I think this is due to the motivation level. The lower-ranked players need the FedEx Cup points or World Ranking points just a little more. So they are more likely to bounce back from the disappointment of the semifinal loss.
This year, I’d target the Noren/Kisner loser over the Thomas/Watson loser. Thomas and Watson really don’t have much to gain in the match. They’re both recent winners on tour and have major championships on their resume. It’s just hard to see them finding that same intensity for a third-place match. Noren and Kisner, meanwhile, are trying to establish themselves among the elite players on the PGA Tour, and even if they lose, I think they’d be ready for a chance to knock off Thomas or Watson.
There is a very small window, usually 15-30 minutes, once the semifinals are over to place this bet. So you’ll need to play close attention.
Top Photo Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports
Odds via Bovada on March 24