WGC-Dell Match Play Best Bets: Back Kuchar To Outlast Spieth in Sweet 16 Battle (Saturday, March 27)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Kuchar celebrates Friday’s victory.
I forgot just how much I loved this Match Play event until Friday, when my head was spinning with calculations, constant action and eventually half of the 16 groups had to decide it with a sudden-death playoff.
Needless to say, It was a remarkable day of golf and that doesn't even begin to tell some of the stories.
Undoubtedly, the biggest moment came on the fourth playoff hole in a match between Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood. The Spaniard had to make two lengthy putts on the second and third holes just to survive, and reach the Par 3 fourth hole. Westwood fired first and put a nice shot about 20 feet above the hole, thus putting a little pressure on the Garcia.
Unfortunately for Westwood, no putts would be needed. Garcia put his shot just inches past the hole before it spun back and went in for a walk-off ace. It was a shot that is unlikely to be topped for some time, and seemed to start the fireworks around the course.
In total, just one — Jon Rahm — of the Top 16 seeds made it to the weekend and he needed two playoff holes to get there. Meanwhile, eight of the fourth-seeded players gave themselves an opportunity to tee it up in Saturday's Sweet 16 matches.
There is no other individual event that creates this type of drama and we still have two more days to go.
The betting markets feature quite an interesting set of numbers, with so many unexpected players making the weekend and creating some solid value. That said, let's take a look and see what stands out.
Matt Kuchar (+115) vs. Jordan Spieth
After no Top 30 finishes since August, Kuchar is somehow the best player at an event featuring one of the finest fields in the world. He absolutely cruised through his group, downing world No. 2 Justin Thomas and defending champion Kevin Kisner. He now takes on the resurgent Spieth, who also went 3-0 in his first-round matches.
I expect this one to turn into a putting contest at times, which for one match isn't a huge advantage to Spieth. Kuchar has been lights out on the greens, and I expect that will continue in this meeting.
The area where I think he will really separate himself is that he will not give many, if any, holes away. We know Spieth can spray it all over at times, which can create a free hole for an opponent in match play.
I think this confrontation is even, so I'll happily grab plus money on Kuchar and don't mind sprinkling a little on his +1800 to win odds via William Hill.
MacKenzie Hughes +2700 To Win Championship (FanDuel)
I will be snatching up Hughes across all markets. It's not that he is some lock to get past Garcia, but the numbers are just plain off for the golf that he has played. He is putting together some of the best golf in the field , and it's not being reflected in the betting markets.
Hughes has 14 birdies and just four bogeys through three matches. The key for him is how well he has been striking the ball, because he's always had an elite short game.
I affectionately call him "Canadian Spieth," because he is that good on and around the greens. And it's weeks like this where his ball striking will combine with that short game to give him a chance to win this championship.
Erik Van Rooyen (+150) vs Jon Rahm (DraftKings)
Similar to my play Thursday on Ryan Palmer, I'm going to take my chances with a good number in an 18-hole match. As this tournament has shown us, anything can happen in these matches, and I just think they are giving a little too much juice to Van Rooyen in this spot.
Van Rooyen came out up against it the last two days, and fired back-to-back under par rounds. He had three birdies and an eagle in his win against Brendon Todd, with just a couple of bogeys on the card. He seems to have found something in his game. Even though he's one that will give a hole or two away, he can just as easily run off a few consecutive birdies.
The South African has been a volatile player in his career, which in a weird way can suit match play when his doubles and worse only cost him a hole.
The other side of the match is the No. 3 player in the world, but he isn't playing to his potential. Rahm gave some holes away himself Friday, with a bogey and double, as well as missing some key putts down the stretch.
He certainly is the favorite here, but I'm willing to take a shot on Van Rooyen at a solid number in a spot where anything can happen.