Sobel: WGC-Match Play Insights, Projections for All 96 Round Robin Matches

Sobel: WGC-Match Play Insights, Projections for All 96 Round Robin Matches article feature image
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USA Today Sports. Pictured: Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson

  • The 2019 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event tees off on Wednesday with 32 round robin matches.
  • There will be 96 such matches in total before the event moves to a bracket format, with the winner of each group advancing to the Round of 16.
  • Jason Sobel analyzes each round-robin match and gives out the Action Network's projections.

Not long after I tweeted some results from our Action Network Match Play Projections, there was a predictable response from an “old-school” guy who insisted that analytics couldn’t determine the outcome of golf matches.

I told him that he was right, that the model doesn’t offer any 100% winner guarantees, just like the being a favorite in the betting market doesn’t guarantee a victory.

Upsets, after all, do happen, but they’re called upsets for a reason; they were the least likely of the two outcomes.

Instead, our projections offer the probability of specific results in each instance. Even in the most lopsided circumstance, I told him — and very patiently, at least for the first few minutes — that the underdog is projected to win once every four times they’d play. And yes, that one time could indeed happen this week.

I don’t think the concept is too difficult. In fact, I think it’s really fun for an event like this week’s WGC-Dell Match Play Championship.

So let’s get right to all 96 round-robin matches — six in each group — that will take place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Note: These percentages are meant to simulate the betting market, as any percentage can be converted into a moneyline  (Example: We’d project a player with a 66.7% chance of winning to be a -200 favorite in that specific matchup … -200 simply means you’d have to wager $200 to profit $100.)


GROUP 1

Dustin Johnson (74.2%) vs. Chez Reavie (25.8%)

Nobody is a bigger favorite in any match than DJ is here.

Branden Grace (40.1%) vs. Hideki Matsuyama (59.9%)

If they fuel each other, could be a potential Prez Cup pairing.

Dustin Johnson (71.9%) vs. Branden Grace (28.1%)

According to our model, DJ will be projected to win any match this week.

Chez Reavie (37.3%) vs. Hideki Matsuyama (62.7%)

Would probably be a smaller upset than Reavie’s win over Rahm last year.

Dustin Johnson (63.2%) vs. Hideki Matsuyama (36.8%)

Heavyweight slugfest, though probably without the pre-match trash-talk.

Chez Reavie (47.0%) vs. Branden Grace (53.0%)

Since the event moved to Austin, Grace owns a tidy 4-4-1 record.


GROUP 2

Justin Rose (64.7%) vs. Emiliano Grillo (35.3%)

Rose hasn’t played this event since 2016, when Kuchar knocked him out.

Eddie Pepperell (42.6%) vs. Gary Woodland (57.4%)

Two guys moving up in the world, ranked about as high as they’ve ever been.

Justin Rose (63.9%) vs. Eddie Pepperell (36.1%)

Those 27.8 percentage points might be for Rose’s experience in the format.

Emiliano Grillo (41.6%) vs. Gary Woodland (58.4%)

Two years ago, Woodland won this matchup, then WD’d the next day.

Justin Rose (56.7%) vs. Gary Woodland (43.3%)

Fun match here between the ball-striker and the basher.

Emiliano Grillo (49.0%) vs. Eddie Pepperell (51.0%)

The projections don’t get much closer than this. Should be a fun match to watch.


GROUP 3

Brooks Koepka (67.1%) vs. Tom Lewis (32.9%)

After missing this event due to injury last year, Koepka could be an intimidating foe.

Haotong Li (48.4%) vs. Alex Noren (51.6%)

Tough to explain Noren’s year, which has been stuck in reverse so far.

Brooks Koepka (62.6%) vs. Haotong Li (37.4%)

If Noren continues to struggle, this match could determine who advances.

Tom Lewis (43.5%) vs. Alex Noren (56.5%)

Lewis’ last three results: MC-65-63. This could be a pillow fight.

Brooks Koepka (61.1%) vs. Alex Noren (38.9%)

Two years ago, Noren won this match against Koepka, 3 and 1.

Tom Lewis (45.1%) vs. Haotong Li (54.9%)

Li had a nice little start to the year going before MCs in his last two starts.


GROUP 4

Rory McIlroy (66.7%) vs. Luke List (33.3%)

The projections boldly proclaim that McIlroy owns a 2-to-1 chance here.

Justin Harding (43.3%) vs. Matthew Fitzpatrick (56.7%)

They weren’t at big events, but Harding owns five wins in the past 10 months.

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