Welcome back! This week’s WGC Dell Technologies Match Play event is a unique one and new to the DFS world, so I am going to spend a little more time on the background, format, and technique for lineup construction than I normally would. The event has been played since 1999 so it’s nothing new to the professional golf world, but it has gone through a few changes over the last 19 or so years.
For those who are not as familiar with the ins and outs of the various format of golf, what we see on a week-to-week basis on tour is “stroke-play” format – each guy plays 4 rounds and the lowest score wins. Simple. This week however has a very different format – match play. Match play is a head-to-head format where two golfers go up against each other. Each hole will either result in a “hole won”, a “hole lost”, or a “hole halved”. If one guy gets a birdie and the other guy gets a par, the person with the birdie wins the hole. Each match consists of a full 18-hole round, scored on a hole-to-hole basis, and sometimes won’t last the entire 18-holes. Why you ask? If I win 10 holes straight, I’d be 10-up with 9 holes remaining – This means I’ve won the match. That’s as far as I’m going to go into that. BUT, one more thing worth noting is how DFS scoring will change this week. Instead of pars, birdies, eagles, etc. earning points, holes halved, holes won, streaks of holes won, and matches won will earn points. For this reason, you want to select guys who will not only win holes, but win matches, and PLAY the MAXIMUM amount of matches – which brings us to the format of the event, and the most important part of this article.
The Format: As I have already mentioned, the entire tournament will be in match play or “head-to-head” / “hole-by-hole” format. The field consists of the top 64 (available) players in the overall world golf rankings (OWGR). Here’s probably the most important part: The 64-man field will be split into 12 groups or “pods” on Monday night (live on the Golf Channel). These 12 groups of 4-players will feature one of the top-12 ranked players in the field and three others who are randomly selected on Monday. The first three days (Wednesday through Friday) will consist of a “round robin” match play format, where each of the 4 players in each pod plays each other one time. From there, the winner from each pod will advance on to the weekend (16 players total) for more match play based on their seed in the tournament. On Saturday, the “round of 16” and the “round of 8” will take place. Every match from here on is single elimination. At the end of Saturday, winners of the round of 8 will move on to the “Final 4” (semifinals) on Sunday. Sunday will determine the winner and runner up through the finals match, as well as third and fourth place in a consolation match.
DFS Takeaways: From a DFS perspective, this makes things very interesting, and should definitely change the way you think about building lineups in an optimal manner. First of all, the 12 “pods” of 4 players which are selected Monday night will be very important. Your goal will be to choose 6 players that make it to the weekend, and to make it to the weekend, the player must win their pod. You should think about making it as: Making it to the final 16 players = not missing the cut. Everyone who makes the weekend will guarantee themselves at least one more round of golf. Choosing between one to four players that make it to the finals will surely be what separates the good lineups from the better lineups, and will be very important in having success in DFS tournaments.
The Course: This week’s WGC Match Play will be played at Austin Country Club (7,108 yard, Par 71) for the third year in a row. The course isn’t long, but Jason Day and Dustin Johnson have been the past two champions, proving distance is a plus. The course poses plenty of trouble including long rough, high Scotland-like heather/fescue, and pot bunkers. Tee shots will have to be placed in very specific positions if the fairway and the same goes for approach shots. The greens are fast and very hilly. Taking some of this into consideration, it’s clear that having some familiarity with the course will be helpful. Here’s a breakdown of how each player in the field has fared at this event over the past two years:
Studs ($10,000+ DraftKings)
Dustin Johnson ($11,800): DJ is coming off of some rest and has had very good luck here in the past, winning last year and finishing in 5th (final 8) the year before. His game lines up well at the course, he’s familiar with the course having played it competitively the past two years, and he’s been on fire thus far this season. He’s a guy it may be hard to avoid this week.
Jon Rahm ($10,800): If there’s one guy I think I’d take in the place of DJ here, it’s Rahm. As I’ve said before, they have very similar styles of play, and they have both had success here. Last year, Rahm nearly stole this out from under DJ, but came up just short.
Rory McIlroy ($10,000): Rory was on fire in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and if that’s at all a sign of how he’ll play here, you’ll want to have a piece of him. Though he didn’t make it to the weekend here last year, he made it to the final-4 the year before. Another thing worth noting is that some guys are choosing to W/D here having come off a long week in Florida and in preparation for the Masters in a couple weeks. Rory played all out for 4-rounds last week and will be coming off of a day of travel and one single day of rest.
Mid-Range Options ($8,500 – $9,900 DraftKings)
Jason Day ($9,200): Day won here in 2016 and didn’t have quite the same success last year. But, we all know we’ve seen a new Jason Day so far this season. He finished at a modest T22 last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has the history at this tournament that we want to see. He’s a risky option, but is definitely a candidate to take it home. Keep your eye out for a W/D – it wouldn’t surprise me, but one way or another, we should know before the morning of, as it would require traveling from Florida to Texas.
Phil Mickelson ($9,300): Phil won in his last outing and has been in great form all season. He’s personally guaranteed another 7 victories in his PGA Tour career and this is a course he could have some success at if he can keep the ball in the fairway off the tee. He narrowly missed the final-4 last year, knows the course, and remains very motivated.
Paul Casey ($8,800): Paul Casey finally got another PGA Tour win narrowly avoiding a late charge from Tiger just a couple weeks back. He stayed in it all week and ultimately it was his putter that made the difference. If he stays in form I’d put him as a top option to make it to Sunday here. Note, his 2016 outing here ended in a late W/D due to an illness.
* Value Options to Consider: Bubba Watson, Gary Woodland, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Kevin Chappell, Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Na
* Note: Monday night’s selection of pairings for the first three days of the tournament will be very important in selection of players for DFS purposes. Be on the lookout for the Lineup Logic podcast where we will break down the entire event and potential targets in depth.
As always, thanks for reading and good luck this week – tune in to the podcast before lineups lock on Wednesday morning and feel free to reach out on Twitter: @donaldremington // @LineupLogicDFS