Sports

Four picks for the WGC-Match Play including 2017 champion and 80/1 European ace

FIRST of all, it is little short of scandalous that most bookmakers are only offering each way odds on the first four in Austin.

Make sure you find one of the few paying the top eight.

Paddy Power fall into that bracket (as do Betfair and Sky Bet), and while their odds may be slightly lower than those offering only four places, it is a trade off worth accepting.

Dustin Johnson won here in 2017

1

Dustin Johnson won here in 2017

Picking the winners from the 16 hotly contested groups is hard enough in such a volatile format as 18 hole match play, so you should get at least some reward for finding players who make the quarter finals.

The four players I’ve put up cannot meet before the last four, which eliminates the risk of them cutting each other’s throats. 

And I’ve also listed their odds on them making the quarter-finals. Putting them together in a Yanke, or a Lucky 15, could provide some added interest – and hopefully, a decent return!

Betting tips

Viktor Hovland, 14-1 outright; 3-1 last eight.

Slight concern over the fact he has played a lot of golf recently – this will be his ninth outing of the year – but at 24 he should be able to play every day of the week without breaking sweat. 

Three wins in the last four months have lifted him to third in the world rankings, and before a blip at the Valspar last week his form figures read 4-2-9, so he really has been red hot recently.

It is hard to see him failing to top a group where he faces Will Zalatoris – who would be dangerous if he could only putt! –  Cameron Tringale, and Sepp Straka.

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are also in this quarter of the draw, but they are seeded to meet in the last 16, with Hovland facing a much easier task against the winner of Niemann-Na-Henley-McNealy quartet.

Dustin Johnson, 18-1 outright; 100-30 last eight.

Yes, the former world No 1 has just slipped out of the top ten of the world rankings for the first time in seven years, which raises a few doubts about his current form.

But he did equal the course record at Sawgrass, with a sizzling 63 in the final round, before a so-so effort at the Valspar. And don’t forget, he won all five matches at the Ryder Cup six months ago.

His five World Golf Championship victories include a win in this event in 2017, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest DJ reserves his best for the big occasions these days.

He really should make short work of a group that also contains Max Homa, Matthew Wolff, and Mackenzie Hughes, and then it is the winner of the DeChambeau-Gooch-Westwood-Bland pod. So no real terrors there, either.

Brian Harman, 80-1 outright; 11-2 last eight.

The gritty left-hander never knows when he is beaten, and is a deadly performer with the putter – just the sort of player you want on your side in match play, as he showed by reaching the last eight a year ago.

His odds reflect the fact that he is in a tough-looking section of the draw, although I expect his hardest battle to come against Bubba Watson, the lowest ranked player in a group that also contains Abraham Ancer and Webb Simpson.

Watson, an impressive winner here in 2018, was showing signs of a return to form before disappointing in his last three outings. You never know what you are likely to get from him at the moment.

Collin Morikawa is seeded to face the winner of the Harman group in  the last 16, but it would be no surprise to see the world No 2 fail to make it to the knockout stages. Sergio Garcia could easily derail him, and take care of Jason Kokrak and Robert MacIntyre too.

Thomas Pieters, 80-1 outright; 13-2 last eight.

The big-hitting Belgian was tipped for great things after a sparkling Ryder Cup debut in 2016, which prompted Rory McIlroy to announce he had found his partner for the next ten years.

But Pieters fell off the planet for a while after that, giving the impression he was not exactly in love with the game, and that he was battling a few demons off the course.

Those troubles seem to be a thing of the past now, and although he has not torn up any trees in three US outings since winning in Abu Dhabi and finishing 12th in Dubai, this all-or-nothing format should bring out the best in him.

Defending champion Billy Horschel has been battling illness recently, while Tom Hoge and Min Woo Lee will not scare Pieters too much.

Then it is on to a probable last 16 meeting with Scottie Scheffler, which could be a real humdinger.

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