It has been a thrilling few weeks of tournament play in North America but this week we take a break, of sorts, for the prestigious WGC Match Play event in Austin, Texas.
Last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational was notable for Rory McIlroy’s brilliant return to form as he claimed his first win since 2016 and as a former champion, the Northern Irishman is highly fancied this week.
Meanwhile, we sneaked one return on Sunday with our Top Ten Tip Marc Leishman claiming a tie for seventh so let’s see if we can improve on that with our WGC Match Play 2018 golf predictions and picks this week.
A brilliant final round of 64 saw McIlroy win on Sunday by three clear shots and he now becomes narrow favorite to make it back-to-back victories. He is +750 with Bovada Sportsbook, whose odds we will quote in this WGC Match Play preview.
McIlroy was the WGC Match Play Champion in 2015 and as a strong Ryder Cup player in this format, he is perhaps a logical choice at the top of the leaderboard.
Based on consistent form however, there may be more interest in Dustin Johnson (+800) who is our defending champion this week. The World Number One is locked with McIlroy with some of the major American online sportsbooks while others have the American just a touch behind.
Among the 64-strong field this week are five previous champions: We have already mentioned the market leaders but then we come to Jason Day, fourth favorite (+1400) with most outlets and a man who has lifted this trophy twice. The most recent of those victories came in 2016 and with recent glimpses of the form that once made him World Number One, we shouldn’t rule the Australian out.
Just ahead of Day is Justin Thomas (+1100) and while we only have 64 golfers here this week, it is one of the strongest tournaments of the year so far. Among the European golfers eager for Match Play form in Ryder Cup year are Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey while the Americans have exactly half of that 64 field and include Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed.
All of those players start with mid-range prices, 18/1 to 33/1, and have the quality to deliver in this format of the game.
The very first winner of this event was the outsider Jeff Maggert and although recent champions have been much shorter, there can be some value in this format. All it needs is for someone to reach the knockout stage and anything can happen.
Among those with longer prices who have good Match Play records are Matt Kuchar (+7000) who won this event in 2013 while the English pair of Tommy Fleetwood (+3300) and Tyrrell Hatton (+4000) will be anxious to underline their Ryder Cup potential.
Moving even further back, Kevin Chappell (+70000) enjoyed a good week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has the form and temperament to cause an upset. Gary Woodland, Branden Grace and Xander Schauffele could also offer some value in the Match Play format.
Our WGC Match Play Golf Preview’s Predictions & Picks with Course Trends
In 20 years of the WGC Match Play, we have seen seven different venues with the Austin Country Club set to play host until 2019. It gives us a short, par 71 venue at a shade over 7,100 yards and there are opportunities to pick up low scores at the Par 5s and some of the shorter Par 4s.
As for the format, players will compete in round robin games and the best 16 golfers will then progress to the weekend for the straight knockout phase.
In the last three years, no-one outside of the top two seeds has won the tournament but there have been some surprise results in the event’s history with Geoff Ogilvy, Steve Stricker and Kevin Sutherland all being seeded 52nd or lower when they claimed their respective victories.
As this is match play there are no opportunities to play safe this weekend with some Top Ten tips so it’s all about picking a winner. Despite some notable absentees this is a tough field and Rory does look as if he could be back to his Major-winning best so, with the Northern Irishman having a good record in this format, he will attract interest.
Meanwhile, we wait for Jordan Spieth to return to form and as he reaches eight months without a win, his odds start to drift. He has some tricky round robin ties including a match with Patrick Reed but a move away from stroke play tournament could suit the reigning Open Champion.
You know that a return to form will come and we are hoping that a relaxed and refreshed Spieth comes through at generous win odds in Texas. So he is our WGC Match Play 2018 betting prediction and pick: