Bracket life can't stop won't stop. It's the PGA Tour's turn as we head to Austin for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Match play is such a treat. As it relates to top level men's golf, we really only see it twice a year - here and at the Ryder/President's Cup in the late fall. It's a shame because it's the most exciting way to watch and play golf. Every single hole is a game within a game. Momentum can turn on a dime. Players take risks they otherwise might not simply because the downside is finite - simply losing one hole. One of my favorite things about match play is watching the world's best scramble in ways they never would attempt in stroke play. Here's an entire collection of examples:
It's a shame that match play tournaments don't work so well for sponsors - with no guarantee of 18 holes played and little drama outside the two players in the championship match, it's not cut out to fill TV blocks. So we gotta enjoy it while we get it.
For a long time this tournament was a 64 man tournament, single elimination bracket. Simple as that. Definitely exciting from the jump, but would whittle the field down to a small field of golfers pretty damn quick.
Starting in 2016, they moved to a round-robin format with 4 golfers broken out into 16 pods. The difference is 96 total matches versus 63 under the old format, so that's a major plus. They've tweaked some of the round-robin rules over the years, but the way it works is this: Round robin matches within each pod Wednesday/Thursday/Friday. Win gets you 1 point, Tie gets a half point, and losing gets you zippy. A tie in the standings of a pod after Friday results in sudden death holes late Friday afternoon - which is fuckin SWEET. You might get a half dozen sudden death matches going around closing time on Friday.
From there it's a simple knockout phase. Round of 16 and quarterfinals Saturday (so yes, guys can be playing up to 36 holes or more), and then semifinals and championship Sunday. So there's potential for a few of these guys to be playing a TON of golf by the time this is all said and done.
The pods were organized by the following: Top 16 golfers in the world are the "A" seed in the pod. Then golfers 17-32, 33-48, and 49-64 are placed into B, C, and D buckets. Then each pod draws a B, C, and D at random to form the pod. So it's not like the 1 and the 64 seed are in the same pod. So it is random and it is fantastic.
You can find and print out your bracket here.
This event wasn't played in 2020 due to COVID. So ya boy Kevin Kisner is still the reigning champion after beating Matt Kuchar 3&2 in the 2019 final. Here is your full knockout stage bracket and your recent winners.
Austin Country Club is friggin sweet. Every year I'm captivated by it. I almost wish they would rotate between two different courses for the Match Play every year, and have a stroke play event at the opposite place. Maybe flip with the WGC-St Jude in Memphis and do match play there every other year? That way we can experience ACC's tremendous finishing holes in stroke play format. Idk. Just a thought.
Anyway, Austin Country Club is a par 71 course measuring 7,108 yards designed by… you guessed it. Pete Dye. His courses are typically 2nd shot golf courses and this one is no different. That's where a player fitting Kevin Kisner's profile thrives. These greens are bermuda and typically rock hard and fast, so putting will be as key here as ever. Especially when it comes to the pressure-packed nature of match play golf. Whoops, found myself talking about Kiz again. Another area where this course is very firm is actually the fairways. I'm not sure if there's a course on Tour all year where I watch balls roll out as much as I do at this course. Lot of steep declines too where you can run balls through fairways and into rock-lined hazard areas. In very typical fashion, this Dye design finishes with a par 5 16th, a short but challenging (depending on pin position) par 3 17th, and a short par 4 where a few may even have crack at driving the green. Wild way to finish a match.
Best Hole - 13th hole, par 4 317 yards
(drone footage brought to you by snipping tool and google 3D maps)
This is an AWESOME hole, especially for match play. Typically the 13th hole in an 18 hole match is right around where the stage is set and things start to heat up. If you're down multiple holes, you start to feel that pressure where you need to make something happen. That makes this so well placed a great risk/reward hole. They may move the tee box around a little bit, but if the wind is right… some guys might have a go at this green. That could force a decision on your opponent for better or worse. And even if you do get wet off the tee, they've provided that little strip of land for you to drop and still have an outside chance of getting up and down for par.
You'll also see some folks enjoying themselves out with a few adult sodas out on Lake Austin, which is a fun wrinkle.
Slight chance of rain Wednesday actually forced them to slide tee times up a tiny bit. Weather looks like it could get a little dicey on Saturday which could be a real problem if they're looking to have guys get 36 holes in.
Shoutout to Nash for displaying this beautiful looking trophy. This right here is the Walter Hagen Cup. She's a beauty. I talked a bit about the series of WGC trophies for the WGC-Concession here. These trophies are sweet. I love the color of this trophy and I'm gonna give it the same 8.8/10 that I gave the last one.
Dustin Johnson is the favorite at +700 at the Barstool Sportsbook. #1 golfer on the planet and has won this event at this course so that makes a ton of sense. I'm actually going to roll with the next favorite, Bryson DeChambeau at +1000. Match play is all about birdies. BDC is that guy. Little bit of a tough draw in his pod with Tommy Fleetwood but I think this is a course that Bryson can overpower. I'm also going to add Tony Finau +2200. Yes, for real. Not a FOMO pick. For real. For a lot of the same reasons as Bryson. Played well at the 2018 Ryder Cup and should play well here.
Jason Day to Win +4000 - Two time winner of this event (once here). Odds are too long not to.
Jason Day To Win Group 6 +260 - Ditto.
Kevin Kisner To Win Group 2 +325 - Come on, you serious with this line?
Ian Poulter Group 11 +400 - Pains me to say it but the guy is a match play legend.
Ian Poulter over Rory McIlroy +175 - Huge match to start off the entire event Wednesday. Last time we saw Rors he was absolutely lost at Sawgrass.
Tommy Fleetwood over Si Woo Kim +100 - Wednesday match here, Fleets dominated (along with Molinari) at the last Ryder Cup
Should be an unreal FIVE days of golf here. What a treat. Enjoy Austin Country Club.