Three Shots At The Green: Best Bets For The Dell Technologies Match Play

Welcome to Three Shots at the Green, where each week I’ll use my experience as a PGA Tour caddie and golf writer to identify the three best bets on the board.

Match play tournaments have been a fixture in professional golf for the better part of the last century, however, this is the last incarnation of the WGC-Match Play, a staple for the game’s upper tier. 

So we bid farewell to the format, a welcome diversion from the monotony of 72-hole stroke play events and the course, Austin Country Club, which has been an ideal host for a risk / reward format. 

The Pete Dye design provides plenty of options. Measuring just more than 7,100 yards, it’s a second-shot placement course but still affords longer hitters the opportunity to use power to their advantage. We’ve seen plodding putters like Kevin Kisner manuever through the bracket and rising superstars like Scottie Scheffler overpower their competitors with a flurry of birdies. 

There are 64 players in the field, seeded and divided into 16 4-man quadrants. The first three days are a round robin format. Golfers play a match against each of the other competitors in their group and whoever has the best record advances to the 16-man, single elimination bracket. 

There are odds available on overall winners, placements and most of the other props offered on a typical week. We’re focusing on the groups, searching for the weak links and the best odds, identifying players who are in form and thriving in at least one area of the game as we begin to turn our eyes toward Augusta. 

Let’s take three shots at the green.  

Patrick Cantlay +115 to win Group 4 

I recently bought a Cantlay outright ticket for the Masters. His consistent tee-to-green excellence has been impressive, leading the field in SG: Off-the-Tee over the last 24 rounds while also ranking top 20 in approach play and putting. He’s finished 19th or better in 14 of his last 18 starts, dating to last April. Cantlay has an 8-5-2 overall match play record, including 6-4-2 at Austin CC.

Of his three opponents in this group, only Nick Taylor has performed well in 2023 but this is his first appearance in the WGC-Match Play and Austin CC strikes me as a quirky course that requires local knowledge. Brian Harman is a gritty competitor but grit will only carry a man so far. He’s lost at least two shots on approach in his last three tournaments and T-32 is his best finish in eight starts in 2023. Cantlay should also handle K.H. Lee, who is also making his Austin CC debut. 

Tom Hoge +250 to win Group 6 

Xander Schauffele is the favorite in this group but between his early season back trouble and inconsistent driving, I am eager to fade him this week. Hoge struggled in his first WGC-Match Play appearance last year but that experience should help him this week as he peppers the flagsticks with precise iron shots. Hoge leads the field in SG: Approach over the last 24, 36 and 50 rounds while also ranking top-12 in Good Drives Gained.

Hitting one quality shot after another puts pressure on an opponent in match play. Aaron Wise and Cam Davis are the other two players in this group and if pressed, I’d say Davis (+450) has the second best chance of escaping. He dealt with an illness early in the season but a T-6 at The Players proves he’s recovered. 


Ryan Fox +305 to win Group 7

Group favorite Will Zalatoris missed the Tour Championship due to a back injury and changed his swing in the offseason to prevent further issues. His ballstriking numbers are still solid – top 20 over the last 24 rounds – but the time away did no favors to his short game as he slots outside the top 50 in both areas. This isn’t a course where Zalatoris’ long iron prowess gives him an inherent advantage either.

Fox arrives in good form, finishing T-14 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T-27 at the PLAYERS. He’s gained an average of five shots Tee-to-Green per tournament in his last five starts worldwide and is excellent with the short wedge shots. Harris English gained 15 shots putting in a T-2 at API and T-12 at Genesis but has missed every other cut. Andrew Putnam has missed four of the last five cuts and is 1-2 at Austin CC. 

Last Week: Wyndham Clark finished top-5 to easily cash a +180 top-20 ticket. Adam Hadwin opened with 69 but missed the cut. Victor Perez finished three shots outside the top-20.  

YTD: -9.15 units