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WGC Match Play Odds Preview: Jon Rahm & Justin Thomas the Favorites in Texas

WGC Match Play odds preview and early leans from golf handicapper Tom Jacobs. For this week's Wednesday start, Tom Jacobs breaks down the format for this weekend's PGA Tour stop and who he thinks it favors.
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WGC Match Play Odds Preview: Jon Rahm & Justin Thomas the favorites in Texas

We are in for another special week, as we are just two weeks away from Augusta, and 64 of the best players in the world get together to battle out in the WGC Match Play.

There are some notable absences, with Rory McIlroy and Cameron Smith choosing to skip the event, Harris English dealing with injury, and Phil Mickelson currently taking a break. Sam Burns also withdrew on Monday after winning the Valspar last night.

This famed event moved to its current venue, Austin CC in 2016, and we have seen some players repeat performances on this course.

Remember this week we have a Wednesday start!

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How To Watch The WGC Match Play

Television: Wednesday-Friday, 2 p.m.-8 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-7 p.m. (NBC)

Qualifying Criteria For The WGC Match Play

The top-64 players in the Official World Golf Ranking qualify. When those in the top-64 do not commit or withdraw, the invites extend to the next player in the world rankings.

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The Format

There are 64 players in the field this week, and then they will be split up into four pools based on their world ranking.

Pool A will feature the 16 highest-ranked players in the event. They will be split into each of the 16 separate groups, to try and maximize the chances of the best players getting to the final stages. This is to keep the sponsors and spectators happy.

There will then be 16 separate groups of four players, with each headlined by one player from seeds 1-16, and then one other from each pool. Pool B is seeds 17-32, Pool C 33-48, and Pool D 49-64.

So the "Group of Death" would theoretically be made up of Seed #1, #17, #33, and #49.

The Field & Their Seedings

Here are how each player is seeded at the start of this week, to give you an idea of how the groups can be split.

Pool A

  • #1 Jon Rahm
  • #2 Collin Morikawa
  • #3 Viktor Hovland
  • #4 Patrick Cantlay
  • #5 Scottie Scheffler
  • #6 Justin Thomas
  • #7 Xander Schauffele
  • #8 Dustin Johnson
  • #9 Bryson DeChambeau
  • #10 Louis Oosthuizen
  • #11 Jordan Spieth
  • #12 Billy Horschel
  • #13 Tyrrell Hatton
  • #14 Joaquin Niemann
  • #15 Abraham Ancer
  • #16 Brooks Koepka

Pool B

  • #17 Daniel Berger
  • #18 Tony Finau
  • #19 Paul Casey
  • #20 Matt Fitzpatrick
  • #21 Sungjae Im
  • #22 Jason Kokrak
  • #23 Patrick Reed
  • #24 Will Zalatoris
  • #25 Kevin Na
  • #26 Thomas Pieters
  • #27 Talor Gooch
  • #28 Shane Lowry
  • #29 Kevin Kisner
  • #30 Max Homa
  • #31 Webb Simpson
  • #32 Adam Scott

Pool C

  • #33 Tom Hoge
  • #34 Russell Henley
  • #35 Harold Varner III
  • #36 Corey Conners
  • #37 Marc Leishman
  • #38 Matthew Wolff
  • #39 Lucas Herbert
  • #40 Cameron Young
  • #41 Tommy Fleetwood
  • #42 Seamus Power
  • #43 Sergio Garcia
  • #44 Brian Harman
  • #45 Cameron Tringale
  • #46 Justin Rose
  • #47 Lee Westwood
  • #48 SiWoo Kim

Pool D

  • #49 Min Woo Lee
  • #50 Alex Noren
  • #51 Mackenzie Hughes
  • #52 Christiaan Bezuidenhout
  • #53 Luke List
  • #54 Richard Bland
  • #55 Erik Van Rooyen
  • #56 Takumi Kanaya
  • #57 Bubba Watson
  • #58 Seabstian Munoz
  • #59 Ian Poulter
  • #60 Keegan Bradley
  • #61 Robert MacIntrye
  • #62 Keith Mitchell
  • #63 Sepp Straka
  • #64 Maverick McNealy

Current Alternates

Should there be any further withdrawals, possibly from someone like Bryson DeChambeau, these are the next five players up:

  • Bernd Wiesberger
  • Ryan Palmer
  • Stewart Cink
  • Ryosuke Kinoshita
  • Carlos Ortiz

This Year's Groups

Group 1

  • Jon Rahm
  • Patrick Reed
  • Cameron Young
  • Sebastian Munoz

Group 2

  • Collin Morikawa
  • Jason Kokrak
  • Sergio Garcia
  • Robert MacIntyre

Group 3

  • Viktor Hovland
  • Will Zalatoris
  • Cameron Tringale
  • Sepp Straka

Group 4

  • Patrick Cantlay
  • Sungjae Im
  • Seamus Power
  • Keith Mitchell

Group 5

  • Scottie Scheffler
  • Matt Fitzpatrick
  • Tommy Fleetwood
  • Ian Poulter

Group 6

  • Justin Thomas
  • Kevin Kisner
  • Marc Leishman
  • Luke List

Group 7

  • Xander Schauffele
  • Tony Finau
  • Lucas Herbert
  • Takumi Kanaya

Group 8

  • Dustin Johnson
  • Max Homa
  • Matthew Wolff
  • Mackenzie Hughes

Group 9

  • Bryson DeChambeau
  • Talor Gooch
  • Lee Westwood
  • Richard Bland

Group 10

  • Louis Oosthuizen
  • Paul Casey
  • Corey Conners
  • Alex Noren

Group 11

  • Jordan Spieth
  • Adam Scott
  • Justin Rose
  • Keegan Bradley

Group 12

  • Billy Horschel
  • Thomas Pieters
  • Tom Hoge
  • Min Woo Lee

Group 13

  • Tyrrell Hatton
  • Daniel Berger
  • Si Woo Kim
  • Christiaan Bezuidenhout

Group 14

  • Joaquin Niemann
  • Kevin Na
  • Russell Henley
  • Maverick McNealy

Group 15

  • Abraham Ancer
  • Webb Simpson
  • Brian Harman
  • Bubba Watson

Group 16

  • Brooks Koepka
  • Shane Lowry
  • Harold Varner III
  • Erik Van Rooyen
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Last Year's WGC Match Play

Billy Horschel won this event last year, beating Scottie Scheffler in the final. Scheffler was looking for his first win on the PGA TOUR that week, but this time around, will come into this event as a two-time winner at this level, both of which came in 2022.

Horschel overcame Scheffler 2&1 last year, in what was the only time in five visits here that he got past the last-16 stage.

This was the first time since the format change back in 2015 that none of the top-16 seeds managed to make it to the semi-finals.

After advancing from a group that included, Collin Morikawa, JT Poston and Max Homa, Horschel managed to beat Kevin Streelman, Tommy Fleetwood and Victor Perez in the knockout rounds.

Scottie Scheffler had an arguably tougher route to the final, as he made his way out of a group that included Xander Schauffele, two-time Match Play winner, Jason Day and Andy Sullivan. In the knockout phase, he then went on to beat Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm and Matt Kuchar.

Incoming Form (2022)

Below are the top-10 in adjusted scoring average since the start of 2022 and their final results.

Justin Thomas - 5-20-8-6-33-3

Joaquin Niemann - 6-8-1-MC-22

Scottie Scheffler - 25-20-1-7-1-55

Matt Fitzpatrick - 6-10-9-MC-5

Billy Horschel - 23-36-11-6-16-2-WD

Viktor Hovland - 30-4-1-MC-4-2-9-33

Shane Lowry - 12-24-14-2-13-12

Max Homa - 15-MC-14-10-17-13

Daniel Berger - 5-20-MC-4-13

Tyrrell Hatton - 6-4-28-2-13-21

Past Champions (Since 2016)

2021 - Billy Horschel

2019 - Kevin Kisner

2018 - Bubba Watson

2017 - Dustin Johnson

2016 - Jason Day

Where has the winner come from since 2016

2021 - Billy Horschel was the #32 seed and he beat Scottie Scheffler the #30 seed. Both were in Pool B.

2019 - Kevin Kisner was the #48 seed so was in Pool C and he beat Matt Kuchar the #23 seed who was in Pool B.

2018 - Bubba Watson was the #35 seed so was in Pool C and he beat Kevin Kisner who was seeded #32, in Pool B.

2017 - Dustin Johnson was the #1 seed and beat Jon Rahm who was #21 and in Pool B.

2016 - Jason Day was the #2 seed and beat #16 seed, Louis Oosthuizen. This is the only all-Pool A clash in the final, since moving to Austin Country Club.

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The WGC Match Play Favorites Odds

Jon Rahm +1400

Record in WGC Match Play at Austin CC - 10-5-3

Rahm on paper has a fairly friendly draw. Patrick Reed is not playing his best golf, although he's likely to come alive in this format, while Cameron Young makes his debut here, and Sebastian Munoz holds a record of 0-3-0.

His round of 16 matchup would likely be against Brooks Koepka or Shane Lowry, and if either of those don't make it, it would be Harold Varner of Erik Van Rooyen, so it could be worse.

Rahm will want a good putting week here before heading to Augusta. He still has a sizable advantage for the Masters over the field.

Justin Thomas +1400

Record in WGC Match Play at Austin CC - 9-9-1

Justin Thomas will have to overcome course and event specialist Kevin Kisner if he is to advance, and he looks like one of the top seeds primed for an upset.

Elsewhere in the group, he has the ball-striking machine that is Luke List and the gritty Marc Leishman, so it's a tough group for the #6 seed.

Should he make it through, he could play his Ryder Cup partner, Jordan Spieth in the last 16, or one of Adam Scott, Justin Rose, or Keegan Bradley. That looks like a fairly friendly match if he can make it through a tough group. Justin Thomas is another one to keep an eye on when wagering on the first major of the season at Augusta.

Viktor Hovland +1600

Record in WGC Match Play at Austin CC - 1-2-0

Hovland will have to beat Will Zalatoris, an in-form Sepp Straka, and veteran Cameron Tringale to advance from his group, and at least the first two could give him trouble.

I like Zalatoris in this group, so I would have Hovland down as one of the potential letdowns of the top seeds, but he will be favored in each match, and I suspect he will improve on last year's showing.

The potential round of 16 matchups could be any one of Joaquin Niemann, Kevin Na, Russell Henley, or Maverick McNealy all of which could be a potential banana skin.

I don't like the path to victory for Hovland, to take him at such short odds.

Scottie Scheffler +1800

Record in WGC Match Play at Austin CC - 4-1-2

Scheffler is the odd one out in his group, as he's paired with three Englishmen in the form of Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, and Ian Poulter.

We know all too well about Poulter's match play exploits and Fitzpatrick is one of the form players on TOUR right now. Add to that, that Fleetwood seems to be finding something in his game, and these three will look to book an early exit for one of the world's best players right now.

Scheffler and Billy Horschel could run back last year's final in the last-16 if Horschel can beat Thomas Pieters, Tom Hoge, and Min Woo Lee.

If the two favorites win these groups, one of last year's finalists is going home early.

Collin Morikawa +2000

Record in WGC Match Play at Austin CC - 0-2-1

Morikawa did not win a match here last time, and it doesn't look likely to get easier this time around, despite him being the obvious favorite in his group.

Jason Kokrak isn't in his best form but is challenging enough, and Robert MacIntyre won his group here a year ago, going undefeated against Dustin Johnson, Kevin Na, and Adam Long.

If he can advance from the group a last-16 matchup, against one of Abraham Ancer, Webb Simpson, Brian Harman or Bubba Watson awaits.

Early Leans

Will Zalatoris @ +5000 (Bet $100 to win $5000)

I am going to live in Pool B for my selections this week, and I am going to chance that Will Zalatoris takes to this format like a duck to water. His biggest weakness is his short-range putting, and more often than not, these are going to be putts that are conceded unless it is to win a hole.

His lag putting and mid-range putting are both solid, and I can see him setting himself up with numerous birdie opportunities all week long.

There's not many that are going to hang with him ball-striking wise and he may well be his own worst enemy at this event. The difference here, is that he will not drop shots if he misses the short putts, at worst he is going to drop a hole, and we have seen in the past, that the freedom that comes with that mindset can often improve someone's putting.

I have been waiting for a chance to play him again at a good number, and I think that time has come, here in Texas where he has spent the majority of his life and honed his craft.

He went 1-1-1 last year in what was a fairly soft group, but a year down the line he's a better player again and will be extra motivated after seeing his close friend, Davis Riley almost beating him to a maiden victory on the PGA Tour.

He will of course have to overcome an elite player in Viktor Hovland, but if he's going to win, he's going to have to beat a player of that caliber along the way, and I believe he can.

Zalatoris is in a group with Viktor Hovland, Cameron Tringale and Sepp Straka.

Alex Noren @ +6000 (Bet $100 to win $6000)

Alex Noren has a sneaky good record here, having advanced from his group twice with 3-0 records in 2017 and 2018. It took the eventual winner, and World No.1, Dustin Johnson to beat him in 2017, and Kevin Kisner eventually got the better of him in 2019, after 19 holes.

His only other defeat here came to Haotong Li in 2019, who beat him 5 & 3, and thru 10 holes, Li was 4 up on the Swede when only shooting level-par himself. That was a rare off day for Noren in an otherwise brilliant record here (11-3-0) and the way he's been playing warrants some interest.

In seven starts in 2022 he has made six cuts, finished inside the top-12 three times, and has shown a very steady improvement again in his game.

He has more than just this event to play for this week, as he currently sits 56th in the World Rankings, and were he to climb into the top-50 ahead of the 03/28 deadline, he would punch a spot in the Masters.

Noren has a tough group, with a couple of match play veterans in Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Casey in his group, so it will be tough to advance, but if he does, then he's in great form as we suspect, and I would expect him to go well for the rest of the tournament.

Noren is in a group with Corey Conners, Louis Oostzhuizen, and Paul Casey.

Kevin Kisner @ +7000 (Bet $100 to win $7000)

The case is simple. He has the best record in the field at this event, since moving to Austin Country Club, winning once in 2019 and losing out in the final in 2018, where he clearly ran out of steam, after taking down Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter, and a rampant Alex Noren in the knockout stages.

Kisner played fine, and nothing more than that at the Valspar, but that is a course he has a mixed record at, and his 4th at the PLAYERS, 3rd at the Sony Open, and 8th at the Tournament of Champions all suggest his game is in fine fettle.

No one will scare Kisner here, and while he suffered an early exit last year, as Kuchar beat him 2&1 in the deciding group match, Kisner had already beaten Justin Thomas and Louis Oosthuizen 2&1 in his group, and he will get the chance to beat Thomas again.

Like last week with Adam Hadwin, it feels trappy given the odds and his record here on top of his current form, but it is a chance I am willing to take on a player who dominates here.

Kisner is in a group with Justin Thomas, Luke List, and Marc Leishman.


Tom Jacobs is the host of the Lost Fore Words golf podcast and has been writing betting articles on golf for the past decade. Tom also co-hosts the DP World Tour Picks & Bets show on the Mayo Media Network, so has his finger on the pulse on all the major Tours. A long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan, Tom also enjoys watching Soccer at the weekend, and was delighted to see his Forest team win promotion this season!


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