WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Betting Picks and Historical Seed Performance Data

This week, the PGA Tour offers us two different tournaments: the Corales Puntacana Championship and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The match play is a very specific tournament that starts a day earlier than normal (Wednesday) and is, of course, focused on match play head-to-heads instead of stroke-play rounds.

Of note, this is the final planned installment of the WGC match play at Austin Country Club, so it'll have a bit of a special spotlight this year before riding off into the sunset.

But along with match play formats, we get a lot of variance because golfers get only 18 holes to separate over a particular opponent each round rather than 36 or 72 holes to stabilize their week.

The World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play is a 64-golfer match play event that uses group stages and then single-elimination match play rounds to crown the winner. Golfers are seeded 1 through 64 based on their Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) entering the event.

With some of the best golfers in the world, there will be a separation in name value and recent form, but at this level, anyone can beat anyone over 18 holes, something we're reminded of every time this event comes around.

So, while we have to account for a wide range of outcomes, we can at least look to history to see what we might expect this week at Austin Country Club.

Past Finalists

Here are the winners and runners-up since 2016 as well as their seeds for the tournament. (Note: there was no event held in 2020.)

Year Winner (Seed) Runner-Up (Seed)
2022 Scottie Scheffler (5) Kevin Kisner (29)
2021 Billy Horschel (32) Scottie Scheffler (30)
2019 Kevin Kisner (48) Matt Kuchar (23)
2018 Bubba Watson (35) Kevin Kisner (32)
2017 Dustin Johnson (1) Jon Rahm (21)
2016 Jason Day (2) Louis Oosthuizen (16)

As you can see here, the winners have been either a top-five seed or outside the top 30, and losers in the final round have ranged from 16th through 32nd. With some different luck in the final round, these things could be flipped, and we could see a ton of middle seeds earning wins.

That being said, some of the recent finals have been pretty lopsided.

Seed Performance

If we take the OWGR rankings at face value and assume that golfers ranked closer to 1st are better than the golfers ranked closer to 64th, then we can see a few trends emerge.

There's a correlation of -0.38 between tournament seed and group stage points accrued, which means that there's a noticeable impact of seed, but that it is far from -1.00, which is where we'd see it if each of the top seeds in the groups went 3-0-0 (wins-losses-ties) in group play with the worst seeds all going 0-3-0.

On the other hand, that correlation also isn't 0.00, which is what it would be if things were completely random.

To help make any of this actionable, I'm going to bucket seeds to show a general trend of performance by player seeding since 2016.

Here are each tier's average group stage points (1 point for a win, 0 points for a loss, and 0.5 points for a halved match) and their frequency of advancing to the given stage.

SeedTier Avg.GroupStagePoints % toRoundof 16 % toRoundof 8 % toRoundof 4 %Finalist
1 to 8 1.65 17% 21% 29% 25%
9 to 16 1.79 17% 13% 8% 8%
17 to 24 1.59 10% 13% 8% 17%
25 to 32 1.55 15% 15% 21% 33%
33 to 40 1.24 7% 6% 8% 8%
41 to 48 1.45 13% 15% 8% 8%
49 to 56 1.39 13% 13% 17% 0%
57 to 64 1.34 9% 6% 0% 0%

For the most part, this is what we'd expect. It's interesting to see that the 9 to 16 range has historically been better than the 1 to 8 range in terms of average points, but that isn't expected to trend long-term, especially with the probability of the top eight to get to the final four and to the finals.

We should expect the chalk to be better than the bottom of the field -- but not to be unchallenged.

Here's the same data if you look at the group level and rank each group by seed from one to four.

GroupSeedRank Avg.GroupStagePoints % toRoundof 16 % toRoundof 8 % toRoundof 4 %Finalist
1 1.72 33% 33% 38% 33%
2 1.57 25% 27% 29% 50%
3 1.34 20% 21% 17% 17%
4 1.36 22% 19% 17% 0%

While the 3 and 4 seeds within a group can and do advance from the group stage at a reasonably high rate, their odds taper off as the tournament progresses -- as we should expect.

Bets I Like

Outright Winners
Patrick Cantlay (Golf betting odds: +1600) - Cantlay gets a pretty easy draw overall in Group 4 against Kyoung-Hoon Lee, Nick Taylor, and Brian Harman, none of whom rank better than 29th in true strokes gained over the past 50 rounds, according to datagolf. Taylor ranks better over the past 50 rounds (41st) than his seed suggests (55th), but Harman (29th) and Lee (40th) are both a bit overrated. Cantlay's methodical (and I mean that in more ways than one) style makes him one of the better values on the board this week as the 4 seed.

Tony Finau (+2200) - Finau also has one of the best draws by average opponent strength in the field. Not only does datagolf rank Finau (5th) better than his seed (10th), but he also will square up with two of the most over-seeded golfers in the field. Kurt Kitayama is the 19 seed but ranks 33rd in true strokes gained, and Adrian Meronk is the 45 seed but ranks 58th -- actually worse than Christiaan Bezuidenhout (53rd), who is the 60 seed. Finau's putting has come a long way, too, which can't be overstated in match-play situations.

Cameron Young (+3100) - Not the most ideal course fit for Austin, Young makes sense from every other angle anyway. He gets the benefit of playing against the most over-seeded golfer in the field (Sepp Straka, who is the 27 seed but ranks 55th in true strokes gained) in the group stage and also gets Corey Conners (39th in true strokes gained) and Davis Thompson (62nd). Although Young's putter isn't quite there right now, the ball-striking will separate him in two of the three matchups (Conners excluded).

Taylor Montgomery (+10000) - Only two golfers -- Ben Griffin and Maverick McNealy -- have a larger ranking discrepancy between their true strokes gained rank and their seed than Montgomery has -- in the positive sense. Montgomery is a top-15 golfer over the past 50 rounds by true strokes gained. He's also the third-best putter in the field and should be able to keep pressure on his opponents every hole. Every golfer in his group is overseeded, including Jordan Spieth (12 seed but 18th in true strokes gained), Shane Lowry (21st and 42nd), and Mackenzie Hughes (50th and 63rd).