Tournament: WGC Dell Technologies Match Play; March 27-31, 2019
Course: Austin Country Club, 7,108 yards, par 71
Purse: $10,000,000 (may be slightly higher - had trouble finding updated info)
Defending Champion: UGA’s own Bubba Watson. Gerry Jr. was straight fire this week last year, winning his first two matches 5&3 and 3&2 before halving his 3rd. In the Sweet 16, he beat fellow former Bulldog Brian Harman 2&1. Then won 5&3 in the Elite Eight, and 3&2 over an equally hot Justin Thomas in the Final Four. Bubba decided to commit more Bulldog-on-Bulldog crime by dispatching an exhausted Kevin Kisner 7&6 in the finals to take home the $1.8M prize.
Fun Fact: There is a draw, kind of like Selection Sunday. The top 16 players are based on world ranking and seeded as such. Then, the rest of the ranked players are in pools (ranked 17-32, 33-48, and 49-64). One player from each of the pools is placed with one of the top 16 from a blind draw, and the result is a 4 player pod, and ultimately 16 pods. The fact that they televise the drawing is what always gets me.
Television: Draw Show, Monday, 6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel - already happened). Wednesday-Friday, 2-8 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (GC), 2-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (GC), 3-7 p.m. (NBC).
Former ‘Dawgs in the Field (Three): Kevin Kisner, Keith Mitchell, Bubba Watson. Brian Harman is an alternate in case of last minute withdrawals.
A quick blurb about match play: the player with the fewest number of strokes on a given hole wins that hole. You can concede holes or putts to your opponent, since the total strokes in the match don’t matter - only who wins each hole. If you win the first, tie the second, win the third, but lose the fourth - the current score would be “you 1 up”... you have two holes won and one hole lost. So final scores will be scored as something like 3&2. Meaning the winner was 3 holes up on the loser after completion of the 16th hole - 3 holes up but only 2 left to play, thus impossible to change the ultimate outcome. So matches end early.
Though the history of a tournament with match play format goes back a few years (I’m not delving into the many years of the PGA Championship in match play), this particular one used to be straight knock-out. Meaning if you lost your Day 1 match, you were sent packing. Because all these guys are good, and weird bounces can be weird, there were years when the top players were nowhere to be seen come the weekend. Like when Chucky 3-sticks dispatched Tiger Woods on the first day. Yeah, the sponsors liked that one not even a little.
So, we now have a round robin for the 16 aforementioned pods Wednesday-Friday. The top player from each pod (1 point for a win, half a point for a halved-match) after Friday’s matches will advance to the Sweet Sixteen Saturday morning. The 8 winners of that will play Saturday afternoon, creating a Final Four. This is held Sunday morning, and the finals Sunday afternoon. Those in the Final Four will be playing basically 126 holes of golf over 5 days - or close to it (depending on if they can end a match early by winning enough holes).
And as luck would have it, some of our boys got paired together, creating lower percentages for all of them to advance. Keith Mitchell and Kevin Kisner will be in Group/Pool 14, along with Ian Poulter and Tony Finau. Finau is world #14, a big hitter but not a great putter. Remarkably similar to Mitchell, except that Mitchell seems to have figured his flat stick out. Kisner and Poulter are both average length, and both known for being good on the greens, though Kisner is outwardly calm and Poulter can be fiery and made his fame in match play format (Ryder Cup - ugh).
Bubba headlines Group 15 thanks to his #15 ranking. He is joined by Jordan Spieth (all the way down to #28), Billy Horschel, and Kevin Na. All four of these guys are tour winners, and all have been inconsistent the last 2 years. But Bubba would be clearly favored.
The somewhat good news is that Bubba could advance to the Final Four before facing another former Bulldog, which would be if either Kisner or Mitchell advance out of their group. But no chance for a 2018 repeat with two ‘Dawgs in the finals. If you want the entire bracket, follow this link.
But wait... there’s more! Harris English, Joey Garber, Sepp Straka, Hudson Swafford, and Brendon Todd are also playing in a PGA Tour event this week. How could that be, you ask? Well, the WGC Match Play is only open to the top 64 ranked players in the world (66, since Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler are taking the week off). And since the WGC event is not wholly or specifically a PGA Tour event, the Tour provides an offering for the Tour players not qualified for the WGC. In this case, it’s the Corales Puntacana Championship.
Formerly a Web.com Tour event, somebody decided to promote it to the PGA Tour to go alongside the WGC Match Play. Held in the Dominican Republic, it has a full field of 144 players, but obviously none are ranked in the top 64 in the world. As such, the purse is only $3,000,000 (I say only), and the FedEx Cup points to the winner are 300. The WGC has a $10,000,000 purse (for less than half as many players, plus they are all guaranteed a paycheck), and has 550 FedEx points to the winner.
But 5 former Bulldogs are playing, so that meets the strict minimum qualifications for inclusion in ‘Dawgs on Tour. I honestly don’t know much about the tournament or the course other than: it is a long course, measuring over 7,600 yards. And Keith Mitchell placed 2nd here last year, while fellow Athenian Harris English tied for 5th.
Let me know in the comments if you have questions about either of the tournaments or our ‘Dawgs. And as always...