2019 WGC-Dell Match Play Primer: History, TV, Field, Odds

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson tees off on the 15th hole during day one of the WGC-Dell Match Play at the Austin CC on Mar 23, 2016 in Austin, TX. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

If the month of March has taught us one unassailable truth, it’s this: everything is better with brackets – including politics.

It also extends to golf, as the top players in the world prepare for the rigors of head-to-head competition in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson tees off on the 15th hole during day one of the WGC-Dell Match Play at the Austin CC on Mar 23, 2016 in Austin, TX. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Featuring 64 of the world’s best golfers (the entire field is ranked inside the world’s top 69), the Match Play is composed of five jam-packed days of elite-level match play golf.

Held in Austin, Texas, the tournament offers dramatic showdowns, exciting storylines, and maybe best of all – a chance at redemption for those who foolishly had SMU making it to the NCAA Men’s Championship Game. Not that we’re referring to anyone in particular. Nobody is THAT stupid.


This week’s Primer is powered by Taylormade Golf Store at Amazon, the brand Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy rely on.


Tournament: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
Dates: March 27-31, 2019
Where:Austin, Texas
Course: Austin Country Club
Distance: Par 71, 7,108 yards
Architect: Pete Dye
Format: Match play with three rounds of pool play, then 16-player single-elimination bracket
Purse: $10,250,000
Winning Share: $1,845,000
FedExCup/OWGR Pts: 550/76
Defending Champion: Bubba Watson 
Marquee Players: Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, and Phil Mickelson


GOLF Channel
Wed 2-8 pm (GOLF)
Thu 2-8 pm (GOLF)
Fri 2-8 pm (GOLF)
Sat 10 am-2 pm (GOLF); 2-6 pm (NBC)
Sun 10 am-2 pm (GOLF); 3-7 pm (NBC)

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While match play tournaments have a lengthy history on the PGA Tour – even outside of the Ryder and Presidents Cups, the WGC-Match Play is currently the only regular match Play event on Tour.

Debuting in 1999, the same year the World Golf Championships series started, the inaugural event was won by Jeff Maggert, a No. 6 seed in his region, who impressively knocked off the gauntlet of Fred Funk, Nick Price, Bernhard Langer, Tiger Woods, and Steve Pate – before outdueling Andrew Magee in a marathon final that needed 38 holes (the 36-hole final plus two sudden-death holes) to complete.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods talks with caddie Joe LaCava during round two of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Ritz-Carlton GC on Feb 23, 2012 in Marana, AZ. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In its 18 previous editions, the tournament has produced one three-time champion (Tiger Woods), and a pair of two-time winners (Geoff Ogilvy, Jason Day). Tiger had perhaps the most impressive victory in tournament history, when he obliterated Stewart Cink 8&7 in the 2008 Finals.

From 1999-2014, the tournament was a strict straightforward single-elimination bracket, with four regions composed of players seeded first through sixteenth. In 2015, the event was redesigned, and now contains round-robin before the 16 best players are reassembled into a new single-elimination bracket, seeded by world ranking.

HISTORY: Recent Champions

2018: Bubba Watson 7-6 (Kevin Kisner)
2017: Dustin Johnson 1 up (Jon Rahm)
2016: Jason Day 5-4 (Louis Oosthuizen)
2015: Rory McIlroy 4-2 (Gary Woodland)
2014: Jason Day 1 up (Victor Dubuisson)
2013: Matt Kuchar 2-1 (Hunter Mahan)
2012: Hunter Mahan 2-1 (Rory McIlroy)
2011: Luke Donald 3-2 (Martin Kaymer)


The defending champion of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play is Bubba Watson. The victory was the two-time Masters winner’s second of three wins on the 2018 season, and his 11th career PGA Tour title.

Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson poses with the Walter Hagen Cup after winning the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club on Mar 25, 2018 in Austin, Texas. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Getting into the final 16 bracket off the strength of a 2-0-1 record in pool play, Watson thwarted Brian Harman on Saturday morning before smashing Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the quarterfinals to set up a final-four match with world No. 2 Justin Thomas, who would have overtaken the No. 1 spot in the world rankings with a victory in Austin this week.

Watson was clearly not intimidated by Thomas’ lofty ranking, winning the first hole and never trailing in a 3&2 victory.

In the other final-four battle, Kisner needed 19 holes to put away Alex Noren, and perhaps the extra fatigue was a factor in his abysmal start against the recently-reborn Watson that dug a hole too deep to emerge.


Bubba Thomas (35) defeated Justin Thomas (2), 3 & 2
Kevin Kisner (32) defeated Alex Noren (13), 1 Up (19 holes)

Alex Noren (13) defeated Justin Thomas (2), 3 & 2

Bubba Watson (35) defeated Kevin Kisner (32), 7 and 6


In the current format, players in the field will be seeded Nos. 1-64, according to their position in the Official World Golf Rankings as of Monday, March 25. The top-ranked player in the field this week is Dustin Johnson with Luke List (No. 69) slotted as the tournament’s highest seed at No. 64.

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson tees off on hole No. 1 during day one the WGC-Dell Match Play at Austin CC on Mar 23, 2016 in Austin, TX. Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

Once the players are assigned a ranking number, all are placed into one of four (4) pools, according to their ranking.

• Nos. 1-16 (Pool A)
• Nos. 17-32 (Pool B)
• Nos. 33-48 (Pool C)
• Nos. 49-64 (Pool D)

Once the four pools are set, 16 groups will be formed, made up of one player from each of the four pools with Pool A (Nos. 1-16) players each heading one of the 16 groups.

A random selection will take place then to fill up each of the 16 groups with a B player (ranked 17-32), a C player (ranked 33-48) and a D player (ranked 49-64). For example, No. 1 Dustin Johnson will be grouped with one player Pool B, one from Pool C, and one from Pool D… and so on.

Group 1
Dustin Johnson (1), Hideki Matsuyama (25), Branden Grace (42), Chez Reavie (57)

Group 2
Justin Rose (2), Gary Woodland (23), Eddie Pepperell (36), Emiliano Grillo (55)

Group 3
Brooks Koepka (3), Alex Noren (28), Haotong Li (38), Tom Lewis (63)

Group 4
Rory McIlroy (4), Matthew Fitzpatrick (34), Justin Harding (49), Luke List (69)

Group 5
Justin Thomas (5), Keegan Bradley (33), Matt Wallace (35), Lucas Bjerregaard (52)

Group 6
Bryson DeChambeau (6, Marc Leishman (18), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (41), Russell Knox (62)

Group 7
Francesco Molinari (7), Webb Simpson (22), Thorbjorn Olesen (47), Satoshi Kodaira (67)

Group 8
Jon Rahm (8), Matt Kuchar (24), J.B. Holmes (45), Si Woo Kim (56)

Group 9
Xander Schauffele (9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (31), Tyrrell Hatton (37), Lee Westwood (65)

Group 10
Paul Casey (11), Cameron Smith (26), Charles Howell III (44), Abraham Ancer (61)

Group 11
Tommy Fleetwood (12), Louis Oosthuizen (20), Kyle Stanley (43), Byeong Hun An (51)

Group 12
Jason Day (13), Phil Mickelson (21), Henrik Stenson (39), Jim Furyk (54)

Group 13
Tiger Woods (14), Patrick Cantlay (19), Brandt Snedeker (46), Aaron Wise (64)

Group 14
Tony Finau (15), Ian Poulter (32), Kevin Kisner (50), Keith Mitchell (58)

Group 15
Bubba Watson (16), Jordan Spieth (30), Billy Horschel (40), Kevin Na (60)

Group 16
Patrick Reed (17), Sergio Garcia (27), Shane Lowry (48), Andrew Putnam (53)



The top 64 players in the Official World Golf Rankings were invited to the WGC-Match Play. A few withdrew, and they were replaced by the next highest ranked available players.

Rory McIlroy Wins The PLAYERS Championship
Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the 18th tee during the final round of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass on Mar 17, 2019 in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Out: (10) Rickie Fowler, (29) Adam Scott, (59) Sungjae Im
In: (65) Lee Westwood, (67) Satoshi Kodaira, (69) Luke List

Favorites include former winners Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, who both check in at 9-1, with Justin Thomas (14-1) and Jon Rahm (16-1) the next closest.

Justin Rose (20-1), Tommy Fleetwood (20-1), and Jason Day (20-1) round out the top-5 picks.

Joel Cook and Carey Hoffman contributed to this report.



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