WGC Cadillac Match Play Tips: One player to back from each quarter

Patrick Reed is made for matchplay
Patrick Reed is made for matchplay

There's a new format for this year's World Match Play but the same, fundamental rules apply. After examining the draw and past matchplay form, Paul Krishnamurty recommends backing one player from each section, with an ideal view towards banking all four semi-finalists...

"Patrick Reed is not so far behind Spieth and is hot favourite to win his group...Matchplay is all about temperament, and Reed has been mightily impressive during his short career."

Thanks to one of the most bizarre scheduling decisions in living memory, we have been deprived of two of the best days in the golf betting calendar. In previous renewals, this 64-man event was pure knockout, with 32, then 16 matches on the first two days. Instead, the 64 have been divided into 16 groups, playing three round-robin matches to produce a group winner, reverting to knockout for the last-16 over the weekend.

That, of course, still means 96 matches over the first two days and doubtless plenty of good value betting opportunities, but it won't be anything like the same spectacle without the drama of knockout.

Nevertheless, the same rules apply for finding the winner. Study past matchplay form in detail, sticking with those with good records, generally opposing those with poor ones. As I say before every such event, matchplay is completely different to the weekly strokeplay challenge. Some players thrive in it, others hate it, yet the betting doesn't always reflect that.

Back Paul Casey 2u @ 40.039/1

There are some very big names in the top quarter, consisting of the groups headed by seeds 1, 8, 9 and 16, but their tournament records are rather uninspiring. Rory McIlroy has been runner-up before, but one semi-final appearance in six attempts hardly reflects his world number one status. Pitched in a group with a former PGA champion and two FedEx Cup winners, he's well worth opposing.

Adam Scott has lost seven of his last nine matches in this event, and is well below his best at the moment. Dustin Johnson's record is even worse, with one win from six matches.

Compare that to Casey, twice runner-up in this and a former Volvo World Match Play champion. He clearly loves this format, winning 16 of his last 21 matches in this event. He's also bang in form, registering top-nines on four of his last six events in the US.

The other player that takes the eye is last year's runner-up Victor Dubuisson, although the Frenchman is not in the same form.

Back Keegan Bradley 1u @ 75.074/1

There's plenty of contenders in this section, mostly big-hitters. Bubba Watson has ten wins from 14 matches, JB Holmes has been flying on the PGA Tour, while Brooks Koepka is a very interesting debutant.

Rickie Fowler reached the semis last year, although is having a terrible run. Similarly, former runner-up Martin Kaymer and matchplay specialist Graeme McDowell have been struggling. Good cases could also be made for outsiders like Russell Henley, Harris English and Find Me a 100 Winner pick George Coetzee.

Instead, I'm going for Keegan Bradley, in the hope that he rediscovers the matchplay prowess shown on his Ryder Cup debut. Everything about his temperament and persona looks suited to matchplay. He's in fair form with top-fives at Riviera and Houston, followed by a pair of top-25s in his last two.

Back Ryan Palmer 1u @ 90.089/1

A very tricky quarter, including four former champions. The shortest priced, Henrik Stenson, has lost five of his last six matches in this event. In contrast, Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar are tournament specialists, but are in the same group.

Elsewhere, a real 'group of death' means only one of Ian Poulter, Jimmy Walker, Gary Woodland and Webb Simpson can reach the last-16.

There's also last week's winner, Justin Rose, although it will be hard to follow up in this seven-round marathon and Justin's tournament record is ordinary. He's worth taking on in the group, in which in-form Palmer makes much more appeal than rank outsiders Marc Leishman and Anirban Lahiri.

Back Patrick Reed 3u @ 30.029/1

The bottom section presents a horrible dilemma - choosing between two, perhaps three, perfect candidates. Defending champion Jason Day has won 14 out of 17 matches. Not much can be added to the Jordan Spieth story. Both will take the world of beating.

In truth, I fancy Spieth to win this event, but the odds are just too short. To win a group, then four knockout matches, equates to higher odds than 10.519/2 in my view, especially given that he might have to play Day and my final pick just to reach the semis.

Patrick Reed is not so far behind Spieth and is hot favourite to win his group against Ryan Moore, Danny Willett and Andy Sullivan. Matchplay is all about temperament, and Reed has been mightily impressive during his short career. With four wins from around 80 PGA Tour starts, including a WGC title, the USA's most impressive performer at the Ryder Cup clearly approaches this format in the right spirit.

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