WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play: Rahm can smash rivals

Spain's Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Cabrera-Bello is fancied to have another good run at the WGC - World Matchplay
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The PGA Tour heads to Texas for this week's WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play and Dave Tindall has three bets for the showdown at Austin Country Club...

"What really stood out that week were the crushing margins of victory. Rahm was smashing opponents - Sergio Garcia 6&4, Charles Howell III 6&4, Soren Kjeldsen (who had beaten Rory) 7&5."

Main Bet: Back Jon Rahm e.w. @ 14/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 8 places

Main Bet: Back Jon Rahm e.w. @ 14/1

With Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson the last three winners of the event since the first three days changed to group play, the idea of the WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play being a bit of a lottery is flawed to say the least.

That's not to say that you won't get surprise results along the way - Hideto Tanihara making the semis last year the strongest evidence - but, in general, the last man standing is usually one of golf's elite.

The problem this week is that we have so many of the top names vying for our attention.

However, decisions need to be made and a quick elimination process is that DJ isn't playing to the same levels as he was last year, Jordan Spieth isn't quite on it, Justin Thomas has an iffy record in this event and in Texas while McIlroy may just be a little short in the betting at 7/1 given that he can still throw in a flat round.

Jason Day loves this format and shook some rust off last week but I'm going to plump for last year's runner-up, Jon Rahm, as my main pick.

Rahm ran into a player, Johnson, at the very peak of his powers in the final 12 months ago but still took him to the 17th hole.

What really stood out that week were the crushing margins of victory. Rahm was smashing opponents - Sergio Garcia 6&4, Charles Howell III 6&4, Soren Kjeldsen (who had beaten Rory) 7&5.

Speaking about Austin CC that week, the youngster said: "Match play, especially on this course, the risk-reward, it's amazing how much you can get rewarded here with the right place.

"I think it sets up perfect for me. I feel like all of us Spaniards really play good at match play because of our aggressive mindset.

"It kind of relates to you a little bit that if you miss it, it's only going to be 1-down or at the end of the day you're only going to have a chance to hit a good shot and re-apply the pressure on your opponent. I think that's why that mind-set really works well."

Rahm doesn't overthink things and that looks a good asset in what is a long and draining week with potentially seven matches in five days.

His current form is a little short of ideal since he won the CareerBuilder Challenge in January. But he landed the DP World Tour Championship in November having finished a modest T36 in the WGC - HSBC Champions on his previous start so we can view his T20 in Mexico last time as a good enough springboard.

Rahm is a match play monster when he hits his stride and the 14/1 is worth a play.


Next Best: Back Rafa Cabrera Bello e.w. @ 60/1

Rahm touched on the great match play records of Spaniards so, from the land of Seve and Ollie, I'll also have punt on Rafa Cabrera Bello.

There's very simple course and current form logic to this punt but, despite his obvious credentials, the price is a good one at 60/1.

RCB, who ended 2017 by finishing runner-up in Hong Kong, finished third at the WGC-Mexico Championship on his last start, shooting consistent scores of 66-67-69-67.

In fact, sift back through his round scores over a much longer period and Cabrera Bello rarely has a bad day - an ideal quality for match play.

From just four starts in Texas, he has a fourth (Houston Open) and a third and the latter came in this very event two years ago.

On the way to the semis he beat Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Kisner, Byeong-Hun An and Ryan Moore and, after defeat to Louis Oosthuizen, took down McIlroy in the Consolation match to finish third and give a big boost to his world ranking.

"It's a course that I like," he told europeantour.com last year when winning two of his three group matches again before losing a play-off.

"There are a lot of short par fours where you can get yourself into a lob wedge into the green. That is another reason why I think the course suits my game."

One extra note he added was also of interest. "You can see the Scottish influence in some aspects," said RCB. "There are lots of small pot bunkers around the greens and some are pretty big, too. The contours around the green are quite linksy with lots of run-off areas so it does resemble those sort of courses in that sense."

Of course, Cabrera Bello won last year's Scottish Open.

He'll have to overcome Phil Mickelson in the group stage but Lefty's match play record is hit-and-miss so that doesn't put me off.

In short, he's a player with two top threes and a further top five in his last seven WGC events. On those numbers, the 60/1 certainly appeals.


Final Bet: Back Branden Grace e.w. @ 55/1

Two interesting outsiders to consider at Dylan Frittelli and Jhonattan Vegas and 100/1 and 150/1 respectively.

Frittelli went to college in Austin and has played 50 rounds at this venue. The latest was on Monday when he teamed up again with former Texas Longhorns team-mate Spieth.

It's a similar story with Vegas: "Used to come here, practice a lot when I was in Texas."

However, I'll close with a final play on 55/1 shot Branden Grace.

Golf fans mentally googling 'Grace match play' will come up with the fairly well-known stat that he won all five matches at the 2015 Presidents Cup - the first player to do that in 17 years.

It made sense as he has a tenacious quality which is perfect for one-on-one combat and he knows how to win.

The World No. 27 won two of his three matches here in 2016 before losing a play-off for the group while last year, when out of form, he started with a 4&2 win over Andy Sullivan before losing his next two.

This time he's in much better shape heading in after taking T8 at the Valspar Championship on his latest start, finishing first for Putting Average.

Grace plays well in the Lone Star State having cracked the top 10 in the last two editions of the Texas Open and he has consistency too having not missed a worldwide cut since August.

His group throws up some tricky opponents in the form of Bubba Watson, Marc Leishman and Julian Suri but Grace is a match for anyone and we're compensated by the price on offer.

Having made history by becoming the only man to shoot 62 in a major (last summer's Open), it's time he took the next career step and landed a WGC.

This looks a good opportunity.

I never pay too much attention to the draw and filling in brackets as not a lot can be taken for granted.

My picks are set to clash early but, of course, if two meet, one is guaranteed to go through. I'll happily settle for a Rahm v Grace quarter-final!

Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £550
Returned: £1079
P/L: +£529

(After Valspar Championship)

2016/2017:
P/L: +£1179.89

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