WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play
The World No. 39 wins at age 39 as a pre-tourney 50/1 outright. He claims his 11th PGA TOUR title in 282 events and second WGC title in 29 tries (2015 HSBC Champions).
The Florida native and resident becomes the season’s third multiple champion with two wins in nine events, second in his last four starts. He joins Patton Kizzire and FedExCup leader Justin Thomas, both with two wins each as well.
48-seed Kizzire, 2nd in the FEC standings, was a pool-play victim and finished T36 with a 1-2-0 record, while 2-seed Thomas was the only top-10 overall seed to make it past the Round of 16, later losing in the Consolation Match to 13-seed Alex Noren.
Watson relegated Thomas to the 3rd-Place Match with a 3-and-2 win over him on Sunday morning. Had Thomas won that match, he would have overtaken 1-seed Dustin Johnson as the world’s top-ranked player. Johnson, defending a title for a third start in a row, bowed out on Friday with an 0-3-0 record for T59 (tied last place).
This was Watson’s eighth Dell Match Play appearance, eighth consecutive, with a previous-best 4th on debut in 2011 (Dove Mountain). In the two prior editions at Austin CC, he finished T28 in 2016 as the 4-seed (1-1-1 record), and T9 last year as the 13-seed (2-1-1 record), both of those as the top seed in his group.
Last year, Watson won his group, but lost in the Round of 16 to Ross Fisher 4-and-3.
This year, he was the third-ranked seed in Group 11 and posted a 6-0-1 mark, playing a total of 109 holes over the five days.
Watson’s one halve was in Round 3 on Friday to 64-seed and WGC-first-timer Julian Suri, who got in the field as an alternate. In that match he was 2 DOWN with two holes to play and birdied 17 and 18 to earn the half point. Had Watson lost the match, he would've gone to a sudden-death playoff with Suri to determine the group winner.
Watson’s victory three starts ago at the Genesis Open ended a 2-year winless drought. It was his third win at the Genesis and won that as a pre-tourney 50/1 outright as well.
Afterwards, Watson divulged that he'd been seriously contemplating retirement due to his months-long-slump.
Once ranked as high as No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking – after the 2015 Valspar – he arrived at Riviera Country Club last month at 117th. All that walking-away-from-the-game talk is a distant memory now. In two weeks, the Southpaw will be eyeing his third green jacket (2014, 2012) as a 16/1 outright.
“I’m not a favorite at Augusta,” Watson deadpanned on Sunday evening in his presser. “I don’t want anyone to talk to me that week, let me just focus on what I got to do.”
The Georgia alum is correct, he’s not the odds-favorite at the Masters. Currently, that burden lies with Rory McIlroy at 8/1, who’s attempting to complete the career Grand Slam for a fourth time. Odds are, McIlroy, who won last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational to end an 18-month drought of his own, doesn’t want anyone talking to him in two weeks either. #GoodLuckWithThat
Watson’s Road to the Finals:
Defeated 23-seed Branden Grace, 5-and-3
Defeated 11-seed Marc Leishman, 3-and-2
Halved with 64-seed Julian Suri
Round of 16:
Defeated 18-seed Brian Harman, 2-and-1
Defeated 28-seed Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 5-and-3
Defeated 2-seed Justin Thomas, 3-and-2
Defeated 32-seed Kevin Kisner, 7-and-6
In an all Georgia alum finale with Kisner, this match was pretty much over before it started with Watson winning the first five holes and six of the first seven, only one of those with birdie (No. 1). Kisner won just one hole, the par-3 11th with birdie from 34’6”, but the festivities would (mercifully) end one hole later with Watson’s birdie-4 from 7’2”.
Watson improves his WGC-Match Play record to a formidable 20-8-3.
This was the 20th overall edition of the WGC-Match Play, third as the Dell. It was also the third (and third consecutive) at the 7,108-yard par-71 (35-36) Austin CC.
In the previous two playings, either the No. 1 overall seed or No.2 claimed victory:
2017: Dustin Johnson: 1-seed, World No. 1, 9/1 outright
2016: Jason Day: 2-seed, World No. 2, 12/1
Further, here’s the 2015 champ’s tale-of-the-tape at TPC Harding Park:
2015: Rory McIlroy: 1-seed, World No. 1, 10/1 (co-fave)
As mentioned, Bubba tossed all that aside as World No. 39, the 35-seed and 50/1. #Remarkable
With a Strength of Field rating of 733 (up from 728 last year), Watson banks 74.00 world-ranking points and jumps 18 spots to 21st in OWGR.
Updated Top 10 in OWGR (this week’s finishes):
1. Dustin Johnson (T59): 0-3-0 record
2. Justin Thomas (4th): 5-2-0
3. Jon Rahm (T52): 0-2-1
4. Jordan Spieth (T17): 2-1-0
5. Justin Rose (DNP)
6. Hideki Matsuyama (T36): 1-2-0
7. Rory McIlroy (T36): 1-2-0
8. Rickie Fowler (DNP)
9. Sergio Garcia (T9): 3-1-0
10. Brooks Koepka (DNP)
This was Watson’s 12th top-10 finish in 29 WGC events, second straight. He chased his win at the Genesis with T9 at the WGC-Mexico and followed that with a T66 last week at Bay Hill. That T66 may have scared off some but he was a respectable T28 thru 54 holes (70-70-72), three shy of the overnight top 10, before closing with a season-worst 79.
Watson won his first TOUR title, the 2010 Travelers, in his 122ndcareer start and fifth season on TOUR. Translated, that means he’s now won 10 times in his last 160 starts since, a win percentage of 6.2% over that time-frame.
Wins by Season:
205: cuts made (72.6%)
116: top 25s (41.1%)
59: top 10s (20.9%)
30: top 3s (10.9%)
11: wins (3.9%)
Watson is 8-for-9 on the season with three 25s, all doubling as top 10s. He logs the fourth “W” in the win column for “lefties”, joining himself, Phil Mickelson (WGC-Mexico) and fellow Floridian Ted Potter, Jr. (Pebble Beach).
Season Form: 1-66-9-1-35-40-MC-67-51
Another lefty (and Georgia alum) Brian Harman (18-seed), finished T9 this week in his tourney debut (2-1-1 record). He won Group 6 but lost in the Round of 16 to Watson 2-and-1. Although Harman's yet to win this season (YET), he’s the TOUR-leader in top-10 finishes with seven in 11 starts.
Season Leaders in Top-10 Finishes:
7: Brian Harman
Kevin Kisner: The 32-seed and Group 1 winner ran into a buzz saw against the increasingly confident Watson. He does depart with a season best and his seventh runner-up in 169 events.
Additionally, it’s his second top 10 in 11 WGCs, both runners-up (2nd, 2016 HSBC).
The 34-year-old, a pre-tourney 100/1 outright, was a surprise participant in the Finals. His overall Dell Match Play record is now 8-4-1, including a 5-1-1 mark this week, but had zero form entering.
Kisner arrived off three missed cuts in his last four starts, a 29th at the no-cut WGC-Mexico and was a cumulative 13-over-par in his last eight rounds. He leaves with his second top 10 of the season in nine starts, first since a T4 the RSM back in October (his season-opener). The South Carolinian, a two-time winner on TOUR, most recently at the 2017 DEAN & DELUCA (hint: Texas), easily records his best Dell finish in three tries (each at Austin CC) and is getting progressively better (T17/2017; T38/2016).
Season Form: 2-MC-29-CUT-CUT-50-25-17-4
Group 13 winner and 13-seed Alex Noren took down 2-seed Justin Thomas 5-and-3 in the Consolation Match to claim 3rd place with a 6-1-0 record. His only loss was in the semis to eventual runner-up Kisner (19 holes), where he missed two prime scoring chances at 17 and 18 from 10’5” and 7’4”, respectively, the latter to win the match.
The first-time member though not a rookie records his second top 10 in 17 WGC events and improves his overall record to 11-4-0 in his fourth appearance.
His other top 10 was a T5 here last year, where he lost to eventual champ Dustin Johnson in the quarters.
The Oklahoma State alum bags his third top 10 of the season in eight starts, all top 3s (3rd, Honda; P2, Farmers).
Season Form: 3-36-14-3-16-21-P2-31
He was all square with Thomas thru three holes, winning the first (concession) and losing the third to birdie. The 35-year-old went back to 1 UP with birdie-3 at 4 (from 14'10") and would not relinquish the lead from there. He went 2 UP with birdie-3 at 5 and 3 UP with a par win at 11. The Swede, whose U.S. base is in Jupiter, Florida, won the par-4 13th (par) and the match would end two holes later with a hole concession at 15.
Justin Thomas: The 24-year-old was an under-the-radar pick this week due to a few factors. First: He entered with Group Stage exits the last two years and a dismal 1-5-0 record. Second (and third): The Alabama product recently had his wisdom teeth removed and then got sick (strep throat).
Despite the loss on Sunday afternoon, he departs with a 5-2-0 record, improving to 6-7-0 overall.
The World No. 2, idle since a P2 at the WGC-Mexico three weeks ago, didn’t have much left in the tank in the afternoon session, taking nothing away from Noren.
He won just two of the 15 holes played, one with birdie and one with a concession, and never led.
Thomas does bag his fifth top 10 of the season in nine starts, fourth straight, and fourth top 5, third consecutive (P2, Mexico, P1, Honda).
Season Form: 4-P2-P1-9-17-14-22-P1-17
Dating to a solo 2nd at the TOUR Championship, he’s now connected a TOUR-leading 10 straight top-25 finishes and is the season-leader with nine consecutive.
This is Thomas’ third top 10 in 10 WGCs, second straight. He maintains his top spot in the FEC standings and remains World No. 2, just 0.3887 average points behind Johnson.
Updated Top 10 in FEC standings (points):
Watson collects 550 FEC points for the victory and jumps 17 places to 4th in the FEC standings. Thomas remains No. 1 in the standings for a sixth event in a row and a fifth week overall this season:
1. Justin Thomas (1,713)
2. Patton Kizzire (1,329)
3. Phil Mickelson (1,194)
4. Bubba Watson (1,175); UP 17
5. Dustin Johnson (1,049); DOWN one
6. Jon Rahm (989); DOWN one
7. Justin Rose (940); DOWN one
8. Brendan Steele (912); DOWN one
9. Tony Finau (895)
10. Paul Casey (887)
Note: Jason Day (T36) dropped from 8th to 11th with 867 points. He was the TOUR-leader in consecutive top-25 finishes with 11 straight prior to this week.
TOUR Rookies &/or First-Timers:
TOUR Rookies: 1
Top-10 finishes: 0
Peter Uihlein: Making his Match Play debut – and for a second straight WGC event this season – the 28-year-old was the only TOUR rookie (of 23) that qualified.
By default, he takes top-rookie honors with a T17 (2-1-0 record). It’s the fourth time this season in 12 starts that the Oklahoma State product’s been low rookie (T37, WGC-Mexico; T10, CIMB; T5, WGC-HSBC).
Season Form: 17-66-37-MC-26-52-MC-17-MC-5-10-MC
WGC-Dell Match Play Debut: 16
Top-10 finishes: 2
He departs with a 3-1-1 record and a T5, and his best WGC finish in two events (T64, 2017 HSBC). The Aussie, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, records his fourth top 10 of the season in 10 starts and third top 5.
Season Form: 5-MC-46-6-48-20-18-17-3-5
Smith was the only one of the 16 first-timers to make it to the Saturday afternoon quarters after fellow debutant Harman was eliminated by Watson earlier in the morning. He bumps six places to a career-high 44th in OWGR.
Brian Harman: As mentioned, the 31-year-old finished T9 this week and is the TOUR-leader in top-10 finishes this season with seven.
Season Form: 9-54-5-33-MC-20-4-3-4-8-5
This was his fifth WGC, third top 10 and third straight after T5 in Mexico (top first-timer there) and a solo 8th at the HSBC last fall. The Georgian owns two TOUR wins in 196 events, most recently at the 2017 Wells Fargo (Eagle Point GC).
Through 21 events this season:
6 winners were in their 20s
11 were in their 30s (Watson: age 39; Brice Garnett (Corales Championship): age 35)
4 were in their 40s