Golf betting tips: WGC-Match Play day one
2pts Hoge to beat Wise at 19/20 (Unibet)
1pt double Henley & McCarthy to win their matches at 16/5 (Sky Bet)
0.5pt treble Hoge, Henley, McCarthy & Finau at 13/1 (Sky Bet)
1pt double McNealy & T Kim at 7/2 (General)
Hoge to beat Wise (1453 GMT)
Aaron Wise began the year as a player many expected to take another step back up the ladder, potentially muscling in on the Ryder Cup wild card battle, but things have gone badly wrong and his game is in tatters.
Rounds of 79 to begin the Arnold Palmer Invitational and 80 a week later at Sawgrass both came courtesy of extremely poor ball-striking, and come the end of The PLAYERS he’d lost 12.5 strokes from tee-to-green in just 36 holes, a shocking figure.
Usually that sort of number speaks to a serious underlying issue and it’s more than enough to justify backing TOM HOGE, who defied a slow start of his own to take third place.
Hoge lost two of his three matches on his debut in this event but he’s improved again since and is the sort of tidy operator who should enjoy Austin Country Club. Wise’s only win on his sole appearance came in a dead-rubber but this is all about where his game is at the moment.
Henley to beat Herbert (1515)
RUSSELL HENLEY’s record at the Match Play looks poor on the face of it, but dig a little deeper and there’s no cause for alarm at a course which certainly suits on paper.
Henley’s form at other Pete Dye designs like River Highlands, Harbour Town and Sawgrass is strong, and ever since he came to Austin in 2018 he’s acquitted himself well – without the results to show for it.
On his first appearance, he lost 1up to Paul Casey and Kyle Stanley, beating Matt Fitzpatrick but failing to advance. Next time he lost 1up to Sungjae Im, beat Victor Perez 4&3, and halved with Marc Leishman. Perez went on to reach the semi-finals. Then, last year, Henley lost 1up to Kevin Na, 2&1 to Joaquin Niemann, and 2&1 to Maverick McNealy.
Six defeats in nine then isn’t a good return, but every one of them went to the 17th hole or beyond. He’s perfectly capable of winning matches here and I’ve a sneaky feeling he’s going to be a bit of a problem for the well-backed Tyrrell Hatton when their paths cross.
First though a chance to get off to a winning start against Lucas Herbert, last seen shooting 82-85 at Sawgrass. Herbert could outgun Henley on the greens but even that club has let him down lately and his long-game looks in a very bad place.
McCarthy to beat Bradley (1537)
It has to be a worry that Keegan Bradley withdrew from the Valspar Championship last week, citing illness, especially as that’s one of his favourite courses on the PGA Tour schedule.
Austin is not, hence a lifetime record of zero wins from nine matches, although it must be noted that, like Henley, he’s generally kept things close. Unlike Henley, he’s not been able to win any of them and with form figures of MC-WD, he’s there to be taken on.
We can do so with DENNY MCCARTHY, a bang in-form debutant who is one of the best putters in the field.
McCarthy is at the top of his game right now with four top-20 finishes in his last six starts, including last week where he managed 19th place without making much. That’s hugely encouraging and we should expect his putter to heat up pretty quickly, which could spell trouble for Bradley.
Note that McCarthy has outscored Bradley in five of the eight rounds they’ve both played so far this year and being able to back the form pick as underdog, against a player with a poor course record who withdrew last week, makes plenty of appeal.
Finau to beat Bezuidenhout (1548)
For whatever reason, whether it’s course, format or both, Christiaan Bezuidenhout has struggled badly in this event. On paper the South African looks a good fit as he finds fairways and holes putts, but he’s 0-5-1 so far. In six matches he’s lost 6&4, 5&3, 4&2, and 2&1 twice.
There’s a chance he improves on his third try, especially having finished 13th last time out at Sawgrass, but TONY FINAU has been metronomically excellent throughout the year and should be expected to win.
Finau has a 5-6-1 record at Austin so it wouldn’t necessarily be the best course for him, either, but he’s at his absolute best right now and it’d be some effort for Bezuidenhout to claim his first win at the seventh attempt.
McNealy to beat Im (1928)
It’s hard to be sure that MAVERICK MCNEALY is back to 100% fitness but he started well at the Valspar Championship and the first 18 holes of this event can go similarly to plan.
He thumped Joaquin Niemann 8&6 on day one last year and will fancy his chances in a group which might not take much winning, given that Tommy Fleetwood will have to shrug off two disappointing Sundays in succession.
That’s to come, but McNealy can get off to a winning start against Sungjae Im, who lost 5&4, 5&3 and 2&1 last year and has won just once in six matches. He’s in excellent form for this return and may yet come through a tight group, but McNealy is a brilliant putter who I wouldn’t want to be facing straight out of the gate.
Kim to beat Noren (2001)
In the final match on day one, TOM KIM can get the better of an out-of-sorts Alex Noren, whose form figures read MC-MC-61-MC on the PGA Tour this year.
The Swede has a good record in Austin but has been struggling badly off the tee, and that could spell trouble here. It also means Kim should boss things in that department, his accuracy a real strength, and Noren will struggle playing catch-up.
We saw how well suited to this format Kim is when he starred at the Presidents Cup and he can take a big step towards setting up a Friday showdown with the defending champion.
Posted at 1510 GMT on 21/03/23
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