23 MAR 2021 - WALK IT IN

Walking it Back:

The Honda Classic was a blah, stinker of a week with a watered down field and competing for eyeballs with March Madness, but pace-of-play hero Matt Jones was off to the races on Thursday and never looked back, winning by a whopping five strokes. Our picks were also forgetful so let’s walk those back before turning our attention to the exciting WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship.

Another week, another pick from the Pouch of Misery for Neil, who went 0-5 AGAIN! Our guy has a two-way miss and he can’t figure it out right now, but when he does, watch out. Sungjae Im did NOT lead after the first round, Joaquin Niemann did NOT finish in the top 5, Keegan Bradley did NOT finish in the top 10, JT Poston did NOT finish in the top 20 and Chez Reavie did NOT finish in the top 30. Maybe this week he’ll just take the opposite of what he’s thinking?

Soly put two win bets on golfers that Neil bet on (Poston and Bradley) so those obviously didn’t hit and neither did his top 10 for Chris Kirk or top 40 for Frittelli and Furyk, culminating in a forgetful 0-5 week.

Also with a winless week was Tron, who took five finishing position bets. JT Poston (top 5), Lucas Glover, Matt Wallace and KH Lee (Top 10) and Julian Suri (Top 20) all came up short, but Tron remains the season’s Draft King.

The biggest winner, er, smallest loser this week was DJ, who correctly predicted Lee Westwood would run out of gas and miss the cut at the Honda. He missed everything else though, including Adam Scott to win, Chris Kirk top 10, the winner to birdie hole 72 and JT Poston to finish in the top 20. If you’re Poston, do you have a case to file a grievance against No Laying Up for the hexes each guy put on him??

Big Randy tried sneaking in a college basketball parlay that missed and he also lost most of his golf bets! Garrick Higgo didn’t finish in the top 5 in Kenya, Shane Lowry didn’t finish in the top 10 in America and Joaquin Niemann didn’t win anywhere. Randy did connect on a Doug Ghim missed cut to finish 1-4 on the week.

As for the Walk It In guys, Jeff hit Steele and Henley top 20’s, but lost everything else to finish down 2.87 units and Mark lost 4 units, only hitting his Steele top 20 play. Now that the Honda is behind us, we buckle up for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas. The tournament starts early Wednesday morning so get your bets in early!

The Approach

If you’re going to putt for dough it helps when you’ve given yourself more putts inside the leather than double breakers so where are the guys looking this week on their approach? Mark hits first this week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and our picks will be posted a little differently since the tournament has a unique, more fluid setup. Be sure to check us out on Twitter and Instagram @walkitinpod for additional picks beyond day one.

Mark: This tournament is so awesome for so many reasons. It’s relatable because we’ve all likely played against our buddies or our fellow country club members in match play before and gets the competitive juices flowing easily. It can also be unpredictable and you never know what can happen in a single match. We DO know that these types of competitions are often decided on and around the putting green so I’m going to start my handicap there. I will also look heavily into past editions of this event and other match play history for each player.

Jeff: Match play presents a really unique way to bet on the PGA Tour this week. Just getting out of these groups is going to be a tall task with so many top players in the field of 64. When you’re handicapping something like this you can go in a few different directions. You can find match play specialists (Poulter, Reed), go the strategy route for guys who will outdrive the opponent and have more data going for their second shot (DJ, Bryson), or you can look for guys who can put pressure on people with a hot putter (Cam Smith, Oosty). Another Pete Dye design (THE PLAYERS, AmEx) presents the need for finding the “right spot” off the tee and plenty of chances for things to go awry. I’m going to focus on three numbers this week: SG: Approach (of course), SG: Putting, and birdie or better % for guys who can turn up the heat in match play.

Mark’s Picks:

Day 1 Matchup: Jason Kokrak (-107) over Will Zalatoris

Kokrak comes in having three straight top 10 finishes, including a T9 at The PLAYERS. I talked about how important putting is in this format and on this course and he also ranks 6th in the field in SG: putting over his last 16 rounds. Zalatoris, on the other hand, has continued to have an excellent rookie season, but if he has one glaring weakness, it’s his putter.

Day 1 Matchup: Paul Casey (-195) over Mackenzie Hughes

It’s risky to lay this much juice in a matchup, but Paul Casey is in excellent form and excels in match play. He’s got four straight top 10’s with two of those being top 5’s, ranks 1st in SG: T2G, 3rd in SG: Approach and 17th in SG: Putting. Hughes putts well, but really isn’t playing well in any other area. I’ve got Casey going very far this week and it starts here.

Group 9 Winner: Paul Casey (+163) - 1 unit

Group 11 Winner: Cameron Smith (+240) - 1 unit

Group 12 Winner: Jason Kokrak (+280) - 1 unit

Group 13 Winner: Brendon Todd (+335)  - 1 unit

I just told you about what makes Casey so attractive to me and his group includes Webb Simpson, Hughes and Talor Gooch. Webb missed his last cut at The PLAYERS and isn’t playing as well as Casey, but of course he is always to be treated as a threat. In group 11, Cam Smith draws a struggling Rory McIlroy, Lanto Griffin and Ian Poulter. Poulter is quite possibly the best match play golfer of all time and is always a force to be reckoned with, but Smith is coming off 4th, 11th and 17th place finishes and has played well here before. Jason Kokrak is my guy in group 12 as I don’t trust Finau to go head to head three straight days and get it done. Zalatoris (putting) and Frittelli (most things) both have weaknesses that stand in their way too. I’m taking a shot in group 13 with Brendon Todd because I’m unsure of Daniel Berger’s injury status. If he’s healthy then Todd’s chances go down significantly, but he’s missed just one cut since November and is a very good putter. If he can find the greens, I expect him to find the hole shortly thereafter.

Paul Casey to Win (+2600) - .5 unit

Patrick Reed to Win (+2800) - .5 unit

Jason Kokrak to Win (+7000) - .25 unit

3/4 of my final four, I have Reed beating Casey in my bracket so we’ll place win bets on each of them and hope that their form and match play history cashes a nice ticket for me. Kokrak is a longshot to win, but has the game and recent form to do it, in addition to a favorable draw if he gets through the group.

Jeff’s Picks:

Day 1 Matchup: Jordan Speith over Matthew Fitzpatrick (-107) - 1 unit

Jordan Speith’s last 16 rounds have been pretty impressive with every club in his bag minus the driver. At just over 7,000 yards this week I think he can mitigate the driver issue and stick to safer shots off the tee. He’s excellent with the irons and has always been known for his putting. The roller coaster can have its dips in match play and not penalize him too much.

Day 1 Matchup: Sergio Garcia over Lee Westwood (-137) - 1 unit

Fade England! Sergio is a horrific putter and will give me plenty to complain about on the greens this weekend, but in a matchup with Westwood I think his iron game will shine. Westwood has been hot, but really ran out of gas at the Honda Classic. I suspect he didn’t recharge after just 4 days off. Sticking with Sergio here.

Group 11 winner: Cameron Smith (+240) - 1 unit

Group 16 winner: Russell Henley (+225) - 1 unit

Group 4 winner: Max Homa (+300) - 1 unit

I’m following Mark on Cam Smith this week. His overall game is great, and I like his group. Poulter, Lanto, and Rory all pose threats on paper. Poulter is a singles savant, Lanto is playing well in his own right, and if Rory gets it figured out with his new coach, Cowen, then you know he’s got the weapons to win. I just like steady Cam Smith because I think his ceiling (right now) is higher than Griffin and Poulter and he’s more likely to reach his ceiling than Rory is this week.

Henley is really interesting because Sungjae leads this group, and his short game has been *chef’s kiss* lately. Although, it has masked a few weeks of poor iron play. I don’t like Leishman or Perez due to poor iron play and Sungjae is in the same spot. If you compare those three to Henley in iron play in the last 16 rounds Henley has fared far better. With my number one stat category being approach this week I feel like I have to be on Russell to get it done.

In a better spot than both of those golfers is Max Homa. I break it down further below on why I like Homa in two spots this weekend.

Max Homa to win (+90000) - .25 units

Cameron Smith to win (+3500) - .25 units

Max Homa goes out and beats just about everyone in this field at a tough test at Riviera, plays 7 weeks in a row dating back to January, then misses a cut at a gimmicky course like Sawgrass and is now 90-1 to win? No. Not having it. He is positive in every SG category amongst the field in the last 16 rounds, has great distance in the driver, and has a hot putter. Check, check, check.

Cam Smith was already highlighted above. I like his group matchup I also like his region on the bracket. Rahm and Cam in the quarterfinals sure looks good, and in an 18 hole match play event, I’ll take Cam to upset Rahm. Best case scenario I get Homa and Cam in the finals on Sunday from their respective sides of the bracket.