Burns Wins Last Dell Match Play; The Quad's Breakdown Of Masters Favorites And Other Contenders
Sam Burns wins the Match Play. Scheffler and McIlroy have strong weeks in Austin. Plus, The Quad's look at 2023 Masters likely contenders and leading question marks.
Sunday’s match play finale peaked early after a couple of terrific semi-finals before giving way to an anti-climactic finish. But the early jousting and overtime excitement made for a nice way to send the last WGC standing out in style. Perhaps the youthful final four will reinforce match play golf as an elevatable value prop (in dated PVBspeak)?
Anyway, it was a great run in Austin after so many healthy efforts to kill the event. And with Sam Burns routing Cameron Young 6&5 along with sensational performances from Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler, we have a good idea who is headed to Augusta with battle-tested confidence. We also found out who earned a last minute invite via the OWGR Top 50 as of Monday, March 27th: Jason Day, Harris English, Keith Mitchell and Min Woo Lee.
This also keeps the field at a number the Lords likely prefer:
Before getting to the cases for leading contenders and others, here are a few more notes from the final match play along with a salute to those who made a tricky venue work on all fronts.
Burns became the first player to win the Dell Match Play in his debut appearance since Geoff Ogilvy in 2006.
Young now has six runner-up finishes in 37 starts.
McIlroy finished third with a 2-and-1 victory over Scheffler in the consolation match.
Scheffler has three top-4 finishes in as many starts at the Dell (2021/2nd, 2022/won, 2023/4th).
Golf Channel shared this graphic of past Match Play champions, omitting former winners Bubba Watson (2018), Dustin Johnson (2017) who’ve left for LIV:
Taichi Kho, Michael Hendry, Travis Smyth and Bio Kim qualified for The Open at Royal Liverpool via their finishes in the World City Championship presented by Hong Kong Golf Club. The Asian Tour event was reduced to 54 holes due to weather. Kho is the first player from Hong Kong to win an Asian Tour event.
Ian Poulter finished fifth, seven strokes back of Kim and Miguel Tabuena. Since Kim and Tabuena were tied for fourth, the Korean who took the final qualifying place thanks to his higher position in the OWGR.
France’s Celine Boutier defeated Georgia Hall in a one-hole playoff to capture the LPGA Drive On Championship and her third career LPGA Tour victory. The 29-year-old took a one-shot lead into the final round. The LPGA’s first major is less than a month away.
Germany’s Nick Bachem won the DP World Tour’s Jonsson Workwear Open by four after a final round of 64 in Johannesburg.
My Masters Top 10
My Artificial Intelligence-infused view of the leading contenders is based on a combination of 2023 world golf performance, history at Augusta National and a preference for those whose approach play and three-putt avoidance is especially dialed in.
My current favorites heading into the Masters (with their last five ANGC results) followed by those with major question marks who can’t be ruled out.
Scottie Scheffler (DNP, DNP, T19, T18, 1) - Scheffler checked all of the boxes and then some for a defending champion hoping to be the first repeat winner since Tiger Woods in 2001-02, and second since Nick Faldo in 1989-90. Has the all-around game, added year of maturity and more big-time wins to be a back-to-back winner.
Nine of his 12 Masters tournament rounds have been under par and his lone over par round was a Thursday 73 in 2021.
Scheffler’s 2023 PGA Tour finishes that includes wins at the WM Phoenix and Players: T7, T11, 1, T12, T4, 1, semi-final loss in the WGC Dell Match Play.
Only one of his 24 rounds in 2023 has been over par, a final round 73 at the API.
Twenty of his 24 stroke play rounds in 2023 have been in the 60’s.
Jon Rahm (4, T9, T7, T5, 27) - World No. 2 has been incredible in 2023 and consistently strong in his six Masters. The last three events have been less than stellar but he had a legitimate excuse.
Recovered from a third round 77 last year with a final round 69 to finish T27, his worst finish at ANGC.
Going into the 2022 Masters, Rahm was -47 on the par-5’s in 20 rounds but played them just 3-under-par with two bogies.
His 2023 PGA Tour finishes feature wins at the TOC, American Express and Genesis: 1, 1, T7, 3, 1, T39, WD.
Rahm went 1-2-0 in a lackluster Match Play as he returns from the stomach virus that caused the Players WD.
Rory McIlroy (T5, T21, T5, MC, 2) - A putter switch paid dividends already and may be the boost he needs after a spotty start to 2023. McIlroy would not confirm a report that he had just 19 putts in a recent practice round at Augusta National.
He’s also very excited about a driver situation that’s been a cause for concern since switching at Riviera to avoid a non-conforming test result.
Final round 64 in 2022 was his lowest competitive round at ANGC, beating a 65 in the 2011 first round.
In his 52 rounds at Augusta National has an under par scoring average on 8 holes, including the 16th and 17th.
McIlroy had been +11 on the par-4 7th hole in 48 rounds, then played it -2 in 2022.
His 2023 finishes, starting with the DP World Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic win: 1, T32, T29, T2, MC, semi-final loss to Cameron Young in the Dell Match Play.
Collin Morikawa (DNP, DNP, T44, T18, 5) - Would not shock to see him build off of last year’s best finish in three Masters to contend for his third major.
A return to his older driver model and off-season change to a full time putting instructor has led to a solid early season.
A second at the TOC, third at the Farmers, a T6 at Riviera and a T13 at The Players. Was 1-1-1 in Group 9 at the Dell and did not advance.
One of rare players under par on ANGC’s par-3’s: he’s -4 in 12 career rounds.
Again a standout iron player in 2022-23, ranking 3rd on the PGA Tour.
Putting inside 7’ and three putt avoidance still his most glaring weakness in 2022-23