For every race, there’s a dark horse, and the Dell Technologies Match Play is no different. With the competition set to begin Wednesday, here are eight sleeper picks to emerge from group play.
Branden Grace: Small but steely, the gutty South African seems to have a way of snagging the spotlight in big events. Aside from his runner-up finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, it’s been a fairly quiet season so far for Grace, but remember him at the 2015 Presidents Cup? He won every match. 2017 Presidents Cup singles? He scathed out a halve against Dustin Johnson. Match play is where Grace makes some noise.
Lee Westwood: Remember Westy? The once Best Player to Never Win a Major still hasn’t won a major. But he’s still a ball-striker extraordinaire. That’s why he never seems to have a full drop-off of form, even at 45-going-on-46. A few hot days for him with the flat-stick and you never know. He’s also playing for a chance at the Masters. If he reaches the final four, he’ll get another drive down Magnolia Lane.
Jim Furyk: Ok, so maybe not a classic sleeper; at least not after his sparkling showing at the Players. But Furyk is fuego right now. He’s made every cut since 2019 began, and four of those are top 20 finishes. Sure, his length and age will make him an underdog in just about every match he plays in, but he’s a worthy one to back at the moment.
Louis Oosthuizen: One of the game’s sweetest swingers has flown under the radar in recent years, largely due to injury. But his recent good health and good form should put scare into the field, all the more so after he knocks off Tommy Fleetwood in the first round. Oosthuizen has advanced deep in the Match Play tournament multiple times, and is poised to do it again.
Patrick Cantlay: Is it plausible that Cantlay is shaking in his boots a bit when he takes on Tiger Woods in the first round? Sure, maybe. But Cantlay’s game is just rock-solid all around. He’s just outside the top 10 (11th) in Strokes Gained: Total this year, which is impressive to do without a victory. Maybe he’ll be the underdog that reaches the final four this year. We know one thing: once he beats Woods, well, the matches only get easier after that.
Kevin Na: Don’t think Na is in great form? You might be on to something. 2019 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for him, but generally, Na makes birdies in bunches. He’s finish in the top 40 in birdie average each of the last three years. Add that to his grinding pace of play and it might be enough to wear any opponent down. Look to splash a little money on Na (especially if he’s playing anyone else who is struggling).
Charles Howell III: A human ATM with only three Tour titles, Howell has already banked $2.4 million in 2019. That’s his thing. He performs so well during the late winter run up to Augusta. Does anyone else in his group scare you? Abraham Ancer has never played in the event. Check. Paul Casey is coming off the high of a victory last week and Cameron Smith doesn’t exactly intimidate.
Kevin Kisner: Like a terrier with lock jaw, Kisner latches on your ankle and never lets go. Kis’ has six straight finishes in the 20s — T26, T28, T27, T23, T22, T24, but none higher. As puzzling as that is, he’s a solid match play player and couple that with solid form and he deserves plenty of consideration to come out of a group that includes Tony Finau, Ian Poulter and Kevin Mitchell.
To receive GOLF’s all-new newsletters, subscribe for free here.