America has been a happy hunting ground for the Europeans in recent weeks with three successive winners on the PGA Tour hailing from across the Atlantic.
They’ll hope their luck will continue at this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play but their American rivals have a good record and will put up a tough fight to keep the title Stateside.
The last two winners of the event have hailed from the US with Rory McIlroy in 2015 the last European to triumph. Spain’s Jon Rahm did reach the final in 2018 but it has otherwise been a tournament enjoyed by the home favourites, coupled with an Australian in two-winner Jason Day.
Gone are the days of a straight knockout competition, with players split into 16 groups of four for the round robin stage and only the pool winners advancing.
That change of format appears to have been made to protect some of the big names amongst the 64-strong field for the event with most of the great and good from the golfing world descending on Austin, Texas this week.
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson returns to defend his crown having thrashed Kevin Kisner 7&6 in last year’s final and will fancy his chances of mounting another serious title challenge.
For the round-robin stage, Watson has been grouped with Jordan Speith, Kevin Na and Billy Horschel, all of who have tended to struggle at this event in the past.
Watson, seeded 15th this year, is 7/4 to win Group 15 and 33/1 to become the first since Tiger Woods in 2003-04 to win the event back-to-back.
However, as mentioned, the field for the Match Play is extremely competitive with the in-form world No.1 Dustin Johnson looking to reclaim the title he landed in 2017 and continue a trend of the top-ranked player coming out on top – world No.1s winning five of the last 20 WGC Match Play events.
Johnson has already landed a WGC title this year when clinching the Mexico Championship – albeit that is a stroke play tournament – one of two wins he has enjoyed since the calendar turned over.
The American is the 11/1 second favourite for the top prize, with McIlroy heading the ante-post market at 10/1.
McIlroy’s win at the Players Championship was part of the European treble on the PGA Tour, either side of Francesco Molinari and Paul Casey, and marked the high point in his strong start to the season.
The Northern Irishman hasn’t got out of his group the last two years and may have other things on his mind with the Masters just around the corner.
McIlroy’s Ryder Cup team-mates could fly the flag for Europe instead with Justin Rose, Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood having enjoyed the match play format previously.
However, they could be overwhelmed by the Americans with Justin Thomas and Jim Furyk also expected to go well. The evergreen Furyk is 40/1 to be the top American.