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Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the third tee during the final round of The Players Championship golf tournament on March 17, 2019.
Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the third tee during the final round of The Players Championship golf tournament on March 17, 2019.|Lynne Sladky | Associated Press
Golf

Golf: Kern examines The WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

Keep in mind that along the way you can bet every match if you want. I’m just trying to give you three names to win it all.

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

It was bound to happen.

My three picks last week at the Valspar Championship all stunk. I could use a stronger word but this is a semi-family website. Two didn’t even make the cut. But after giving you a winner in three of the previous six tournaments, I guess I was due for a clunker. That’s why you need mulligans.

Now we move on to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, which for the fourth straight year is being played in Austin, Tex. It’s golf’s version of March Madness, with 64 players going head-to-head against each other like the Ryder Cup. For the first three days the field is split into 16 groups of four, with only one from each advancing into the sudden-death part of the format over the weekend. So it’s, well, different, than simply trying to post the best 72-hole total. But I will still give it my best shot, as usual. Let’s just hope that last week was mostly a speed bump.

Keep in mind that along the way you can bet every match if you want. I’m just trying to give you three names to win it all. But when it’s one-and-done, almost anything is possible. As some of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament annually find out.

Rory McIlroy, who won for the first time in a little over a year in his last start, and Dustin Johnson, who won last month’s WGC event in Mexico, are the favorites at 10-1. I had both in their victories, for whatever that means. Justin Thomas is 14, Jon Rahm 18. Justin Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are all 20. Tiger Woods (remember him?), Paul Casey, who just successfully defended his title at the Valspar Championship, and Francesco Molinari, who has also won recently, are all at 25. Defending champ Bubba Watson is 30, as is Ian Poulter. Hideki Matsuyama is 40, along with Louis Oosthuizen. Ditto Marc Leishman, Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia. Phil Mickelson is 60.

That should about take care of most of the usual suspects.

Like the NCAA, not all brackets are created equal. So you might want to check them out before you invest.

Some things to know: Tiger is the only three-time winner (2003, ‘04 and ‘08), but he hasn’t played in this since 2013. He also has the only successful defense. Casey has finished second twice. Day won in 2014 and ’16. Dustin won two years ago. And he’s finished in the top 10 in six of his seven starts this season. Kuchar won in 2013, and went deep into the tourney in ’11 and ’12. McIlroy won in 2015. Poulter, the Ryder Cup killer, won in 2010.

So compute all that. But keep in mind that this is not a normal week. Even though some of the winners obviously are household names.

I have Kisner in my yearlong pool that I have to pick in December, where I can only pick a guy once. He was runner-up last year but I’m not too excited about his chances, even at 60-1.

If I can get at least two of my three picks into the round of 16 I would consider that pretty good. But of course we’re trying to cash the big check.

It’s too easy to go with DJ, who’s really playing well at the moment, so I won’t. But I couldn’t fault you if you did. Instead, I’m going to take Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka, because the odds are attractive relative to their ability. For a longer shot I’m going with Xander Schauffele, who’s listed at 30. He won two matches last year in his debut before getting eliminated by Garcia. Maybe at least one of them can get to like the semifinals. After last week, I need something to root for late.

Cause it’s way more fun that way.

And the Masters can’t get here fast enough.