Finals day: Preview of Sunday at the WGC Dell Match Play

60 players have been eliminated, leaving just four to fight it out for the title at Austin Country Club – and it’s not the four anyone would have predicted.

If anyone needed reminding that match play is a volatile format, this year's WGC Dell Match Play has confirmed that time and time again.

The 16 top seeds didn't so much tumble out at the group stage as disappear en masse, like lemmings hurtling over a cliff - only Jon Rahm made it to the weekend.

The knockout stages have been no different and the seeding ranks of the semi-finalists read 30th, 31st, 32nd and 52nd.

Even the remaining presence of Matt Kuchar, a past winner of the championship, is a surprise because he's been in such appalling form.

He's joined in the final four by Scottie Scheffler (his opponent in the morning), Billy Horschel and Victor Perez.

It's not the line-up that the promoters or the TV executives were dreaming of, but there is plenty to look forward to.

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Scheffler and Perez are both youngsters chasing a PGA Tour breakthrough and Ryder Cup points, Horschel is hungry to go one better than his recent runner-up finish in a World Golf Championship event, and Kuchar is enjoying his return to a form of the game that clearly suits him down to the ground.

We started the week with 17 countries represented in the field and now we have just two - France and the United States.

Who will break free of this Sunday entente cordiale? Let's take a closer look.

Semi-final 1 - Victor Perez vs Billy Horschel

Frenchman Perez is chasing a first victory by a debutant since Geoff Ogilvy lifted the trophy in 2006 and he's up against American Horschel who came into this week with a career match play record of 5-5-1.

Perez downed fellow Europeans Robert MacIntyre and Sergio Garcia on Saturday, Horschel defeated Kevin Streelman and Tommy Fleetwood.

Both players have decent form in 2021 and are seeking not only the win, but big Ryder Cup points (and debuts in that event).

Perez finished fourth at the Saudi International in February and was T9th on his last start at THE PLAYERS.

Horschel opened the season with a top ten in Hawaii, made the cut at TPC Sawgrass, and was second at the WGC Workday Championship.

Semi-final 2 - Matt Kuchar vs Scottie Scheffler

Scheffler is looking to land a first PGA Tour title and he has a little local knowledge having attended the University of Texas.

Kuchar is the only man still standing with strong pedigree in the event and the format: he won this championship in 2013 and was the runner-up in 2019.

Scheffler never trailed at any point in his Saturday matches when conquering the European Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm.

Kuchar is the grinder. Four of his five matches have reached the 17th green, including his knockout defeats of Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman.

The form of the two men could hardly be more different.

Scheffler has landed four top 20s in 2021 including tied seventh at the Phoenix Open and fifth at the WGC Workday Championship.

Kuchar has made just two cuts and not one top 40 in 2021 - and he has just one top 20 in his last 20 starts.

Numbers for the week

Ultimately the birdie count doesn't matter, as Patrick Cantlay discovered when thrashing the course in his first two group matches, losing the third, and getting eliminated.

But knowledge of how players are performing is interesting at the very least.

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Here are the rough estimations of how the players have scored this week:

Perez: 22-under-par through 78 holes

Horschel: 17-under-par through 89 holes

Kuchar: 20-under-par through 89 holes

Scheffler: 23-under-par through 87 holes

That gives Perez an advantage in that he's played less golf and is the heaviest scorer.

Let's give these numbers some shade.

Gaining an early advantage

Ever since he became Europe's Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley has liked to emphasise the importance of getting ahead in the first six holes of a contest - it heavily increases the odds of ultimate victory.

It's also the case that this week the first player to take a lead has won the match 60% of the time.

So how do the final four compare on the first six holes at Austin CC?

Perez and Kuchar have played them in 10-under, Horschel 9-under and Scheffler 8-under.

Peaked on Saturday?

Scheffler stood out from the crowd on Saturday.

Horschel played his 36 holes in 10-under, Kuchar was 9-under through 35 and Perez 9-under through 29.

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Scheffler, in contrast, was not only 15-under, but he did it in just 31 holes.

It was stunning golf, but might it be a tough task to back it up on Sunday?

Seedings hint?

With just one of the top 16 seeds emerging from the group stages, and no-one higher than 30th seed still standing, it's easy to think that the rankings have gone to pot, right?

Maybe, but nine of the 12 knockout matches have been won by the higher seed.

If that rate continues only one of the four matches left (there is a third/fourth place playoff) will be won by the higher seed.

It's good news for highest seed Scheffler (30) and bad news for Kuchar (52) who would lose at least once.

If Kuchar wins his semi, it will also be good news for the winner of the Perez (31)- Horschel (32) clash.

The odds

In the first semi Paddy Power rate Horschel 8/11 and Perez 11/10.

In the second they favour Scheffler at 4/6 over Kuchar at 6/5.

In the outright market Scheffler is 15/8 favourite from Horschel 11/4, Kuchar 10/3 and Perez 7/2.

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