This week the top 64 players in the world head to Dove Mountain to take part in the WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship. This is a Jack Nicklaus designed course that weighs in at nearly 7800 yd par 72. The longest course the players will face all season obviously driving stats are something to look closely at this week. I will not have time for my usual detailed write up this week, although I have posted write ups for two other events this week including the LPGA Thailand event and the Web. com Panama event. This week I'm just going to post my selections with tournament winners and then winner(s) for each bracket and the daily h2h matches. Basically for those of you that don't know the tournament breaks down into 4-16 man brackets. I will post more info from the WGC site to help some understand more.
SEEDS: 1. Rory McIlroy. 2. Bubba Watson. 3. Charl Schwartzel. 4. Dustin Johnson. 5. Graeme McDowell. 6. Zach Johnson. 7. Jim Furyk. 8. Rickie Fowler. 9. Carl Pettersson. 10. Ryan Moore. 11. Jason Day. 12. Padraig Harrington. 13. Alexander Noren. 14. Russell Henley. 15. Chris Wood. 16. Shane Lowry.
BRACKET STRENGTH: 6 (out of 10). Given that he's only played once this year -- and missed the cut in Abu Dhabi -- it's difficult to know what to expect from world No. 1 Rory McIlroy. There are other question marks, too, like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson. That said, Charl Schwartzel has not finished lower than third in his last four starts so he is sure to make a formidable opponent.
DOUBLE-DIGIT DARKHORSE: Padraig Harrington, a 12th seed, certainly has the experience after playing in the Accenture Match Play Championship 12 of the last 13 years, missing only last February's renewal. If the Irishman can channel the player who doggedly chased Phil Mickelson in the birdie-fest at TPC Scottsdale three weeks ago, he could make his presence known at another Arizona venue.
BEST FIRST-ROUND MATCH: Bubba Watson is well-versed in desert golf after maintaining a home in Scottsdale, Ariz., for several years. But Wood is primed for the upset after picking up his first European Tour win earlier this year in Qatar.
LOOKING AHEAD: The uber-steady Zach Johnson could play the red-hot Charl Schwartzel in the second round. In the upper half of the draw, two of the game's most popular young players, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, could find themselves with a second-round date. Not to mention, four of the eight players in that half are from Ireland or Northern Ireland so we're talking plenty of possibilities there. And plenty of gab.
SEEDS: 1. Tiger Woods. 2. Lee Westwood. 3. Jason Dufner. 4. Webb Simpson. 5. Peter Hanson. 6. Hunter Mahan. 7. Martin Kaymer. 8. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. 9. Francesco Molinari. 10. George Coetzee. 11. Matteo Manassero. 12. Thomas Bjorn. 13. David Lynn. 14. Richard Sterne. 15. Raphael Cabrera-Bello. 16. Charles Howell III.
BRACKET STRENGTH: 8 (out of 10). Not only are five of the top 20 players in the world among the 16 in the Gary Player draw, there are two former Accenture Match Play Championship winners in Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan, as well as another finalist in Martin Kaymer.
DOUBLE-DIGIT DARKHORSE: This bracket is so top-heavy it's hard to see someone seeded 10th or higher advancing very far. But 14th-seeded Richard Sterne is riding a wave right now after finishing second and first in his last two European Tour starts, so he's a good upset pick to advance after first-round losses in 2008 and 2009.
BEST FIRST-ROUND MATCH: Charles Howell III hasn't played in the Accenture Match Play Championship since 2008 and he's drawn the No. 2 player in the world in Tiger Woods -- who happens to have beaten him in the quarterfinals of the 1996 U.S. Amateur. But Howell's been playing well and often this year with three top-10s, including a playoff loss at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Woods, of course, won his one and only PGA TOUR start on a course where he's now won eight times.
LOOKING AHEAD: Two Ryder Cup teammates, Martin Kaymer vs. Lee Westwood, could meet in the second round. Then there's the possibility of Webb Simpson vs. Tiger Woods in the third round, with the winner potentially facing Westwood in the quarterfinals.
SEEDS: 1. Louis Oosthuizen. 2. Justin Rose. 3. Sergio Garcia. 4. Keegan Bradley. 5. Ernie Els. 6. Matt Kuchar. 7. Bill Haas. 8. Brandon Grave. 9. Robert Garrigus. 10. Nicolas Colsaerts. 11. Hiroyuki Fujita. 12. Fredrik Jacobson. 13. Marcus Fraser. 14. Thongchai Jaidee. 15. K.J. Choi. 16. Richie Ramsay.
BRACKET STRENGTH: 7 (out of 10). This bracket boasts European Ryder Cup stalwarts in Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, who lost in the quarterfinals here two years ago, as well as Keegan Bradley, who looks to be the heart of many American international teams to come. But top-seeded Louis Oosthuizen has only played at Dove Mountain three times and never advanced out of round two, although he does come here with a win at the Volvo Golf Champions under his belt.
DOUBLE-DIGIT DARKHORSE: This one's easy. The 12th seed, Freddie Jacobson, didn't even know he was going to play in the Accenture Match Play Championship until he tied for seventh at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and moved to No. 66 in the world, which allowed him to make the field as an alternate when Brandt Snedeker withdrew due to injury. That tie for third on Sunday at Riviera moved the Swede to world No. 47 and improved his seeding -- not to mention, was a big-time confidence boost.
BEST FIRST-ROUND MATCH: It will be interesting to see how Bill Haas responds after squandering a three-stroke lead in the final round of the Northern Trust Open when he faces the big-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts. But Jacobson's match with the veteran Ernie Els, who has won the match-play event at Wentworth seven times, also figures to be interesting.
LOOKING AHEAD: If Keegan Bradley and Freddie Jacobson get past their first-round opponents, we could have an exciting second-round match. A match between Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia in the third round could be a barn-burner and go a long way toward determining the outcome by week's end.
SEEDS: 1. Luke Donald. 2. Adam Scott. 3. Ian Poulter. 4. Steve Stricker. 5. Nick Watney. 6. Bo Van Pelt. 7. Jamie Donaldson. 8. Paul Lawrie. 9. Scott Piercy. 10. Thorbjorn Olsesen. 11. John Senden. 12. David Toms. 13. Henrik Stenson. 14. Stephen Gallacher. 15. Tim Clark. 16. Marcel Siem.
BRACKET STRENGTH: 8 (out of 10). Five former Accenture Match Play Championship winners give this bracket considerable star power. Luke Donald and Ian Poulter are the most recent champs, winning in 2011 and 2010, respectively, and are prime among the favorites for another title this year, although each has only played once on the PGA TOUR this season.
DOUBLE-DIGIT DARKHORSE: Henrik Stenson won the Accenture Match Play Championship in 2007 and lost in the consolation match the following year. He comes in ranked 13th this year but already has a win overseas so he could definitely be a threat.
BEST FIRST-ROUND MATCH: Bo Van Pelt and John Senden are two of the steadiest and most understated players on the PGA TOUR. Neither has a lot of experience in this format -- Senden's record is 2-2 while Van Pelt's is 1-2 -- but neither is easily rattled, either. This match could easily go the distance.
LOOKING AHEAD: Two oldies-but-goodies could meet in the second round if former Accenture Match Play Champions Steve Stricker and David Toms prevail in their openers. But Nick Watney, who plays Toms, has been solid, advancing to the third round each of the last three years. Adam Scott and Ian Poulter could present a marquee match in the third round -- the colorful Brit eliminated the Aussie in 2010.
As you can see each bracket is quite strong regardless of the given rating. This tournament will come down to some luck of course due to the heads up style of the tournament. Kind of like golf's version of a heads up poker tournament. Certainly some skill but winners will need to get lucky in certain spots also.
Here are my picks to win the event:
*Luke Donald +1500 -L-
*Keegan Bradley +3500 E/W -L-
*Bubba Watson +4000 E/W -L-
Ben Hogen Bracket
*Justin Rose +650 -L-
*Keegan Bradley +800 -L-
Sam Snead Bracket
*Luke Donald +415 -L-
*Ian Poulter +650 $W$
Bobby Jones Bracket
*Charl Schwartzel +500 -L-
*Graeme McDowell +1550 -L-
Gary Player Bracket
*Tiger Woods +350 -L-
*Hunter Mahan +800 $W$
*Jason Dufner +1100 -L-