WGC Accenture Match Play preview: Not such a lottery as people think
Welcome to the wacky world of match play. Or at least that is what everyone is trying to have us a believe with headlines like ‘A lottery’, ‘Crap shoot’, ‘Tales of the unexpected’, even ‘March madness’ (did I miss something?). I used to think the same, but looking over the Match Play records of our contestants I’m not so sure. Many of them seem the model of consistency, although the jury is still out on the true effect of moving to the desert.
Mike Weir for instance has never gone past the 3rd round in seven tries and only once has Ernie Els got past round two, again in seven goes. But Tiger Woods (who else?) has two wins, a runner up and quarter final from only one more outing. Or how about David Toms (a win, beaten finalist, quarter finalist and three more third rounds from eight tries) or Nick O’Hern (three quarter-finals in four outings).
So it actually looks as if quality - in a match play format - does out. Let’s face it, not many duffers could play at the top of their game over six straight rounds of knockout competition against the best in the world.
Which is one way of saying that I am resisting the urge to take on Woods this week - probably one of the few realistic chances of beating him with my betting bank all season. He’s not gone past round three for the last three years, but in the kind of form he is now he has never looked more likely to repeat his previous successes. J B Holmes in the first round is for my money a much harder test than the seedings suggest, and Tiger is still not yet the super-machine who doesn’t have a bad round. But there is a level of determination to his golf this year that suggests if there was ever a year to win this is it.
Those I most like other than Tiger are Toms, who warmed up nicely at Los Angeles last week, defending champion Henrik Stenson, who is at the top of his game this season, Adam Scott, a winner already this year, Steve Stricker, a previous winner in fine form, Stephen Ames, who’s always one to pull a surprise when you least expect it, and Padraig Harrington, twice a quarter finalist and playing well enough last week to inspire hope.
The betting for the individual matches looks largely on the button, but there’s bound to be upsets somewhere, so where?
Jones bracket: Mark Calcavecchia has the numbers to overturn Aaron Baddeley if he can get his putter going. Rory Sabbatini is showing signs of fatigue and might just be picked off by Welshman Bradley Dredge. Robert Karlsson’s figures outdo Paul Casey, although the Englishman is bit of a match play dab hand.
Hogan bracket: Retief Goosen and Andres Romero are both down on their luck so I can’t put a cigarette paper between them. Europe’s new wunderkind Martin Kaymer could have a handful in Boo Weekley; on paper they look about evenly matched.
Player bracket: After a bright start Justin Leonard has been going backwards, while Geoff Ogilvy hasn’t been going anywhere at all. But this would be the perfect opportunity for the Australian to rediscover the form that has him a winner and beaten finalist in his only two outings in this event. And O’Hern hasn’t reached three quarter-finals for nothing, so there’s a possibility he’ll give Scott Verplank a run for his money.
Snead bracket: I’m not convinced Hunter Mahan has it sewn up against Richard Sterne in one of the few head-to-heads between WGC Match Play virgins. And while Luke Donald looked well on top of things at Los Angeles last week, he is outgunned on paper by Nick Dougherty on a course that favours bombers.
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