Golf

Match Play first-round predictions

GolfWeek Jim McCabe & Alex Miceli
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The Match Play brackets were released on Monday morning, and it didn't take long for two Golfweek experts to weigh in on the first-round matches.

BOBBY JONES BRACKET

Luke Donald def. Ernie Els: Best match-play performer of his generation (seven world titles), but Els has a tall order against the defending champ. Donald is 20-6 and hasn’t lost a first-round match in seven appearances.

Jason Dufner def. Peter Hanson: Hard to find two more under-the-radar guys going at it on Day 1, which doesn’t mean either can be dismissed. Hanson had a nice run at Dove Mountain in 2009 (tied for ninth) but has lost in first round three other times. Here’s a hunch Dufner wins his debut match.

Kyle Stanley def. K.J. Choi: Stanley might just be the best young American in the game, and he’s clearly in form. Choi has struggled to find an early season rhythm. Give the edge to youth and massive length.

Brandt Snedeker def. Retief Goosen: Without poring over the numbers, it’s hard to fathom Goosen a top-64 player. He just hasn’t done much in recent years. A possible Stanley-Snedeker second-round match is just too delicious to not hope for, so here’s rooting for Snedeker.

Adam Scott def. Robert Rock: He’s a long way from Abu Dhabi, but Dove Mountain sure will offer Rock a familiar landscape of his Tiger/Rory conquest from last month. Scott played better each day in his season debut last week and gets the nod here.

Bo Van Pelt def. Mark Wilson: Tough one to handicap. Second appearance for each in this tournament, but they play dissimilar games and will hardly be popular choices to make deep runs. Van Pelt has the slight edge.

Jim Furyk def. Dustin Johnson: Count it as perhaps the most intriguing first-day matchup, ultimate precision vs. power. Johnson has lost each of his three first-round games in the Accenture, and here’s a feeling Furyk will keep that skid alive.

Thomas Bjorn def. Francesco Molinari: A year ago, Bjorn took down Woods in the opener at Dove Mountain, and he has rejuvenated his career to the point where he’s back in the Ryder Cup mix. Molinari has lost both first-round matches in the Accenture.
— Jim McCabe

BEN HOGAN BRACKET

Martin Kaymer def. Greg Chalmers: Fortunately, Kaymer shouldn’t need the scarf, or the “keffiyah,” that was necessary given last year’s arctic weather. But he’ll need solid play because Chalmers can putt beautifully.

David Toms def. Rickie Fowler: You get flash, sizzle, and dazzle with Fowler, no doubt; but in match play, the steady relentlessness that Toms brings to the table often prevails.

Matt Kuchar def. Jonathan Byrd: Bringing a Sea Island special all the way across the country. You would have a hard time choosing between these steady, methodical, and similar styles. Flip a coin.

Ben Crane def. Bubba Watson: Two of the “Golf Boys” video sensation going head to head, but don’t expect any microphones, gyrations or singing. Just a dogged match between putting and power.

Steve Stricker def. Kevin Na: Stricker’s re-entry after five weeks off is a tough assignment, not just because Na’s slow pace of play can be distracting, but beyond that he’s got plenty of game. Go with a rested force who can putt with the best of them.

IN THE CLUTCH

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Louis Oosthuizen def. Aaron Baddeley: In his only two starts this season, Oosthuizen has rolled to victory in the Africa Open and placed seventh in the Volvo Golf Champions. Baddeley, in the meantime, is playing for the fifth straight week and sixth time already. Which means what? No clue, but tossing the dart, it lands on the South African.

Graeme McDowell def. Y.E. Yang: McDowell comes into the season determined to return to 2010 form, and this World Golf Championship provides a perfect stage for him. Look for him to capitalize.

Zach Johnson def. Hunter Mahan: Hard to imagine a more even first-round match. They both drive it beautifully, hit a lot of greens, putt it nicely and play well in big events. Flip a coin? Heck, make it two out of three. It’s that close.
— Jim McCabe

GARY PLAYER BRACKET

Rory McIlroy def. George Coetzee: Not much to say here. If Rory doesn’t move on, it will be a big upset. Glad you made the trip, George. Don’t let the match-play door hit you on the way out.

Kyung-tae-Kim def. Anders Hansen: Won’t be much chit-chat in this match, Kim is the higher seed and should win.

Sergio Garcia def. Miguel Angel Jimenez: You never can count the “Mechanic” out, but Garcia is playing well, including a 64 in the final round of the Northern Trust Open. Take the younger Spaniard.

WINNING STREAKS

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Geoff Ogilvy def. Keegan Bradley: Bradley lost in a playoff last week in Los Angeles, and Ogilvy missed the cut. On recent form, Bradley would be the favorite, but add in the fact that Bradley took a red-eye from LA to Boston for a funeral and then had to fly all the way back, and then add in Ogilvy’s success in this format, and the Aussie is the favorite.

Jason Day def. R.C. Bello: Bello was outside of the top 100 not too long ago, but a win in Dubai lifted him into a Match Play spot. Day has not shown he likes match play, just take a look at the Presidents Cup, but that was last year.

Simon Dyson def. John Senden: Dyson was hot last year and made a name for himself on the Euro Tour. Senden is one of the better ball strikers on the PGA Tour, but the putter has held him back, expect the same Wednesday, pick Dyson.

Charl Schwartzel def. Gary Woodland: Masters champion vs. long-hitting Woodland. Schwartzel can go low and score any time; Woodland is in the middle of a swing change. Length will be a plus, but Schwartzel should be moving on.

Ian Poulter def. Sang-moon Bae: Poulter won this event in 2010, but Bae is one of those unknown players that is on the cusp of breaking out. Poulter is the pick, but a Bae win would not be a surprise.
— Alex Miceli

SAM SNEAD BRACKET

Lee Westwood def. Nicolas Colsaerts: Westwood gets past the first round and moves on.

Fredrik Jacobson def. Robert Karlsson: Karlsson has played well in the past year, but Jacobson has, as well. Jacobson had a good finish last week in Los Angeles and should move on to the second round.

Nick Watney def. Darren Clarke: Clarke played great in the British Open last year, but that was the last time. Watney is the odds-on favorite and will have little problem with Clarke.

Tiger Woods def. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano: Tiger is still implementing a swing change, but his game is good enough to move on over the Spaniard.

Webb Simpson def. Matteo Manassero: Simpson is the higher seed, but Manassero has surprising talent. Length could be an issue giving Simpson the nod.

Alvaro Quiros def. Martin Laird: The long-hitting Spaniard will meet his match in Scotland’s Laird. Laird is unknown to some extent, but will likely be on the Euro Ryder Cup team in September.

Bill Haas def. Ryo Ishikawa: Haas won a two-hole playoff at Riviera, draining a 43-footer for birdie. It doesn’t get any more pressure-packed than that. Ishikawa is still trying to find his game.

Justin Rose def. Paul Lawrie: Hard to believe that Lawrie is part of this, but wins last year and this year in the Middle East makes him a formidable opponent, but Rose ultimately should prevail.
— Alex Miceli

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, K.J. Choi, Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland, Keegan Bradley, Kyle Stanley, Sang-Moon Bae, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner, Martin Laird, Fredrik Jacobson, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Robert Rock, Jason Day, Simon Dyson, Bo Van Pelt, John Senden, Geoff Ogilvy, Gary Player, Darren Clarke, Kevin Na, Martin Kaymer, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Robert Karlsson

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