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Accenture Match Play Championship Viewing Guide
The World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship viewing guide is my favorite kind of review to write. Put a prediction out there and see where the chips fall. No question each of you will have a different take on it. Put your prediction for the contest starting today at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., in the comment section, and we’ll compare notes afterwards.
First, a Few Random Thoughts:
Out of 64 players, the top 3… and arguably the most watchable — are taking the week off. In Phil Mickelson’s case, I wonder if it has more to do with his relationship with KPMG – a direct competitor of Accenture’s?
The high-altitude desert course leaves much to be desired — on TV… especially after the eye feast of Riviera Golf Club and Pebble Beach the past couple weeks. I wonder what the players think of the place. Rumor has it, the venue changes along with a new sponsor next year due to Accenture’s expiring event contract. However, I have heard Dove Mountain is a spectacular resort and many in the field, win or lose, stick it out and enjoy the accommodations. Smart.
If a perfect NCAA bracket is worth $1 billion…then perfectly predicting this one should be worth $3 billion. There’s an ocean of difference between No. 1 and No. 64 seeds in the NCAA’s. Here, the margin likely is less than two shots in a scoring average. So, there’s no such thing as an upset.
Why not change the qualifications? It’d be great to select the top 64 in the world off a much shorter window than two years. The seeding would reflect whose playing well now and could possibly help get the better players through to round 2.
OK, on with some predictions. I’ll spare you a bracket and give you some plays you can take to the window, ahem… bank…. ahem… couch.
Who’s your bet this weekend? Fire up the comment section and let us know.
Best “bets” in the field — if you are into that sort of thing:
Rory McIlroy (12/1) — When parity seemingly exists, usually it doesn’t. I think he’s the best player in the world, especially head-to-head. With all the talk about how anyone can win, it will not surprise me if we walks with the title. He’s that good.
Dustin Johnson (15/1) — The guy is hot and has been on every leaderboard this season. It seems like a natural progression for him to win this event. He’s long, accurate, is a flat-liner emotionally and putting well. What else is there?
Hunter Mahan (20/1) — Hunter is made for this format. Victorious in 2012, and he nearly won it last year. Mahan also is in good form early this season, and a birdie machine.
Sergio Garcia (25/1) — Did you know for a period of time last year, he led the PGA Tour in strokes-gained putting? He won the Qatar Masters less than a month ago, finished 2013 with a win and has climbed into the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). With his ball striking, penchant for match play and improved putting, he could be an extremely difficult out.
Harris English (50/1) – Harris is No. 3 in the FedEx Cup ranking, No. 1 in top-10 finishes this season, No. 3 in scoring average, No. 10 in green in regulation scoring (GIR) and No. 5 in birdie average. He’s best currently performing player with these odds on the board. I can see him making a very deep run.
Gary Woodland (80/1) — One of the few guys that Butch Harmon couldn’t turn (See Jimmy Walker.), so Woodland turned to the Shark for help. Ever since then, Woodland has been playing extremely well. A notable masher, he’s improved his accuracy to the green and makes a ton of birdies. This course could be good for him, I think he will be tough to beat despite the long odds.
Five who will be enjoying the resort more than some others:
Henrik Stenson (20/1) — He’s won the event before, you say? He was the hottest player on the planet at the end of last year you say? Hasn’t been heard from since. After you’ve been kissing trophies and on the tuxedo circuit for months, it’s natural to return to Earth. It’s his first event on U.S. soil in 2014, and this format doesn’t allow for much of a warm up. Of the top seeds, I see this one struggling.
Bubba Watson (25/1) — Hotter than lava; if it was any other guy, I’d say jump on it. But Bubba is Bubba, and nobody bounces back from victory worse than this guy. Appreciatively, he enjoys his wins more than most I think, and I do like that about him. But, with the “haven’t won since Augusta” monkey off his back, I still don’t see him grinding out a win here.
Ian Poulter (30/1) — Another former winner here, but someone who has been out of form and also drew the first tee time of the day Wednesday. If you follow him on Twitter, you know he hates mornings. For that alone, I suggest he may stumble out of the gate, and he has to tangle with Rickie Fowler. Great first match.
Steve Stricker (40/1) — I really like Stricker. How can you not? But I do not think one can sustain top-10 play without playing. Last year was an aberration. I also do not believe this format suits Stricker. I say stay away.
Luke Donald (40/1) and Lee Westwood (50/1) — These are two players whose windows are slamming shut. Numbers don’t lie and Donald’s are down big time since peaking at No. 1 in the world two years ago. Feels to me like he grinded so hard over that season that he was exhausted all of 2013 and can’t get it back.
Westwood, sadly, was stomach-punched by Mickelson at Carnoustie Golf Links, and I feel may never recover. It may have been Westwood’s last stand. His game — and possibly his motivation — seems to be sliding quickly.
Photos courtesy worldgolfchampionships.com.
Kurt’s Favorite First Round Matches:
Poulter vs. Fowler — Fowler’s form has been putrid this season – three missed cuts. Poulter is a match-play legend, but hates early morning wake-up calls. These events always seem to have an early surprise when you fire up your laptop and check the scores. This could be one of those matches. And their the best-dressed guys for sure.
Jimmy Walker vs. Brendan Grace – Two studs. Walker needs no further introduction. Grace, from South Africa, has been a stalwart on the European Tour. I expect Grace to win this match, but it could be an extra-hole affair.
Rory McIlroy vs. Boo Weekly – This reminds me of the top seed in the NCAA’s that draws Princeton. We know Weekly will have fun with this and have no expectations going in, which is always dangerous. It could end up being McIlroy’s toughest, or only, match. So, it should be close.
Charl Schwartzel vs. Kevin Stadler – The “there is two ways to approach a meal” battle. I get the impression that Schwartzel is a nutritionist, while Stadler doesn’t shy away from a value meal. Or it could go any way. Both are playing extremely well. By the way, have you seen Stadler’s caddy?
Graeme McDowell vs. Gary Woodland – For the reasons I mentioned above regarding Woodland, I think this a good match-up. Graeme is a likable bulldog – a very game opponent. One of the underlying currents I think may come out of this weekend is the early exit of many of the European Ryder Cup veterans. Is there such a thing as an aging Ryder Cup team?
Who’s your bet this weekend? Fire up the comment section and let us know. Happy viewing!