The biggest names in golf apart from Phil Mickelson meet in one of the best days in golf today in the first round of the Accenture Match Play Championship. The event is hosted by the Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona. It’s always loads of fun since even more than the NCAA tournament this one’s jam-packed with upsets. Picking a full bracket before the tournament is pretty crazy, so I’ll give you my round-by-round picks as we progress.
Before we get to the picks, here’s the link, If you’re looking for our picks for the weekly fantasy golf game which focuses on the Maykoba Golf Classic south of the border where those who missed the field here will compete.
Here’s the link for a live bracket, and here’s how I think day 1 will play out:
Match 1-#3 Graeme McDowell over #14 Y.E. Yang: Yang won this matchup last year in the 3rd round, but has been struggling early in the PGA calendar. McDowell has yet to play in the US but has been doing well internationally and I think he’ll take this one.
Match 2-#11 Zach Johnson over #6 Hunter Mahan: Johnson has a longer history and has played in the consolation finals here before. Mahan’s playing well, but I think Johnson pulls the mild upset here.
Match 3-#3 Bill Haas over #14 Ryo Ishikawa: Haas just won the PGA Tour event last week riding a hot putter. It should be enough to get him past the Japanese youth Ishikawa who has a realtively solid recent record here.
Match 4-#6 Justin Rose over #11 Paul Lawrie: Lawrie just won in Qatar and Rose played well at the Northern Trust Open. Rose is more consistent and made the quarterfinals in ’07.
Match 5-#3 Dustin Johnson over #14 Jim Furyk: Johnson gets no help from the draw as he looks for his first match-play victory. He’s lost to Mark Wilson, Camilo Villegas, and Steve Stricker in the first round in his 3 appearances and now gets the veteran Furyk to open this year’s tourney. I think his length will finally get him the W in the first round.
Match 6-#11 Francesco Molinari over #6 Thomas Bjorn: Another mild upset as I think the Italian upsets the Danish Bjorn who took out Tiger last year. In this all-European matchup these two may be jockeying for Ryder Cup positioning.
Match 7-#3 Charl Schwartzel over #14 Gary Woodland: Schartzel has won all 3 of his previous openers and Woodland is making his debut. I’ll take the experience in this one.
Match 8-#6 Ian Poulter over #11 Sang-moon Bae: Bae has been played well, but is making his WGC debut and has to go against the 18-8 all-time Poulter. Poulter won here 2 years ago and the Volvo Match Play Championship last year, so to say this is a format he likes would be an understatement.
Match 9-#15 Kevin Na over #2 Steve Stricker: Na is hot or cold and if he’s on he can easily take the match. If he’s off Stricker will end this early, but I’m calling this as the first big upset since Stricker isn’t a big fan of the course (1-3 overall) and has been knocked out in the first round the last 2 years.
Match 10-#10 Aaron Baddeley over #7 Louis Oosthuizen: The Shrek look-alike from South Africa is in good form coming into the event but so is Badds who seems to overperform in this event each year.
Match 11-#2 Webb Simpson over #15 Matteo Manassero: Manassero took out some giants (Schwartzel and Stricker) last year before losing the Luke Donald. Simpson is making his debut in the match play event and could struggle with the young Italian, but I think he ultimately moves on.
Match 12-#10 Martin Laird over #7 Alvero Quiros: Both of these two have played the event before, but neither has made it out of the first round. Quiros is 0-3 and Laird 0-1.
Match 13-#15 Robert Rock over #2 Adam Scott: Rock can add to his legend which began when he beat Tiger by knocking off Adam Scott. Scott has a good record (14-10) but most of those happened at a different venue. In the last 5 years in Tuscon, Scott’s just 2-5.
Match 14-#10 Mark Wilson over #7 Bo Van Pelt: Wilson won the Humana last month and played well to open the Tour season. Both golfers are 1-1 in their limited history here and this matchup is pretty much a toss-up.
Match 15-#2 Jason Day over #15 Rafael Cabrera Bello: Bello has won in Europe but debuts at this event against Jason Day. It’s a tough draw for the young Spaniard as Day performed well (2-1) in last year’s event.
Match 16-#7 Simon Dyson over #10 John Senden: Both players come in having lost their debuts in this event. Senden has a t6 recently at the Humana, but Dyson has performed well in Europe including 11 career wins, so I’ll go with the Englishman over the Aussie.
Match 17-#4 Matt Kuchar over #13 Jonathan Byrd: Kuchar made the semi’s last year and should advance over Byrd who’s 2-4 making cuts in his first 4 events of the year on Tour.
Match 18-#12 Ben Crane over #5 Bubba Watson: Crane and Watson will be one of the crazier matches of the day. Both of these guys have pretty good records in the event and last year Watson lost in the semi’s with Crane going out in the 3rd round. Crane’s made the 3rd round the last 2 years and crushed McIlroy last year. Crane will be slow as usual, but I think he’ll move on.
Match 19-#4 Nick Watney over #13 Darren Clarke: Watney made the 3rd round the last 2 years and Clarke hasn’t played here in the last 4 years.
Match 20-#5 Tiger Woods over #12 Gonzalo Fdez-Castano: Woods has dominated this event in the past and I think he’s got another good run in him. I’m not ready to pick him to win the whole thing, but this match I feel like he’ll cruise through.
Match 21-#13 Kyle Stanley over #4 K.J. Choi: Stanley makes his debut, but after his bounceback win at the Humana I’m confident that he can perform under pressure. Choi’s played 8 of these events and made the quarters once, but the rest of the time has failed to make the 3rd round.
Match 22-#5 Brandt Snedeker over #12 Retief Goosen: Goosen has played 12 events while Sneds is only on #2. Still though, his putter has been going well early in the year and I think he can take out the grizzles South African vet.
Match 23-#4 Sergio Garcia over #13 Miguel Angel Jimenez: Both Spaniards are playing their 11th run at the Match Play Championship. Garcia finished the Northern trust well (64) and has made the semi’s before (2010), so I’ll take Sergio to win the battle for Spain.
Match 24-#12 Geoff Ogilvy over #5 Keegan Bradley: I’m a big fan of Bradley’s but he definitely feels like the underdog despite the seeding as he makes his debut against the 20-4 lifetime Ogilvy. Trying to turn around after Sunday’s playoff loss could be tough for Bradley as well, so I’ll go with the numerical upset with Ogilvy.
Match 25-#1 Martin Kaymer over #16 Greg Chalmers: Kaymer was last year’s runner-up and should be primed to make another big run this year. Chalmers hasn’t played this event since 11 years ago.
Match 26-#9 Rickie Fowler over #8 David Toms: Toms has a ton of success in Match Play, but Rickie showed well last year, most notably over Phil. I’ll take the young gun over the veteran in this intriguing 8v9 matchup.
Match 27-#16 Nicolas Colsaerts over #1 Lee Westwood: Despite all of Westwood’s success worldwide, his 11 Match Play visits have only netted him 7 total victories. Colsaerts comes from Belgium with distance to spare and a solid record in other match play events. Unlike the NCAA tournament, 16’s can win here; and I think Colsaerts will.
Match 28-#8 Robert Karlsson over #9 Fredrik Jacobson: In this all Swedish matchup, I’ll go with the only one of the two who’s played Match Play in the last 5 years.
Match 29-#1 Luke Donald over #16 Ernie Els: The Big Easy has been on the other side of 1 v 16 matchups and now faces last year’s champion Luke Donald. I’m not picking Donald to win the event, but I do think he’ll win this match.
Match 30-#8 Jason Dufner over #9 Peter Hanson: Dufner’s debut will come against Peter Hanson who is 2-4 in his visits to the Match Play Championship. I’ll the Cleveland over Sweden in this one.
Match 31-#1 Rory McIlroy over #16 George Coetzee: McIlroy is my pick to win it all pre-tournament. He’s been able to collect 5 wins in his 3 trips and hasn’t lost in the first round yet. I don’t think today is the first time he does.
Match 32-#9 Anders Hansen over #8 Kyung-tae Kim: Hansen is just 1 for 5 in his attempts to get out of round one. Kim lost in his debut last year to Jason Day. I’ve already got 2 8 seed’s winning so I’ll flip a coin and come up with the Dane over the South Korean in the last match of the day.
Overall pick for final: Rory McIlroy over Matt Kuchar, with Brandt Snedeker beating Tiger in the consolation finals.