Yesterday at the Match Play Championship was everything this tournament has come to represent with upsets all over the bracket, and plenty of compelling and exciting storylines all around Tuscon. The biggest surprise of day 1 was that last year’s champion (and one of this year’s #1 seeds) Luke Donald mad an early exit after losing to Ernie Els. Tiger and Rory both looked shaky but advanced to play another day. There were other big names not so fortunate as Graeme McDowell, Adam Scott, and Bill Haas were all sent home early.
In all, 15 of the lower seeds won the 32 matches. My picks were exactly even at 16-16 after a horrible start losing the first 4 matchups. I had the Rock upset but also had Westwood and Stricker getting knocked off while I didn’t foresee Luke Donald’s demise. As far as my long-term predictions, all 4 of my semifinalists survived as McIlroy, Woods, Snedeker, and Matt Kuchar moved on to round 2. I don’t feel great about Rory to win the whole thing since he looked shaky especially towards the end of the round, but I’m stickin’ with him although it doesn’t shape up to be an easy path.
Here’s the matchups for round 2 (with live scoring updates) and my picks for day 2 of the WGC Match Play Championship, tee times listed are local:
9:25-#7 Louis Oosthuizen over #2 Steve Stricker: Both men closed out their first round wins 2 and 1 despite taking a good amount of time off prior to the event. They’ve also both won already this year with Stricker winning in Hawaii and Oosthuizen in South Africa. I’m going with the upset here and taking Shrek to get into the third-round for the first time in his career.
9:37-#14 Y. E. Yang over Hunter Mahan: Mahan came from behind to knock off Zach Johnson in extra time while Yang took care of Graeme McDowell without ever trailing. Both these players made big runs last year with Yang making it all the way to the quarters. I’m not sure if he’ll get that far this year, but I do think he’ll take out Mahan today.
9:49-#15 Matteo Mannasero over #10 Martin Laird: Mannesero is the youngest player in the field but has shown an affinity for this format. Laird won on the 18th over Alvero Quiros in a close match, but I think his run ends here the Italian youth gets to the 3rd round for the 2nd straight year.
10:01- #14 Ryo Ishikawa over #11 Paul Lawrie: Mannesero isn’t the only young international making waves as Ryi Ishikawa knocked out Bill Haas by winning 4 of 5 closing holes to knock out last week’s winner on the PGA Tour. He’ll now face Paul Lawrie who has been playing well this year with a win in Qatar and a first round victory over Justin Rose. I think it’s the Japanese youth over the veteran Scot here.
10:13-#15 Robert Rock over #10 Mark Wilson: Rock on! I called his upset yesterday over Adam Scott and think he’ll be able to handle Mark Wilson as well. Wilson looked in great form Wednesday, so I’m not super-confident in this pick, but I’ve got to roll with the Rock.
10:25-#3 Dustin Johnson over #11 Francesco Molinari: Johnson finally escaped the first round by rallying past Jim Furyk on their 19th hole. Molinari beat Thomas Bjorn in extras as well when he holed out with an eagle on their 20th hole. This should be an exciting and fun match to watch, but I’ll go with DJ.
10:37-#2 Jason Day over #10 John Senden: Day looked done at 3 down with 3 to play but rallied to win on the 19th to get into this all-Aussie second round match. Senden is steady, but Day should be able to build on his day 1 momentum and take this to move on to the 3rd round again this year.
11:01-#1 Martin Kaymer over #8 David Toms: Toms is a crowd favorite and will take on the #1 seeded German. Kaymer was runner-up here last year and knows his way around Dove Mountain. Toms will make it close, but the upset almost looks to obvious here.
11:13-#4 Matt Kuchar over #5 Bubba Watson: Kuchar beat Watson last year in a close consolation final after the 2 lost to Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer. Watson’s early form looked great, but I picked Kuchar to the finals so I’ll stand by him in this one.
11:25-#8 Robert Karlsson over #1 Lee Westwood: Westwood’s inability to get out of this round in his 11 previous appearances is well-known. I’d normally pick him based simply on “it’s about time,” but Karlsson looked unbeatable as he hit every green in regulation as he rolled over fellow-Swede Fredrik Jacobson. He too has never made it past round 2, but I actually think Karlsson will be the first-timer to advance instead of Westwood.
11:37-#5 Nick Watney over #4 Tiger Woods: I picked Tiger to the final 4, but I’m jumping ship at this point. I don’t want to, but Tiger’s putting was extremely rough as he barely escaped round 1. Watney is 5-2 at this event lifetime and has typically done well in match play. This is the headliner matchup, and it should be a great one to watch. Tiger stands as my pre-tournament pick to win the Snead bracket, but I’m not sure he can get by Watney in this one.
11:49-#9 Peter Hanson over #16 Ernie Els: Els had been struggling mightily with his putter before the tournament began, but his putter problems were nowhere to be seen as he knocked off the defending champ Luke Donald. Els no faces Hanson who has made 5 match play starts and is making just his second appearance in round 2. To me this is a coin-flip pick. Els wasn’t expected to do anything here, so I’ll go with Hanson to end the Cinderella story for the “Big Easy” in round 2.
12:01-#5 Brandt Snedeker over #13 Kyle Stanley: These 2 faced off just a few weeks ago at Torrey Pines in a playoff that Snedeker ultimately won. Of course, Stanley had the legendary bounceback comeback the next week to win the Humana. Expect plenty more drama in this one as it will be the best of the late matches. I’ll go Sneds since I have him winning this bracket.
12:13-#1 Rory McIlroy over #9 Anders Hansen: McIlroy has been bounced in the 2nd round the last 2 years and struggled at the end of his round 1 win when his play off the tee started getting loose. Hansen played strong to the finish as he closed out Kim in round 1 and it wouldn’t shock me if he pulled this one out. I picked Rory pre-tournament so I’m sticking to him.
12:25-#5 Keegan Bradley over #13 Miguel Angel Jimenez: Bradley overcame match play specialist Geoff Ogilvy in round 1 coming off a great week at Riviera. He could very easily make the semi’s and is a nice dark-horse at this point to win the whole thing. Jimenez took care of his countryman Sergio Garcia, but Bradley looks like a force to be reckoned with in Tuscon.
Round 1 picks: 16-16
Round 2 picks so far: 0-0