Another day of surprises and favorites being bounced in the desert has narrowed the field to 16 at the Match Play Championship in Tuscon. Tiger fell prey to his poor putting as Nick Watney got the win to advance to the final 16. Tiger’s putting was highlighted by missing his last shot from within 6 feet that could have forced extra holes. Before he contends at a major or anywhere else, he’ll need to get his putting game ironed out.
Turning our attention to the players still in the field, 3 of my 4 pre-tournament semi-finalists remain while Lee Westwood made the 3rd round for the first time in 12 tries. He, Kaymer, and McIlroy remain as #1′s while the only #2 seed left is Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson is the only #3. The lowest seed still around is #13 Miguel Jimenez who takes on my pre-tournament pick for champion Rory McIlroy.
In golf, one of the main goals is to hit it right down the middle. Well, that’s what I’ve done so far with my picks. After splitting the first round 16-16, I went 8-8 yesterday. Here’s hoping I can finally get off the “even par” mark with these 8 picks today:
12:50- #4 Matt Kuchar over #1 Martin Kaymer: Both MK’s have dominated their matches without ever trailing. Last year, both these golfers made the semi-final’s with Kaymer losing in the finals and Kuchar winning the consolation final. This is a great matchup to start the day off with, and one of these two match-play experts will have to head home earlier than they did last year. I had Kuchar in my finals and he’s shown me nothing to make me change that pick, although Kaymer has looked on his game as well and this matchup is a coin flip that could easily go extra holes.
1:02- #6 Hunter Mahan over #2 Steve Stricker: These 2 faced off 4 years ago and headed to extra time with Stricker winning on the 20th. Mahan appears to be in better form entering this one after winning easily over Y.E. Yang with 6 birdies in 7 holes at one point. Stricker rallied to beat Louis Oosthuizen, but I don’t think he’ll be able to overcome his former Ryder Cup teammate as Hunter moves into the elite 8.
1:14-#4 Nick Watney over #1 Lee Westwood: Westwood has never played in the 3rd round and draws Watney who just knocked out Tiger in the last round. Watney will be looking to eliminate Westwood for the 3rd year in a row, and most people are picking Westwood, but I think Nick will get the job done once again.
1:26-#11 Paul Lawrie over #10 Martin Laird: Lawrie and Laird will face off in the all-Scots version of Match Play. Lawrie won at Qatar earlier this year and has only trailed 1 hole this week. He defeated 20-year old Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa yesterday while Laird made 7 birdies while eliminating Italian youngster Matteo Manassero. Lawrie is one of the veterans left in the tournament and I’ll take the experienced Scotsman over the younger (but slightly higher seeded) Laird.
1:38-#5 Brandt Snedeker over #9 Peter Hanson: Snedeker was my pre-tourney sleeper for the final 4 and he’s performed well to this point although his putter has been slightly off. I think he’ll get it straightened out in time to dispatch the 9th ranked Swede who eliminated Ernie Els in the previous round.
1:50-#3 Dustin Johnson over #10 Mark Wilson: Johnson will be playing from much farther down the fairways against the shorter-hitting Wilson. Last year though, Wilson eliminated Johnson in 19 holes in the first round. DJ trounced Francesco Molinari 7 and 5 yesterday while Mark Wilson never trailed for the 2nd match in a row as he beat Robert Rock 3 and 2. This should be another close match as these two contrasting style face off. I’ll take Johnson, but Wilson has looked good so far in the Championship so it wouldn’t be a shocker if Wilson eliminates Johnson for the 2nd year in a row.
2:02-#1 Rory McIlroy over #13 Miguel Angel Jimenez: The lowest seed remaining is also the oldest player in the tournament. Jimenez has not trailed to this point while Rory has played sketchy at times. I still like McIlroy to move on since I think he’ll figure it out enough to beat the Spaniard.
2:14-#11 Sang-moon Bae over #10 John Senden: The second of 2 improbable 10v11 matchups, both these players have been playing well on tour coming into the event. Senden has been steady, while Bae has struggled early and scorched the course on the back 9. I think Bae will pull it out and become the second 11-seed to move on to the round of 8.