Match 17, 10:05: Keegan Bradley over Marcus Fraser
Bradley got his first Accenture win last year over Geoff Ogilvy in his debut last season before losing in round two. Fraser makes his debut in the Match Play Championship this year but is coming off three top 25 finishes in his last three European Tour events including a t5 in Dubai.
Match 18, 10:15: Fredrik Jacobson over Ernie Els
Els pulled off the upset of the year last year knocking off Luke Donald who had won the previous year and was the #1 overall seed. Els has won his first match in every year since 2008, but I think that run comes to an end this year. So far this year, Els has played two European events finishing t39 and 73 and last week was t13 at the Northern Trust. Jacobson bested him though finishing t3 giving him back-to-back top tens in the last two weeks. He seems to be peaking coming into this year’s event so I’ll take him to pull the upset over Els.
Match 19, 10:25: Steve Stricker over Henrik Stenson
Stricker hasn’t played since the season opener and is just 5-7 since winning this event in 2001. He’ll take on another former Champ in Stenson who won in 2007 but has dropped his first-round match in his last three appearances.
Match 20, 10:35: Nick Watney over David Toms
Both of these players have had success in the past although Watney’s has been over a much more limited timespan. In his three career appearances, Watney has made the third round every time. Toms has only lost one first-round matchup in his 11 career appearances, so I can easily see this one going to extra holes. Watney has the tools to make another extended run, so I’ll take him to get the win in this one in what should be a very good matchup.
Match 21, 10:45: Dustin Johnson over Alexander Noren
DJ has struggled since his opening win in Hawaii but should be able to get the win here over Alexander Noren who lost in 2010 to Geoff Ogilvy in the first round in his only other appearance at this event. Johnson got to the third round last year after three straight first-round exits.
Match 22, 10:55: Graeme McDowell over Padraig Harrington
In this all-Ireland matchup, I’ll go with the Northern Irishman who has taken four of his last six first-round matches and seems to beat everyone but Y.E. Yang here in the desert. Harrington hasn’t made it out of round 1 in his last three appearances.
Match 23, 11:05: Webb Simpson over David Lynn
Between the two of them, these players have just one previous appearance which was a first-round loss by Simpson last year to Matteo Manassero. Lynn hasn’t played on the European Tour this calendar year and is just 2-4 in making cuts on the PGA with his best finish being a t34 at the Farmers at the end of January.
Match 24, 11:15: Thomas Bjorn over Peter Hanson
Bjorn knocked of Tiger in 2011 but has just a 5-6 lifetime record at the Accenture. Even with last year’s run to the quarterfinals, Hanson is only 5-5 so this should be a fairly evenly-matched game. I think Hanson pulls it out though as he continues last year’s success. He’s had better recent results on the European Tour as well.
Match 25, 11:25: Richard Ramsay over Louis Oosthuizen
In my opinion, here’s the most likely #1 to lose. Oosty has a win on the European Tour already this year but just a 1-3 all-time record in this event. Ramsay has won twice in his career in Europe including a runaway in the Omega European Masters last year. If a #1 goes down this year, I think its in this match.
Match 26, 11:35: Branden Grace over Robert Garrigus
Garrigus and Grace are both players who can get hot and make an extended run here but either one could struggle and make an early-round exit. Grace won four times in Europe last year and has four top 15s in his last five events. Garrigus has been one of the better early-season standouts on the PGA with four top 25′s in four events with a high-point of a t6 at the Farmers and a low of t22 at Pebble Beach in his last tournament. Whoever wins this, I think will win the next round too, and I’ll take the big South African to get the win in this match where extra holes seems like a good possibility.
Match 27, 11:45: Luke Donald over Marcel Siem
Donald won this event in 2011 and I think he’s primed for another long run this year. Last season he dropped his opener to Ernie Els but Siem doesn’t have that experience or current form. If Siem pulls the upset, it will be out of nowhere, but that’s been known to happen at times in the Match Play Championship.
Match 28, 11:55: Scott Piercy over Paul Lawrie
Piercy has been playing well on the PGA Tour this year and finished t2 at the WGC-HSBC Championships last year. Lawrie is a veteran who made the third round last year but hadn’t had a ton of success before that.
Match 29, 12:05 PM-Rory McIlroy over Shane Lowry
Rory is the top overall seed in the event and takes on Lowry in another all-Ireland matchup. I think Northern Ireland goes 2-2 though and gets the win in this one as well. It’s not unheard of for the #1 overall to go down in the first round like in the NCAA tournament, but Rory has a nice history (10-4) at this event while Lowry is making his first appearance.
Match 30, 12:15 PM-Rickie Fowler over Carl Pettersson
Fowler lost in the first round last year after getting two wins in 2011. Pettersson has been playing well on tour this year but has only one win in his three previous Accenture appearances and hasn’t had much WGC success.
Match 31, 12:25 PM-Tiger Woods over Charles Howell III
Woods is 33-9 in this event and has won it three times. He’ll face familiar foe CH-triple sticks who he dueled in the famous 1996 US Amateur Championship. Woods has lost twice in round one before but is in good form and should be ready for a good run. I have him getting to the eight before losing to Hunter Mahan in my bracket.
Match 32, 12:35 PM-Francesco Molinari over Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
In the final match of the day, Molinari looks for his second first-round win in a row as he takes on the Spaniard Fernandez-Castano who pushed Tiger to 18 holes last year in his first appearance. Fernandez-Castano has won six times in his career in Europe including his second career win at the BMW Italian Open last September. Molinari has won three times in Europe including a 2010 WGC event. He’s a bit more accustom to this event and to playing in the US, so I think he’ll get the win in this one.