After putting in just about as much research as needed for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, I'm ready to fire with my take on each of the first-round matches, as well as give you my bracket for the week. When filling out the opening matches, I want to point out that I did not consider a player's seed. I did consider a player's past record at Dove Mountain (all events since 2009), as well as the opponents they faced in those matches.
When I got done looking at my own bracket, it feels too chalky. That said, it would be otherwise unwise to take a flier on a big opening-round upset and then ride that guy to the final four.
Here we go:
(1) McIlroy over (16) Lowry - Despite McIlroy's poor showing in his only action this season, he's 10-4 in matches at Dove Mountain. It would be a large upset if he dropped this one.
(8) Fowler over (9) Pettersson - Fowler's 2-2 record is decent, and two T6s to start the year are enough to give him the nod over Pettersson, who's done next to nothing since the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and hasn't played at Dove Mountain.
(4) D. Johnson over (13) Noren - Almost went with the upset here, but Noren is 0-1 at Dove Mountain and DJ made it to the sweet 16 here last year despite flaming out in the first round in the three years prior.
(5) McDowell over (12) Harrington - This is the battle of guys with poor records at Dove Mountain. GMac is 2-4 and Harrington is 0-3. Harrington showed some serious flashes at the Waste Management, but both guys are coming off missed cuts at Riviera.
(2) Watson over (15) Wood - Chris Wood is 0-1 and Bubba Watson is 5-3 with a final four in 2011. Questions?
(10) Moore over (7) Furyk - Moore made a run to the round of eight in 2011 before losing to eventual champion Luke Donald and owns a 3-2 record. Furyk is 3-4 at Dove Mountain, but was one-and-done the last two seasons. Moore could be a bracket buster.
(3) Schwartzel over (14) Henley - Don't fall into the trap of the dazzling rookie. Schwartzel is the hottest player on earth right now and has never lost in the first round of this event at Dove Mountain in four trips, owning a 5-4 record. If you look closely, Henley hasn't done much since his win at the Sony either.
(11) Day over (6) Z. Johnson - Day's 3&2 and Johnson's 2&4 at Dove Mountain and I'd give the slight edge to Day in form.
Predictions for the rest of the Jones Bracket:
McIlroy over Fowler, DJ over GMac, Moore over Watson and Schwartzel over Day
McIlroy over DJ and Schwartzel over Moore
Schwartzel over McIlroy to advance to the final four.
(1) Oosthuizen over (16) Ramsay - Louis' experience here includes just one win, but that's more than Ramsay's seen.
(9) Garrigus over (8) Grace - Everyone's going to want to take Grace here, but Garrigus' length and form make him a very interesting watch this week. Both are rookies in this event, and I'd like either to upset King Louis in the second round.
(4) Bradley over (13) Fraser - Bradley went 1-1 in his first taste of this event last year and seems to be in average to above-average form. That's enough for me.
(5) Els over (12) Jacobson - I watched Riviera and saw the Swedish Houdini about pull off a big win. I also know that Els is undefeated in his first rounds at Dove Mountain including a win over defending-champ and number one seed Luke Donald last year. Jacobson is 0-1 at Dove Mountain.
(2) Rose over (15) Choi - To be honest, neither guy looks that great to me. I lean towards the class of Rose over the shaky Choi.
(7) Haas over (10) Colsaerts - You have an 0-2 Haas matched up against an 0-1 Colsaerts. Haas lost in the first round last year after winning Riviera, but I'm not too excited with Colsaerts form in the U.S. this year.
(3) Garcia over (14) Jaidee - Dig deep and you'll see that Jaidee is 3&1 at Dove Mountain with his only loss coming to eventual champion Ian Poulter in 2010. Garcia should prevail, but don't be shocked if an upset happens.
(6) Kuchar over (11) Fujita - Kuchar is the definition of solid at Dove Mountain, amassing a 9-3 record in three trips, never losing in the first round. A Kuchar / Garcia second-round match will decide the Hogan bracket.
Predictions for the rest of the Hogan Bracket:
Garrigus over Oosthuizen, Bradley over Els, Rose over Haas, Kuchar over Garcia
Bradley over Garrigus and Kuchar over Rose
Kuchar over Bradley for the final four.
(1) Tiger Woods over (16) Charles Howell III - This is the 1/16 with the greatest chance of an upset. Had CH3 done anything at Riviera, I might have gone out on a limb. Tiger almost always stubs his toe to a weak opponent in this format, going just 2-3 in his previous three trips to Dove Mountain.
(8) Fernandez-Castano over (9) Francesco Molinari - The Spaniard took Woods to the 18th hole in his first trip to Dove Mountain before losing in the first round last year, while Molinari is a weak 1-3 here. I'd guess that Woods would rather see the Italian if he takes care of business in the opener.
(4) Simpson over (13) Lynn - Simpson is 0-1 and Lynn is making his first trip to Dove Mountain. Simpson is fresh off of contending at Riviera, so he gets the nod.
(5) Hanson over (12) Bjorn - This is the "Tiger nightmare" bracket. Bjorn bounced Woods in the first round a few years back, but Hanson made a nice run to the elite eight in 2012. In doing so, he improved an otherwise below-average history at this venue.
(2) Westwood over (15) Cabrera-Bello - Westy is another guy that's never lost in the first round here and owns a 7-5 record. The reason for 5 losses in four trips is due to losing in the final four and then again in the consolation match.
(7) Kaymer over (10) Coetzee - Coetzee lost to McIlroy in his only match at Dove Mountain (2012), while Kaymer is 9-4 and undefeated in the opening round. Coetzee would be a nice dark-horse candidate with a little better draw.
(3) Dufner over (14) Sterne - I don't have much conviction here. Both are 0-1 at Dove Mountain.
(6) Mahan over (11) Manassero - This is a potential upset for two reasons. First, the last two defending champs have lost in the first round. Second, Manassero is 3-2 here with wins over Webb Simpson, Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzel. Can you say giant killer? That said, I really like Mahan's trend coming out of Riviera.
Predictions for the rest of the Player Bracket:
Woods over Fernandez-Castano, Hanson over Simpson, Westwood over Kaymer and Dufner over Mahan
Woods over Hanson and Westwood over Dufner
Westwood over Woods for the final four.
(1) Donald over (16) Siem - Donald lost in the first round as a #1 seed last year. He won't let it happen again.
(8) Lawrie over (9) Piercy - Lawrie won two matches here last year, while Piercy has no experience here. Lawrie will be a tough out for anyone.
(4) Stricker over (14) Stenson - Stenson's record at Dove Mountain is awful and Stricker's is just okay. Stricker is a better player if he kept the rust off his clubs.
(5) Watney over (12) Toms - Watney is a guy to watch this week, compiling a 6-3 record and Dove Mountain and winning his first two matches each of his three times.
(15) Clark over (2) Scott - The numbers are simple. Scott is 1-4 here while Clark is 4-2. Clark's wins were Vijay Singh, Martin Kaymer, Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen. Scott lost to Robert Rock last year.
(10) Olesen over (7) Donaldson - Whoever wins this match will be a sleeper for the rest of the bracket to take notice. I'll lean Olesen.
(3) Poulter over (14) Gallacher - This isn't without a little room for debate, as Poulter lost in the first round each of the last two years, but he SHOULD win this one easily.
(11) Senden over (6) Van Pelt - I'm not loving BVP's form and he's 1-2 here versus 2-1 for Senden.
Predictions for the rest of the Snead Bracket:
Donald over Lawrie, Watney over Stricker, Olesen over Clark, Poulter over Senden
Watney over Donald, Poulter over Olesen
Poulter over Watney.
Kuchar over Schwartzel
Westwood over Poulter
Kuchar over Westwood to win it.
Poulter over Schwartzel for third.
We will hit on our one-and-done picks and any other games tomorrow.
Best of luck!