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Sunday, February 16, 2014

WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Preview

Next up on the PGA TOUR schedule is the first World Golf Championships event of 2014, with the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship taking center stage. The Golf Club at Dove Mountain serves as the backdrop, playing as a 7,791 par 72.

About the course:

Dove Mountain is a Jack Nicklaus layout and it is consistently despised by TOUR players. Even though it is listed at 7,791 yards, it never seems to play that long and the wide fairways allow for drivers to be hit without fear of much reprisal. While longer players may have an advantage, it isn't enough of one to back just the bombers.

Here's the biggest question this week, and it is to you, the reader. What's your goal and your format?

I'll answer first, as it pertains to me.

  • Goal #1 is to not do anything stupid in the one-and-done. An example of stupid would be defined as picking Tiger Woods (I realize he isn't in the field this week) if he were playing, just to see him bow out in the first round. Last year I played Ian Poulter and was ecstatic with his fourth-place finish, but it wouldn't have been a disaster if he lost early. There wasn't anywhere else I was going to use Ian. He was the perfect choice. I'm looking for a second-tier player with a favorable first-round draw and a chance to win a couple of matches. After that, maybe he gets hot and makes a real run. If he loses in the third round, that's a T9. I'll take it. Current form would be nice. Experience in this format at this event would be a plus, as well.
  • I'll play a bracket challenge in some form or fashion (not for money, I doubt). Last year, I had Matt Kuchar in my Golf Channel bracket as the winner and he won. When I looked at the brackets, he had a tough first-round draw (maybe Sergio?). I'll have fun with it and I won't think too much. Even though I really liked Kuchar, he did not fit my OAD criteria. There were just too many other places to use him.
So, if you're a full-season OAD gamer, here's my advice. Treat this like being at a bar at 1 a.m. when you are a little down on your luck. Don't hook up with the girl who was a "2" at 10, but becomes a "10" at 2. You'll hate yourself in the morning (See Matchbox 20 "Back 2 Good"). Don't drive home if you're going to blow a .19. Just ride it out for another hour, bite the bullet and call a cab, cut your losses and live to fight another day. Calling a cab = Martin Kaymer, or Ian Poulter. Not Rory McIlroy. Maybe Hunter Mahan. 

If you are playing a bracket that has no bearing other than this week, then take a few chances. Kuchar wasn't in many brackets at the end because he had a tough first round match, despite the rest of the bracket setting up well. Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson are in good form, maybe they are a good play. Spieth? Walker? Mahan has played well the last few weeks minus a tight Riviera, but Dove Mountain isn't as tight as Riviera.

Something else worth mentioning, seeding doesn't determine if something is or isn't an upset. Here's an example. I've run several possible brackets based on OWGR, and one of them has Graham DeLaet as a six seed against Patrick Reed (11). Reed beating DeLaet would not be an upset. How about this one. Marc Leishman (15) could play Sergio Garcia (2). Leishman could absolutely win that match and it MIGHT qualify as a mild upset. Not Coppin State winning an NCAA tournament game kind of upset. 

I apologize if I've come across as a downer. I actually really enjoy watching this tournament play out, but hate being overly vested in it from a gaming standpoint. So many times, we invest hours in researching the course, the players, the weather and everything else in an effort to get something "right." 

This is a week where you have to accept that you just can't account for a guy having an absolutely scorching nine-hole run against Rory McIlroy, or Hunter Mahan going on a bad five-hole tilt. There's no time to recover. Perhaps the Northern Trust Open gives up the best example of how something like that could play itself out in a stroke-play event versus match play. Bill Haas shot a 1-over in the opening round in the more favorable morning wave on Thursday and was outside the cut line despite being among the favorites. He then posted back-to-back 67s in the second and third rounds to enter the finale in a tie for 13th only five off the lead. I'm typing this Saturday night, so I don't know how it ends for Haas, but the point is that if it were a Match Play, he would have probably been bounced on Thursday. As it stands, he has a realistic shot at winning, or at least scoring a top 10, because he had time to recover.

I'll be back Monday with a power ranking, and potentially a bracket. Until then, happy research!

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