Rather than pump out power rankings for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships, I've decided to take the more practical approach of breaking down the brackets. Here are my takes on the four brackets.
- The top half of the bracket lacks depth, with the top two seeds of Stenson and Simpson also standing as the best options to reach the quarter finals. Still, Simpson seems to be cooling lately and Stenson doesn’t boast a great best record in this event. The Oosthuzien v. Watney match appears to be highly unpredictable, with both posting questionable results very recently. Watney’s history is better than Oosty’s. Snedeker tied for ninth in his only start here back in ’12, and has a seemingly winnable match with David Lynn in the first round. Aphibarnrat could pose an upset threat to Stenson. Jaidee shouldn’t give Simpson too much trouble.
- The bottom of the bracket is much deeper, but lacks a clear front runner. I could see five of the eight advancing to the quarterfinals. Stricker should dispose of Coetzee in theory, but with the health of his brother a high priority his form is a complete guess. The winner of that match faces the winner of Graham DeLaet and Patrick Reed. Watch out for the winner of the GDL / Reed match. Jason Day faces Thorbjorn Olesen, and the Aussie should be a heavy favorite. The Donaldson/Horschel match could be the least interesting, but we all know what happens if Horschel gets hot.
- This bracket is the second weakest, in my opinion, and I don’t see a “man to beat.”
- I don’t see a one-and-done option in this bracket.
- I would label Jason Day as a slight favorite in this bracket, with Patrick Reed the dark horse.
- Of the eight halves of the four brackets, the top half of the Player bracket is the worst. Most of the eight players are lacking in current form and several are just getting underway. Leading the charge is Rose, shooting 1-under through 72 holes at Riviera in his first action of 2014 and playing Scott Piercy. Rose’s B-minus game beats Piercy, but I’m not sure Rose has any better than his C-minus game right now. Not the Piercy is sporting an A-game. Els / Gallacher is blah. Els is on the downswing and Gallacher lost in the first round last year in his only action. Dufner/Stallings has some potential, but both of these players are a little too streaky right now, with Dufner not putting well to boot. Manassero / Donald has a little flair, and if Manassero can get rid of Donald he may become the favorite to reach the quarterfinal.
- The bottom of the bracket has very little depth, but does offer three top-end candidates. Defending champion, Matt Kuchar, is the 2 seed (Rose =1) and plays Bernd Wiesberger in what should be an easy win. One note of caution, Kuchar missed the cut at Riviera last week. The winner of that match plays the winner of Ryan Moore and Joost Luiten. The other two matches are Jordan Spieth, the hottest in the entire Rose bracket, against Pablo Larrazabal and Thomas Bjorn v. Francesco Molinari.
- This bracket is by far the weakest, in no small part because of the questionable form of Rose and Dufner. Spieth, Kuchar and Moore are all solid.
- I could make a case for burning a OAD on Spieth. He seems very likely to at least win his first two matches, which would be a T9 at worst.
- Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth are fighting it out to be the favorite in this bracket, with Manassero an interesting dark horse.
- This bracket is loaded. It’s deep and offers some fire power at the top.
- Standing out in the top half are Hunter Mahan, Graeme McDowell and Hideki Matsuyama. You’ll notice I didn’t mention top-seeded ZJ, who should take care of Richard Sterne but will have his hands full with a Mahan / Fdez-Castano winner. McDowell probably should be the favorite against Gary Woodland, but their styles of play are so uncomfortably different it’s hard to know what to expect. Matsuyama doesn’t have a cake walk with Martin Kaymer, who has finished 2, T9, T9 in his last three trips to Dove Mountian.
- When looking at the bottom half, you can’t help but look toward a potential third-round matchup between Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson; especially after they finished one/two at Riviera. I don’t see Peter Hanson getting in DJ’s way or Mikko Ilonen causing Watson any problems. Streelman v. Dubuisson feels fairly inconsequential, but Keegan Bradley could wreak some havoc to this bracket having drawn Jonas Blixt.
- Mahan’s history warrants a OAD look here, with a win and a runner-up in his last two trips. He’s in decent form over the past month. I also wouldn’t mind a DJ burn here, since it appears highly likely that he’ll be around in the third round to take on either Bradley or Watson.
- Mahan is the favorite in this bracket, with Kaymer a possible dark horse. Make no mistake, surviving to the final four out of this bracket will require running a murderer’s-row gamut.
- Plenty of solid depth in this bracket. I could see 10 of these 16 having a legit shot at advancing to the final four.
- Top half is Rory McIlroy against Boo Weekley, in what should be a Rory win. They would take on the winner of Westwood and English. So, we are looking at a McIlroy / Westwood or McIlroy / English matchup in the second round. Wow. Charl Schwartzel, coming off his top five at Riviera, plays Kevin Stadler; with the winner facing the Furyk/Kirk winner. Other than Boo, there isn’t an easy out anywhere in the top.
- The bottom half sees Ian Poulter staring at Rickie Fowler, who’s struggling with form. They play the winner of Jimmy Walker and Branden Grace. So, the hottest golfer on the planet (Walker) could meet match play beast Ian Poulter in round two. Bill Haas better not sleep on Miguel Angel Jiminez, while Sergio Garcia faces a tough 15 seed in Marc Leishman.
- Due to the depth of this bracket, a OAD is a big risk.
- I’ll label McIlroy as the favorite, simply because Walker or Poulter won’t make it past the second round. Count Chris Kirk as a legitimate dark horse.
Worth mentioning, draws dictate so much in match play. As much as I would like to burn a Kaymer or a Poulter in a OAD, I’m not sure how to justify it when Kaymer plays a hot Matsuyama and Poulter could meet Jimmy Walker in round two.
I’ll let it sink in for another day, and return tomorrow with some final calls. Also worth noting, there will be no Yahoo! format this week.
Best of luck to all!