Round 1 predictions for the WGC-Accenture Match Play

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 19, 2013, 6:23 pm

MARANA, Ariz. – Round 1 of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship gets underway Wednesday at The Ritz Carlton Golf Club Dove Mountain. offers up some first-round predictions. Click here to play Golf Channel's Bracket Challenge to make your picks. (Also check out the bracket and tee times.) All tee times are local (MT).

Match 1 - 7:25 a.m. - (3) Sergio Garcia def. (14) Thongchai Jaidee

Although El Nino has a history of one-and-done weeks at the Match Play - he’s been bounced in the opening set four times in 10 appearances - he has not finished outside the top 20 since last September.

Match 2 - 7:35 a.m. - (6) Matt Kuchar def. (11) Hiroyuki Fujita

In three Match Play starts Kuchar has never lost in Round 1, although he did struggle after a stellar start last week in Los Angeles. That Fujita is making his first start of 2013 also makes a Round 1 upset unlikely.

Match 3 - 7:45 a.m. - (14) Stephen Gallacher def. (3) Ian Poulter

OK, so the wild-eyed Englishman has won this event before (2010) and is still riding high following last year’s Ryder Cup, but Gallacher is fresh off a victory in Dubai and is ripe for pulling an upset.

Match 4 - 7:55 a.m. - (11) John Senden def. (6) Bo Van Pelt

On paper this is an upset, but the truth is this is an extremely close match up but the Aussie, who advanced to the Sweet 16 last year at Dove Mountain, comes out ahead.

Match 5 - 8:05 a.m. - (3) Charl Schwartzel def. (14) Russell Henley

Tough opening-day pull for the Sony Open champion, who will face an on-form Schwartzel (T-3 at Northern Trust Open) who has never lost in Round 1 at the Match Play.

Match 6 - 8:15 a.m. - (11) Jason Day def. (6) Zach Johnson

This is a “courses for horses” deal. Since the Match Play moved to Dove Mountain in 2007 Johnson has never advanced past the second round on a bomber’s course that is made to order for Day.

Match 7 - 8:25 a.m. - (14) Richard Sterne def. (3) Jason Dufner

After Brandt Snedeker, who is missing this week’s WGC with an ailing rib, the South African is the game’s hottest player, having finished first, second and T-7 in his last three starts.

Match 8 - 8:35 a.m. - (6) Hunter Mahan def. (11) Matteo Manassero

The defending champion has slowly dug himself out of the slump that beset him last year. Don’t be surprised to see him hanging around deep into the weekend.

Match 9 - 8:45 a.m. - (2) Justin Rose def. (15) K.J. Choi

Englishman already has one WGC on his shelf (WGC-Cadillac Championship) and is probably coach Sean Foley’s best chance to claim a second consecutive Match Play title.

Match 10 - 8:55 a.m. - (7) Bill Haas def. (10) Nicolas Colsaerts

The Muscles from Brussels has been sluggish in his American debut this season and Haas hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in his last three starts.

Match 11 - 9:05 a.m. - (15) Tim Clark def. (2) Adam Scott

In a battle of long putters, the South African is poised to mar more than a few brackets. Don’t be surprised, this is the same player who has “upset” Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods in his last two Match Play starts.

Match 12 - 9:15 a.m. - (10) Thorbjorn Olsesen def. (7) Jamie Donaldson

It is pronounced TOR-be-yorn OO-les-en and American fans should get used to saying it. The Dane is on a steady rise having finished T-2 in Abu Dhabi and T-3 in Dubai last month.

Match 13 - 9:25 a.m. - (2) Bubba Watson def. (15) Chris Wood

Bubba wins the battle of the bombers on Day 1, but this one will be close and may go extra holes. May we suggest they play the drivable par-4 16th hole until a champion in crowned for our viewing pleasure.

Match 14 - 9:35 a.m. - (7) Jim Furyk def. (10) Ryan Moore

Tough match to call, but the nod goes to Furyk based on his experience at this event. The veteran has made a cool dozen starts at the Match Play in his career.

Match 15 - 9:45 a.m. - (2) Lee Westwood def. (15) Rafael Cabrera-Bello

The Englishman has been steady, if not spectacular, to start the season and he did advance to the semifinals here last year. The Spaniard, on the other hand, went down in Round 1 in 2012 to Jason Day.

Match 16 - 9:55 a.m. - (10) George Coetzee def. (7) Martin Kaymer

Two years ago the German took over the top spot in the World Ranking at Dove Mountain but he still seems to be searching for answers. Coetzee, however, is fresh off three consecutive top-10 finishes.

Match 17 - 10:05 a.m. - (4) Keegan Bradley def. (13) Marcus Fraser

Still no top-10s this season for Bradley, but when it comes to holing clutch putts, fewer on Tour are better.

Match 18 - 10:15 a.m. - (12) Fredrik Jacobson def. (5) Ernie Els

Potential upset here, even if the Junkman’s history in this event leaves much to be desired (two one-and-dones and a quarterfinal loss in 2004). Els’ T-13 finish at Riviera was only the second time he’s cracked the top 15 since he won the Open, while Jacobson has posted back-to-back top-7 results.

Match 19 - 10:25 a.m. - (4) Steve Stricker def. (13) Henrik Stenson

Even with the extended layoff, Stricker should be able to get past his first-round opponent – though, it should be noted, that wasn’t the case in 2011 and ’10.

Match 20 - 10:35 a.m. - (5) Nick Watney def. (12) David Toms

Watney has reached the quarterfinals each of the past three years, while Toms hasn’t cracked the top 50 in two starts this season.

Match 21 - 10:45 a.m. - (4) Dustin Johnson def. (13) Alexander Noren

DJ’s record in this event isn’t spectacular (three first-round losses), and he’s coming off two consecutive missed cuts, but he still should be able to handle Noren, who is making only his second Match Play appearance.

Match 22 - 10:55 a.m. - (5) Graeme McDowell def. (12) Padraig Harrington

Toss-up here, but we’ll give the edge to McDowell, who always seems to hunker down in the tight matches. Paddy is coming off consecutive missed cuts, too.

Match 23 - 11:05 a.m. - (4) Webb Simpson def. (13) David Lynn

Simpson lost in the first round in his only other appearance here, but a T-6 at Riviera shows he’s in good form heading back to the desert.

Match 24 - 11:15 a.m. - (5) Peter Hanson def. (12) Thomas Bjorn

Hanson is making his season debut on Tour, but his top-22 finishes in the Middle East bode well for this week.

Match 25 - 11:25 a.m. - (1) Louis Oosthuizen def. (16) Richie Ramsay

A surprisingly weak record for such a sweet swinger, but Oosty should face little resistance in Ramsay, who is seeing Dove Mountain for the first time.

Match 26 - 11:35 a.m. - (8) Branden Grace def. (9) Robert Garrigus

This has the potential to go extra holes. Neither player has teed it up here before. Grace had top-6 finishes in the Middle East, while Garrigus hasn’t finished worse than 22nd this season. A true toss-up.

Match 27 - 11:45 a.m. - (1) Luke Donald def. (16) Marcel Siem

Donald is one of the best match-play performers in the world for a reason. He dominates in this one.

Match 28 - 11:55 a.m. - (8) Paul Lawrie def. (9) Scott Piercy

The Scot reached the Sweet 16 last year in his first appearance at this event since 2003, and has more match-play experience in general, but if Piercy gets the putter going, this one could turn around in a hurry.

Match 29 - 12:05 p.m. - (1) Rory McIlroy def. (16) Shane Lowry

This could be much closer than anticipated, especially if the weather is as nasty as forecasted. Rory should extend his visit past Wednesday, though, for he’s never lost in the first round here.

Match 30 - 12:15 p.m. - (8) Rickie Fowler def. (9) Carl Pettersson

Give the advantage here to Rickie, who has top-6s in two of his three starts this season. Pettersson withdrew last week with the flu.

Match 31 - 12:25 p.m. - (1) Tiger Woods def. (16) Charles Howell III

We hope it’s close, if only for the entertainment, but there is no better bad-weather player in the world than Tiger, and he’s clearly in good form.

Match 32 - 12:35 p.m. - (8) Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano def. (9) Francesco Molinari

Castano has played well in three European Tour starts, finishing no worse than 20th, while Molinari has only played once (a MC in Abu Dhabi).

Thomas vs. Rose could be Ryder Cup highlight

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:40 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – For those still digesting the end of 2017 – the European Tour did, after all, just wrap up its season in Dubai on Sunday – consider that the PGA Tour is already nearly one-fifth of the way into a new edition.

The Tour has already crowned eight champions as the game banks into the winter break, and there are some interesting trends that have emerged from the fall.

Dueling Justins: While Justin Thomas picked up where he left off last season, winning the inaugural CJ Cup in October just three weeks after claiming the FedExCup and wrapping up Player of the Year honors; Justin Rose seems poised to challenge for next year’s low Justin honors.

The Englishman hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since August and won back-to-back starts (WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open) before closing his year with a tie for fourth place in Dubai.

Note to U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk: Justin v. Justin next September in Paris could be fun.

Youth served. Just in case anyone was thinking the pendulum might be swinging back in the direction of experience over youthful exuberance – 41-year-old Pat Perez did put the veterans on the board this season with his victory at the CIMB Classic – Patrick Cantlay solidified his spot as genuine phenom.

Following an injury-plagued start to his career, Cantlay got back on track this year, needing just a dozen starts to qualify for the Tour Championship. He went next level earlier this month with his playoff victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

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They say these trends come and go in professional golf, but as the average age of winners continues to trend lower and lower it’s safe to say 25 is the new 35 on Tour.

A feel for it. For all the science that has become such a big part of the game – from TrackMan analysis to ShotLink statistics – it was refreshing to hear that Patton Kizzire’s breakthrough victory at the OHL Classic came down to a hunch.

With the tournament on the line and Rickie Fowler poised just a stroke back, Kizzire’s tee shot at the 72nd hole came to rest in an awkward spot that forced him to stand close to his approach shot to keep his feet out of the sand. His 8-iron approach shot sailed to 25 feet and he two-putted for par.

And how far did he have for that pivotal approach?

“I have no idea,” he laughed.

Fall facelift. Although the moving parts of the 2018-19 schedule appear to be still in flux, how the changes will impact the fall schedule is coming into focus.

The Tour’s goal is to end the season on Labor Day, which means the fall portion of the schedule will begin a month earlier than it does now. While many see that as a chance for the circuit to embrace a true offseason, it’s becoming increasingly clear that won’t be the case.

The more likely scenario is an earlier finish followed by a possible team competition, either the Ryder or Presidents cup, before the Tour kicks off a new season in mid-September, which means events currently played before the Tour Championship will slide to the fall schedule.

“So if you slide it back, somebody has to jump ahead. The mechanics of it,” said Davis Love III, host of the RSM Classic and a member of the Tour’s policy board. “I’m still going to go complain and beg for my day, but I also understand when they say, this is your date, make it work, then we'll make it work.”

While 2019 promises to bring plenty of change to the Tour, know that the wraparound season and fall golf are here to stay.

Product protection. Speaking of the fall schedule and the likely plan to expand the post-Tour Championship landscape, officials should also use the platform to embrace some protections for these events.

Consider that the RSM Classic featured the third-strongest field last week according to the Official World Golf Ranking, behind the season-ending tournament in Dubai on the European Tour and the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour.

The winner in Dubai received 50 World Ranking points, a marquee event that has historically been deeper than that week’s Tour stop, while the Dunlop Phoenix winner, Brooks Koepka, won 32 points. Austin Cook collected 30 points for his victory at Sea Island Resort.

All told, the Japan event had four players in the field from the top 50 in the world, including world No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama; while the highest-ranked player at the RSM Classic was Matt Kuchar at 15th and there were seven players from the top 50 at Sea Island Resort.

Under Tour rules, Koepka, as well as any other Tour members who competed either in Japan or Dubai, had to be granted conflicting-event releases by the circuit.

Although keeping players from participating in tournaments overseas is not an option, it may be time for the circuit to reconsider the conflicting-event policy if the result is a scenario like last week that relegates a Tour event to third on the international dance card.

After Further Review: Whan deserves major credit

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 19, 2017, 11:18 pm

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Mike Whan's really, really good idea ...

If LPGA commissioner Mike Whan hasn’t earned a gold star yet for creating the Race to the CME Globe four years ago, he deserves one now. The race’s finish at the CME Group Tour Championship has become a spectacular fireworks show. Stacy Lewis said it best on Saturday. She said the pressure the top players feel at CME is the “worst” those players feel all year, and by that she meant the “most intense,” the kind that makes for the best weeks.

You can argue there’s more pressure on the top women at the CME than there is in a major. The Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring, the Rolex world No. 1 ranking and the money-winning title all seem to come down to this final week, when there’s also the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot up for grabs. You have to think the weight of all that might have had something to do with Lexi Thompson missing that 2-footer at Sunday’s end. She came away with the Vare Trophy and $1 million jackpot as nice consolation prizes. We all came away thrilled by Ariya Jutanugarn’s birdie-birdie finish amid the gut-wrenching drama. - Randall Mell

On Austin Cook's improbable winner's journey ...

Despite becoming a Monday qualifying sensation on the PGA Tour in 2015, Austin Cook still had to head to Tour Q-School that winter. There he collapsed over his final four holes to blow a chance at full status, and one year later the cancellation of the Tour Championship because of Hurricane Matthew left him $425 short of a PGA Tour card.

But Cook put to rest all of his recent near-misses with four days of nearly flawless golf at Sea Island. Now he’s headed to Augusta National in April and exempt through 2020, afforded ample time to look back at how tough breaks in the past helped to shape his unique journey to the winner’s circle. - Will Gray

On what Cook's win says about PGA Tour depth ...

Players talk regularly about the depth of talent on the PGA Tour, claiming that anyone in a particular field can come away with a trophy on any given week.

To prove the point, Austin Cook, No. 306 in the Official World Golf Ranking, rolled over the field at the RSM Classic with rounds of 66-62-66-67 for a four-stroke victory. Before Sunday at Sea Island Resort, Cook’s only triumph in a professional event was at a mini-tour winter series tournament. That payday was $5,000.

His victory at the RSM Classic was worth considerably more and proved, yet again, the depth of the modern game. - Rex Hoggard

Snedeker feels close to 100 percent after RSM week

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 11:09 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Even if the result – a tie for 29th place – wasn't exactly what Brandt Snedeker is accustomed to, given his journey back from injury he’ll consider his final regular-season start of 2017 a success.

Snedeker had been sidelined with a sternum injury since June and overhauled his swing with the help of his coach John Tillery in an attempt to alleviate future injury. Needless to say, his expectations at the RSM Classic were low.

After starting the week with back-to-back rounds of 67 to move into contention, Snedeker wasn’t as sharp on the weekend, but he was still pleased with his week.

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

“It was great to see how my swing held up and the golf course toughen up today and the changes we made. Inevitably you kind of revert back to what’s comfortable and natural,” he said. “But now my body feels good. I was shocked. I thought I’d be close to 75 percent this week and felt closer to 100 [percent]. Hopefully it continues to stay that way.”

Snedeker said he has a busy schedule planned for early next season on the West Coast and also plans to play next month’s QBE Shootout.

“Every time I’ve come back from injury I’ve been kind of like, well I’m close but not quite there,” said Snedeker, who added that he was pain-free for the entire week. “This is the first time I’ve come back and been like it’s there.”

Cook hopes RSM win starts a ROY campaign

By Rex HoggardNovember 19, 2017, 10:43 pm

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook cruised to his first PGA Tour victory on Sunday at the RSM Classic, a nearly flawless performance that included just two bogeys for the week and a 21-under total.

Earlier in the week, Cook’s caddie Kip Henley said Cook was playing the most effortless golf he’d ever witnessed. But as is so often the case, it can be tough to tell what is really going on inside a player's mind.

“A lot of stuff going on, especially up here,” Cook laughed pointing at his head. “A little tenseness. This week my ball-striking was great, and for the most part my putting was great as well. All around my game was just incredible this week.”

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Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

Following a bogey at the second hole on Sunday that cut his lead to two shots, the rookie responded with a birdie at the seventh hole and added three more over his final four holes to beat J.J. Spaun by four strokes.

It was a timely victory for a player who has set rather lofty goals for himself.

“My goal coming into the year was to win Rookie of the Year and I’ve gotten off to a good start. Now my goal is to make a long deep run into the FedExCup playoffs,” he said.

Cook became the second consecutive rookie winner of the RSM Classic following Mac Hughes’ victory last year.