Picking pool-play winners at the WGC-Match Play

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With the groups selected and pool play set to tee off Wednesday at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, we've had a day to ruminate and make predictions. So here are the 16 players we're picking to advance to single-elimination match play over the weekend. 

Group 1: Rory McIlroy, Billy Horschel, Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner

Not sure if this is the "group of death," as it's been billed. We've got two major champions and two FedEx champions, but Horschel's had trouble following up his spectacular close to last season, when he bettered McIlroy at East Lake, and Dufner's done little since his PGA triumph 18 months ago. If there's a worry for McIlroy, it's Snedeker's putter. Still, hard to go against No. 1.

Winner: Rory McIlroy


Group 2: Jordan Spieth, Lee Westwood, Matt Every, Mikko Ilonen

Westwood has plenty of match-play experience, but it's not necessarily good. He's got a combined 14-21 record at the WGC and in Ryder Cup singles. Ilonen is flying in from China, and Every isn't playing Bay Hill.

Winner: Jordan Spieth


Group 3: Henrik Stenson, Bill Haas, Brendon Todd, John Senden

Haas won the Humana and turned in two nice finishes at Doral and Augusta. Todd has become a fixture on weekly leaderboards. Senden isn't a tremendous slouch. But Stenson leads the Tour in strokes gained-putting and tee-to-green. All chalk so far.

Winner: Henrik Stenson


Group 4: Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen, Keegan Bradley, Miguel Angel Jimenez

Bradley seems to get fired up by match play, but he's not terribly good at it individually. He's 1-6 combined at the WGC and in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup singles, and actually lost to Jimenez at this event in 2012. Oosthuizen vs. Watson represents a rematch from the 2012 Masters playoff and the most divergent pairing of golf swings you could put together. We're taking the classic swinger.

Winner: Louis Oosthuizen


Group 5: Jim Furyk, Martin Kaymer, Thongchai Jaidee, George Coetzee

This comes down to a battle of U.S. Open champions. Kaymer's game rises and recedes like the tides (he's missed three consecutive cuts), while Furyk's consistent play puts him in position week after week. Harding Park measures only 7,100 yards, meaning Furyk's lack of length won't be too much of a disadvantage.

Winner: Jim Furyk 


Group 6: Justin Rose, Ryan Palmer, Anirban Lahiri, Marc Leishman

Last year, Rose followed up his win at the Quicken Loans with another victory at the Scottish Open. Like many of these guys in the top 10, he has the capacity to be the best player in the world at any time, and has shown an ability to follow up on a successful week. He was also a match-play menace at Gleneagles.

Winner: Justin Rose


Group 7: Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Branden Grace, Charley Hoffman

Day is the defending champion and nearly won last week at the Zurich. He could be tired. He could be disappointed. He could also win three matches in three days and advance to the weekend. We're betting on the latter.

Winner: Jason Day


Group 8: Dustin Johnson, Victor Dubuisson, Charl Schwartzel, Matt Jones

We're buying as much Johnson stock as anybody, but if you're getting tired of all the chalk in Groups 1-7, perk up. We're taking the Frenchman, if only because we're anxious to see his follow-up act from his cactus-escaping, runner-up showing last year.

Winner: Victor Dubuisson


Group 9: Adam Scott, Chris Kirk, Paul Casey, Francesco Molinari

Putting woes don't typically breed match-play success, and Scott appears caught between anchored and non-anchored options. Meanwhile, Casey's decision to play in the United States full-time has paid off to four top-10 finishes in the last two months. We should also mention his astounding match-play history: 16-9 at the WGC, a two-time runner-up and a former Volvo World Match Play champion.

Winner: Paul Casey


Group 10: Sergio Garcia, Jamie Donaldson, Bernd Wiesberger, Tommy Fleetwood

Kind of feel like Ferris Bueller here. Paraphrased: "I did have a test today. ... It was on European match play. Honestly, I'm not European. I don't plan on becoming European. So who knows who's going to win?" I do.

Winner: Jamie Donaldson


Group 11: Jimmy Walker, Ian Poulter, Webb Simpson, Gary Woodland

This was the last group announced Monday, and each top seed dodged Poulter - save for Walker. There's a good chance you're not Poulter's biggest fan, but his resume speaks for itself: 2010 champion, 22-12 at the WGC, 4-0-1 in Ryder Cup singles. Sorry Jimmy, Webb and Gary. Tough draw.

Winner: Ian Poulter


Group 12: J.B. Holmes, Brooks Koepka, Russell Henley, Marc Warren

Holmes vs. Koepka in a battle of the bombers is one of the matches we are most looking forward to in pool play. Koepka has a blindingly bright future but has fallen off, in part because of injury, since his breakthrough victory at Scottsdale. Holmes, meanwhile, is in the middle of a career year, with two runner-ups and a win.

Winner: J.B. Holmes


Group 13: Rickie Fowler, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Harris English

Until this season, McDowell was our perenial pick for Guy-We-Would-Most-Trust-To-Make-This-Back-Breaking-Putt. That title now goes to Spieth, through no fault of G-Mac. This pick is admittedly colored by McDowell's previous Volvo World Match Play success - and this clip and this clip. Yes, that was five years ago. Now watch those clips and nod.

Winner: Graeme McDowell


Group 14: Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Stephen Gallacher, Ben Martin

Kuchar and Mahan have history here. Mahan won in 2012 and then lost to Kuchar in the final in 2013. They're a combined 34-10 at the Match Play.

Winner: Flip a coin. Heads: Mahan


Group 15: Patrick Reed, Ryan Moore, Danny Willett, Andy Sullivan

Moore is a former U.S. Amateur champion, and Reed's mental makeup seems to feed on direct confrontation. It's between the two of them, and frankly, we just want to see Reed and Spieth go at it in the 2-15 matchup.

Winner: Patrick Reed


Group 16: Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Na, Joost Luiten, Alexander Levy

Matsuyama is a ball-stirking machine and the only thing holding him back from superstardom is his putter. His tee-to-green game will be enough to advance him out of pool play, but he'll need to turn it around on the greens if he's going to have any chance against (hey, we picked him) Rory McIlroy in the Round of 16.

Winner: Hideki Matsuyama