Rory McIlroy (pictured) and Matt Kuchar look to have an excellent chance of progress to the latter stages of the Accenture Match Play. Both players have a decent skill’s profile for the Dove Mountain host course in Arizona and the draw has given them a good chance of winning their respective brackets.
The first WGC event of the season is open to the top 64 players in the world rankings. Only Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker are not playing while eligible but those two absentees mean that Fredrik Jacobsen and Shane Lowry make the field at 65 and 66 in the world rankings respectively.
The field is divided into four brackets with the winner of each section meeting in the semi-finals. The players are seeded on the basis of world rankings which means that McIlroy plays Lowry in the first round. Kuchar’s first round opponent is Hiroyuki Fujita from Japan who plys his trade on the Japan Tour.
McIlroy and Kuchar have winnable opening matches but things get tougher in the second round. McIlroy’s opponent at that stage will be Rickie Fowler or Carl Pettersson while Kuchar must beat Sergio Garcia or Thongchai Jaidee to qualify for the third round.
McIlroy didn’t play well in the Abu Dhabi Championship in his first tournament of the new season. He was using Nike equipment for the first time and missed the cut alongside Tiger Woods who is also contracted to use Nike clubs. Woods received a reputed 3 million dollars in appearance money and let the sponsors down, more so as he won on the US PGA Tour the following week.
Our pick from the Bobby Jones bracket should have two relatively easy matches in the first two rounds and can use those meetings to tune up on a course on which he has never failed to reach the second round in the last four years. McIlroy has an overall win/loss record of 10/4 at the Dove Mountain course that hosts the event for the fifth time.
The course is above average in length even by modern standards and McIlroy is one of the longest hitters in the field. He has a combination of long and accurate driving ability. Last season he was first on the US PGA Tour for birdie conversion, birdie average and scoring average. It’s also worth noting that McIlroy will not be too concerned if the forecast wind and rain materialises.
Kuchar has a win/loss record of 9 to 3 at Dove Mountain and has not failed to progress from the first round in three appearances at the venue in the Accenture event. His driving accuracy stats have dipped this year but that is less important on a wide open desert course with generous fairways. Five of his last 15 rounds have been 65 or better and he scores highly for the putting disciplines that will be key this week in order to reach the later stages of the competition.