Five Players On Upset Alert At 2014 WGC Accenture Match Play
2014 Accenture Match Play Preview: Upset Specials
Bracket enthusiasts rejoice! This week, while most of the world is still watching the Sochi Winter Olympics, the warm Arizona desert plays host to golf’s version of March Madness.
64 of the best players in the game will converge on Dove Mountain, a Jack Nicklaus classic design in Marana, Ariz. that actually consists of three nine-hole tracks. According to PGA Tour statistics, the Saguaro and Tortolita courses can reach nearly 7,800 yards, monstrous by any standards. Thankfully, unlike last year, snowstorms don’t appear to be in the forecast, and the elevation and weather should allow the course to play a good deal shorter. Enjoy watching the bombers like Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson do what they do best.
Of course, as with any bracket-based tournament, there are the requisite prediction columns. This isn’t going to be one of those. One of the greatest things about the Accenture Match Play is its unpredictability. Seedings help, but with three No. 1 seeds (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott) taking the week off, and big changes in the World Rankings in recent weeks, they’re no more than a hopeful guideline. By week’s end, 63 matches will have been played, and I’m not even going to pretend I can call all of them.
This one is dedicated to the “bracket busters”, the upset specials. Unlike the NCAA tournament, top seeds start dropping like flies on day one, and this year should be no different. Which ones should you keep an eye on as you finish your brackets? Read on to find out!
8. Louis Oosthuizen vs. 9. Nick Watney
Much like the NCAA basketball tournament, the 8-9 matchups here are some of the hardest to predict. Louis Oosthuizen has only played two PGA Tour events this year, finishing T15 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November, but missing the cut at last week’s Northern Trust Open. Nick Watney has languished in the middle of the pack much of this season, but he’s got three trips to the round of 16 in his last four Accenture starts. This could be the best chance for Watney to get his 2014 year jumpstarted.
5. Jim Furyk vs. 12. Chris Kirk
The grizzled veteran, Jim Furyk has a massive edge in experience, but he’s also lost his opening match in eight of his last nine starts at Accenture. Chris Kirk has cooled off in the last few weeks following a great start, but this format is something completely different. Kirk’s ability to bounce back from a bad hole may be tested, but don’t be surprised to see this one go right down to the wire.
1. Zach Johnson vs. 8. Hunter Mahan
Okay, I'm going to extend one prediction to the second round. The potential matchup between Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan could be an amazing battle. Johnson is a top seed based on the decisions by Woods, Mickelson and Scott to skip this championship, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve it.
If the first round goes to plan, though, he'll have his hands full with Mahan on Thursday. Mahan has been to the final match each of the last two years, winning it in 2012, and even though he fell off his pace a bit last week in Los Angeles, he's got a great chance to make a third straight trip to the championship.
4. Graeme McDowell vs. 13. Gary Woodland
McDowell missed the cut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and has struggled to really find a groove in 2014. He’ll have the experience edge, especially with his win in last year’s Volvo Match Play, but Woodland can put up some scores himself, ranking in the top ten in birdie average and 19th in greens in regulation this year. This match could be one of the more entertaining ones on the first day.
4. Brandt Snedeker vs. 13. David Lynn
Snedeker is supposed to be the favorite here, but he hasn’t been himself at all this season. His best finish in a full-field event in 2014 is a tie for 58th at the Humana Challenge, with two missed cuts since then. Lynn’s results alone don’t inspire much more confidence than Snedeker’s, but he’s a solid bet this week with Snedeker still reeling. Unless Snedeker shows that he's got his form back after his injury, he's likely playing on borrowed time in the Match Play.