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WGC-Accenture Match Play Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 02/22/2011
After a ho hum Sunday at the Northern Trust Open, the PGA Tour heads to Arizona for the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship from the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Marana. This is a field of the top 64 players in the world that play until one winner remains and with it being the only match play event of the season, it definitely gets some added attention. This will be the first time since the 2009 event at Doral that every player ranked in the top 50 will be teeing it up this week.
The WGC Match Play starts a day earlier to accommodate the six rounds and concludes with a 36-hole final match on Sunday. Unlike the NCAA Tournament where the higher seeds normally advance, anything can happen here and while rankings are still important, they are not to be taken too much into consideration. In the 12 years of this event, a number one seed has won it only three times and that of course was Tigers Woods, the only player to win this event three times.
There are plenty of upsets throughout but for the most part, a low seed usually takes home the prize. The last four years, a number three seed or better has won the event and in the 12 years, nine winners have come from a number six seed or better including six of the last seven years where a number four seed or better won. The exception was in 2006 with 13th seed Geoff Ogilvy. The other big upsets were Steve Stricker in 2001 as a 14th seed and Kevin Sutherland the next year as a 16th seed.
Taking a look at last year, number three seed Ian Poulter outlasted number two seed Paul Casey 4 and 2. In the first round, 12 of the 32 matches saw the higher seed pull off the upset including 16th seed Ross McGowan defeating number one seed Steve Stricker in 19 holes. While the other number one seeds, Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk and Martin Kaymer, all won in the first round, they failed to make it out of the second round. This year’s event includes Woods and Phil Mickelson, who both missed the event last year.
Westwood, Kaymer, Woods and Mickelson are the number one seeds this year with Woods the overall moneyline favorite at +1200. Listed are eight First Round Matchup Best Bets:
Ryan Moore +105 over Francesco Molinari
Moore made his debut last year and lost to Ernie Els 4 and 3 but he has a tremendous match play record. In seven USGA individual championships as an amateur, Moore collected a 27-4 match-play mark and won the 2004 U.S. Amateur. Molinari has Ryder Cup experience but lost in the first round in this event last year to Zach Johnson.
K.J. Choi +105 over Retief Goosen
Goosen had a strong showing here last year but he has been very inconsistent for the most part including a first round loss two years ago. Choi missed this event last year after losing to Oliver Wilson in 2009 (Wilson went to the third round) but he has a lot of experience here and in the President’s Cup. 13-seed at +105 says he is better than that.
Henrik Stenson +160 over Lee Westwood
Westwood is the most likely number one seed to go down in the first round as he drew the 2007 champion in the first round. Westwood lost to Nick Watney in the second round last year and has never made it past the round of 32. Stenson also came in third in 2008 and even though the last two years he lost in the first round, the value is tremendous.
Ross Fisher -115 over Robert Allenby
Many will forget that Fisher made it to the semifinals two years ago and ended up with a fourth place finish. He was upset in the first round last year and that alone should fuel the fire. The fact that he is a 10-seed and laying even odds should tell you something as well. Allenby reached the quarterfinals in 2005 but he has gone only 2-5 since then.
Sean O’Hair +135 over Hunter Mahan
This is not a knock on Mahan at all but this is great value on O’Hair who was a fourth seed last year and is now a 12th seed and getting 12th seed value. He made it to the quarterfinals two years ago, losing to Paul Casey. This is the first match since the infamous flubbed chip at the Ryder Cup and Mahan is just 2-3 in this event in his career.
Yuta Ikeda +125 over Miguel A. Jimenez
Jimenez has loads of experience in this event and numerous Ryder Cups but his recent play here has been spotty at best. He reached the quarterfinals in 2000 but he has not made it past the second round since, losing in the first round four of the last seven years. Ikeda lost to Watney last year, certainly not a bad loss, and that experience will help here.
Bubba Watson +120 over Bill Haas
I mentioned that seeding should not be looked at too much but in this case, we are getting a number five-seed as an underdog against a 12-seed. Watson withdrew last week at Riviera with a strained oblique but should be ready to go. Both he and Haas are rookies in this event but I will take the Ryder Cup experience with Watson at a great price.
Padraig Harrington +125 over Geoff Ogilvy
We all know the success that Ogilvy has had in this tournament but he was ousted in the second round last year after defeating Alexander Noren in the opening round. It is safe to say this year’s first round opponent is a little tougher. Harrington has not had nearly the same amount of success here but gets excellent value being just one seed lower.