Feb
22
2012
WGC Predictions: Bracket-by-Bracket
By Conor Nagle under European PGA Tour

Bring back the keffiyeh/snood hybrid!

I’m not really fond of volunteering predictions. Rather than cast my gaze into the murky future, I prefer to stay silent and, when a given scenario is nearly certain to be realised, berate others for their lack of foresight.

Today, however, I’m prepared to make an exception. Below are my match forecasts – all 32 of them – for the first round of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.

Bobby Jones

Luke Donald (1) v Ernie Els (16)

As his victory in last year’s running of this event and a handful of impressive Ryder and Walker Cup performances have proven, the World Number One is a dogged combatant and something approaching a matchplay specialist. A misfiring Ernie Els should offer little resistance. Prediction: Luke Donald

Jason Dufner (8) v Peter Hanson (9)

Though Hanson’s susceptible to elementary short-game malfunctions, his reliably majestic iron play will overwhelm Dufner, the terminally untroubled runner-up at last year’s USPGA Championship. Prediction: Peter Hanson

K.J. Choi (4) v Kyle Stanley (13)

Stanley, recent winner of the mafia-sponsored Waste Management Open, is in the form of his (admittedly brief) career. Returning to the scene of that maiden victory, his Arizonan run looks set to continue. Prediction: Kyle Stanley

Brandt Snedeker  (5) v Retief Goosen (12)

Goosen’s long-game remains as incisive as ever, but his putting touch has been officially declared missing-in-action. Snedeker, on the other hand, has a stroke capable of unsettling even the most determined of competitors (see: play-off victory over Luke Donald). This one goes the way of Archie. Prediction: Brandt Snedeker

Adam Scott (2) v Robert Rock (15)

Ranked an awful lot higher than recent form would suggest is reasonable, Scott lacks the weapons to assert himself in this format. Facing the winner of last month’s Abu Dhabi Championship, the Aussie could well find himself making an early exit. Prediction: Robert Rock

Bo Van Pelt (7) v Mark Wilson (10)

Hardly an encounter to set TV schedules ablaze, this looks a war of attrition in the making. Van Pelt, whose plodding consistency is the stuff of match play nightmares, should take it. Prediction: Bo Van Pelt

Dustin Johnson (3) v Jim Furyk (14)

Fresh off two performances that only succeeded in drawing attention to the fragility of his short-game, DJ will struggle to overcome a former US Open champion famed for his course management by dint of athleticism alone. Furyk, however, has endured his own struggles around the greens of late, a weakness that will likely decide the outcome of the match. Prediction: Dustin Johnson

Thomas Bjorn (6) v Francesco Molinari (11)

Both are in reasonably impressive form, but the weight of experience and cunning lies with the Dane. Prediction: Thomas Bjorn

Gary Player

Rory McIlroy (1) v George Coetzee (16)

Coetzee (pronounced Coht-zay-ah) is a promising South African and will enter this encounter with nothing to lose. There’s a reason for that, though. His opponent is a birdie machine and, arguably, the most talented player of his generation. Knowing that a win in this event will vault him to the summit of the world rankings, Rory is unlikely to suffer a costly lapse in concentration. Prediction: Rory McIlroy

KT Kim (8) v Anders Hansen (9)

On paper, there’s little to separate these two, but it’s perhaps Kim who brings the greater sense of vibrancy and determination to proceedings. Prediction: KT Kim

Sergio Garcia (4) v. Miguel Angel Jiménez (13)

Dove Mountain is an emphatically “big” course, but it’s also one that shorter hitters are capable of excelling on. I’m going to throw precedent to the wind and forecast a victory for Jiménez over his more volatile compatriot. Prediction: M.A. Jiménez

Keegan Bradley (5) v. Geoff Ogilvy (12)

Ogilvy is something of a local, a regular contender at this event and a prone to early-season burst of form. Bradley’s form – he lost in a play-off last week – looks ominous, but a weekend of spent locked in mortal combat with Phil Mickelson (not to mention the embarrassment of his Twitter controversy) may well have taken its toll. Prediction: Geoff Ogilvy

Jason Day (2) v. Rafael Cabrera Bello (15)

For the champion of the recent Dubai Desert Classic, securing an invitation to this event is something of a triumph. Expect him to make way for the Australian. Prediction: Jason Day

Simon Dyson  (7) v. John Senden (10)

Senden may be under-rated, but absent the sudden discovery of a putting touch, he’ll struggle to force Dyson into submission. The Englishman is nothing if not tenacious. Prediction: Simon Dyson

Charles Schwartzel (3) v. Gary Woodland (14)

Though cut from a similar cloth to his American opponent, Schwartzel adds refinement and subtlety to Woodland’s as yet rough-hewn talent. Add to that their contrasting fortunes of late and the result appears a certain victory for the Masters champion. Prediction: Charl Schwartzel

Ian Poulter (6) v. Sang-Moon Bae (11)

Poults excels in this format, but there comes a point when form deserves to trump precedent. This is it. Prediction: Sang-Moon Bae

Sean Foley avec star client Tiger Woods.

Ben Hogan

Martin Kaymer (1) v. Greg Chalmers (16)

Chalmers is not to be underrated, particularly in light of his New Year’s success, but Kaymer – the possessor of a world-beating long-game and talent for holing putts under the severest of pressure – should have too much for him. Prediction: Martin Kaymer

David Toms (8) v. Rickie Fowler (9)

The super-edgy-cool marketing construction that is Rickie Fowler has flattered to deceive since turning professional, but his match-play credentials, bolstered by an impressive cameo at the 2010 Ryder Cup, are unimpeachable. Toms, a more diffident presence, will struggle to match his desire. Prediction: Rickie Fowler

Matt Kuchar (4) v. Jonathan Byrd (13)

But for an untimely lapse in concentration during the final round of last week’s Northern Trust Open, Jonathan Byrd could well have added to his five PGA Tour victories. Matt Kuchar, who has made but two uneventful appearances this season, has every right to be worried. Prediction: Jonathan Byrd

Bubba Watson (5) v. Ben Crane (12)

Who cares? Just let there be no singing. Prediction: Bubba Watson

Steve Stricker (2) v. Kevin Na (15)

Though hardly a player to send heart-rates soaring, Stricker should coast his way to an easy first-round victory. Unless, of course, he succumbs to soporific effect of Na’s meditative pre-shot routine. Prediction: Steve Stricker

Louis Oosthuizen (7) v. Aaron Baddeley (10)

Which side triumphs in the age-old battle between ball-striking and putting? Tempting though it is to throw my weight behind cliché – “Drive for show, putt for dough.” – and give the Australian my blessing, I can’t quite bring myself to do it. Prediction: Louis Oosthuizen

Graeme McDowell (3) v. Y.E. Yang (14)

They’re two diminutive giant-killers who subsist on an ability to will their way under par, but it’s McDowell, whose cockiness is underpinned by a lifetime of matchplay success, who brings the most to this encounter. Prediction: G-Mac

Hunter Mahan (6) v. Zach Johnson (11)

Like the duo in the pairing above, Johnson’s game is all about maximising his return from an apparently meagre endowment of talent. Mahan, by contrast, is a smooth-swinging show-pony, whose scores rarely prove equal to his potential. In matchplay, a lingering sense of underachievement, of doubt and opportunities spurned, usually proves fatal. Prediction: Zach Johnson

Sam Snead

Lee Westwood (1) v. Nicolas Colsaerts (16)

Though the world rankings have anointed Westwood the overwhelming favourite to take this encounter, the Belgian is in the midst of an imperious run of form and possesses all the intimidatory attributes – extreme length, accuracy – required to manufacture a fast start. Prediction: Nicolas Colsaerts

Robert Karlsson (8) v. Freddie Jacobsen (9)

As something of a short-game virtuoso and (relatively) recent PGA Tour winner, Freddie has what it takes to eke out a victory against his compatriot. It all depends on the state of his notoriously unpredictable swing. Prediction: Robert Karlsson

Nick Watney (4) v. Darren Clarke (13)

This has “thrashing” written all over it. Prediction: Nick Watney

Tiger Woods (5) v. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño(12)

Hmmm… This depends, nearly entirely, on which of the two Tigers arrives at Dove Mountain. Tiger of the majestic long-game and sketchy putting could coast to victory, while “improbable par” Tiger may well cede too much, in terms of both confidence and initiative, to a player famed for his prowess with the longer clubs. Prediction: Gonzo

Webb Simpson (2) v. Matteo Manassero (15)

The Italian teen’s recent performances suggest he’s begun to develop a more muscular, balanced long-game to complement his already impressive repertoire around the greens. If that proves the case, a break-out performance could be on the cards. Prediction: Matteo.

Alvaro Quiros (7) v. Martin Laird (10)

While Quiros’ gut-busting length and swashbuckling style make him both a crowd favourite and threat in this format, his imprecision and occasionally robotic chipping action make Laird, a course manager par excellence the favourite to progress. Prediction: Martin Laird

Bill Haas (3) v. Ryo Ishikawa (14)

While it takes a special sort of self-confidence (robust, bordering on arrogant) to carry a headcover modeled on your own face, last week’s winner should have far too much for the Japan’s answer to Rickie Fowler. Prediction: Bill Haas

Justin Rose (6) v. Paul Lawrie (11)

Match 32! I made it! Hurrah! Prediction: Paul Lawrie

Conor Nagle