Because I believe that this week’s World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play is the best betting event of the golf season (and some nice bracket practice for the NCAA Tournament), I will be breaking down the event at Dove Mountain outside Tucson, Ariz., into two stories. One an overall look at whom I like to win each bracket and the championship, and this one breaking down every single first-round match on Wednesday. The field features 64 of the Top 66 ranked players in the world, with Americans Brandt Snedeker (minor injury) and Phil Mickelson (family vacation) not in the desert. All odds are courtesy of Bovada, and I’ll go in order of how the site has it.
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Sergio Garcia -180 vs. Thongchai Jaidee +140: Sergio made his 2013 Tour debut last week with a T13 at Riviera. In nine previous Match Play events, Sergio has a best finish of fourth, meaning he lost the consolation match, in 2010. He lost in the first round last year. Jaidee, from Thailand, has played this event once, finishing tied for fifth (reached quarterfinals) in 2010. He plays entirely overseas other than major events. Take Sergio.
Matt Kuchar -250 vs. Hiroyuki Fujita +185: Kuchar has played here three times, with a best finish of third (won consolation match) in 2011. Last year he was routed by Hunter Mahan in the quarterfinals. Fujita, the king of the Japan Golf Tour, has competed here once and lost in the first round in 2011. Kuchar’s the pick.
Ian Poulter -225 vs. Stephen Gallacher +170: Poulter is a match play fiend, especially at the Ryder Cup. He won this tournament in 2010 and the Volvo Match Play in Europe two years ago but has been a first-round KO here the past two years. Gallacher, a Scotsman, makes his event debut. Poulter’s the choice.
Bo Van Pelt -140 vs. John Senden +110: Van Pelt hasn’t challenged in three Tour events in 2013. This is his third straight year playing this event and hasn’t gotten past the second round. Senden, an Aussie, hasn’t been great in four Tour events this year. He reached the third round here a year ago. I lean Senden here purely on value.
Charl Schwartzel -230 vs. Russell Henley +175: Schwartzel played very well last week in the Northern Trust Open, finishing T3. He has played this tournament four times and has yet to fall in the first round. Henley was a surprise winner of the Sony Open in January but has struggled since and missed the cut last week. He’s debuting here. Schwartzel’s the choice.
Jason Day -140 vs. Zach Johnson +110: Day already has two Top-10 finishes on Tour in 2013 and has advanced past the first round in his previous two Match Plays. Johnson, meanwhile, has been ousted in his first match in five of eight trips here. Day is the pick.
Jason Dufner -165 vs. Richard Sterne +125: Neither player has won a match here, with Dufner 0-for-1 and Sterne 0-for-2. Sterne is playing way better right now, with a runner-up and a win in Europe in his past two starts. He’s the upset pick.
Hunter Mahan -170 vs. Matteo Manassero +130: Mahan is the defending champion, beating Rory McIlroy 2 &1 in last year’s final. He had never advanced past the third round previously. The young Italian is one of my favorite players and has pulled upsets here in each of the past two years. Take him.
Bill Haas -125 vs. Nicolas Colsaerts -105: Haas has finished in the Top 10 in his past two Tour starts but has lost in the first round in two trips to the Match Play. Colsaerts lost to Lee Westwood in the first round last year in his debut. Take Haas.
Adam Scott -190 vs. Tim Clark +150: This is the 12th straight year that Scott has teed it up at the Match Play, with a best finish of third in 2003. He had a Top-10 finish last week. Clark hasn’t played this tournament since 2009, and I think that’s a disadvantage. Take Scott.
Thorbjorn Olesen -120 vs. Jamie Donaldson -110: Both European players make their debuts. Donaldson won in Abu Dhabi at the start of the year but was T37 a few weeks ago in Dubai. Olesen has finished in the Top 3 in two of his past three events, so he’s the choice.
Bubba Watson -200 vs. Chris Wood +155: Bubba has played here twice with a best result of fourth two years ago. He missed the cut last week. Wood, an Englishman, won in Qatar in late January and was T30 a few weeks ago in Dubai. He hasn’t played here since 2010, when he lost in the first round. Take Bubba.
Jim Furyk -115 vs. Ryan Moore -115: One of the best matches of Wednesday, hands down. Furyk has struggled in this event, losing in the first round in six of his 12 previous visits. Moore didn’t play last year but was T5 in 2011. He enters off a fourth-place finish in Phoenix. Take Moore.
Justin Rose -180 vs. K.J. Choi +140: Rose was just passed by Louis Oosthuizen for No. 5 in the world, and that got Oosthuizen a top seed ahead of Rose because Snedeker isn’t here. Rose has lost in four of his seven Match Play first rounds. Choi has done the same in five of nine trips. Take the younger, more talented Rose.
Lee Westwood -210 vs. Rafael Cabrera-Bello +160: Westwood has been a major disappointment in this event as he had never advanced past the second round before last year’s fourth-place finish. Cabrera-Bello debuted here last year and took Jason Day to 19 holes before losing. Westwood hasn’t played great yet this year, while RCB has been solid overseas. I’d roll the dice on an upset here.
Martin Kaymer -150 vs. George Coetzee +115: Kaymer has advanced past the first round in each of the past four years with a best result of runner-up two years ago. Coetzee, from South Africa, has Top-10 finishes in his past three European Tour events. He lost to Rory McIlroy in the first round last year. Take Kaymer.
Keegan Bradley -200 vs. Marcus Fraser +155: Bradley was my choice to win last week at Riviera but finished T16. He debuted here last year with a first-round win over Geoff Ogilvy before losing to Miguel Angel Jimenez. Fraser, from Australia, makes his debut. Take Bradley.
Frederik Jacobson -120 vs. Ernie Els -110: Jacobson got in thanks to Mickelson not playing. The Swede was routed 6 & 5 in the first round by Robert Karlsson a year ago. Els has played here 12 times and has advanced past the first round each of the past four years. He also comes off a solid T13 last week. Take Els.
Steve Stricker -125 vs. Henrik Stenson -105: Stricker won this event way back in 2001 and won two matches last year before running into Mahan. Stenson won here in 2007 but has lost in the first round in each of his past three trips. But he’s the better player now so take the Swede.
Nick Watney -175 vs. David Toms +135: Watney has been “Mr. Consistent” in three tips here, losing in the third round each time. Toms hasn’t gotten that far since 2007. He did upset Rickie Fowler in the first round in 2012. Watney is the pick
Dustin Johnson -175 vs. Alexander Noren +135: Something seems amiss with Johnson as he has missed the cut the past two weeks. He was T9 here last year but knocked out in the first round the previous three years. Noren lost in the first round in his only trip in 2010. I smell an upset here.
Graeme McDowell -115 vs. Padraig Harrington -115: One of two all-Irish matches of the first round. McDowell has lost in the first round in three of the past four years. Harrington has in his past three trips. Both missed the cut last week. Take McDowell.
Webb Simpson -230 vs. David Lynn +175: Simpson lost to Matteo Manassero in the first round last year in Simpson’s debut. Lynn, from England, makes his debut. He might be the least accomplished player in the field, so I lean Simpson.
Peter Hanson -155 vs. Thomas Bjorn +120: Hanson finished a career-best T5 here last year, beating Jason Dufner, Ernie Els and Brandt Snedeker along the way. Bjorn lost in the first round to Francesco Molinari. In 2011, he pulled off a massive first-round upset of Tiger Woods. Hanson is playing better right now so he’s the pick.
Louis Oosthuizen -230 vs. Richie Ramsay +175: Oosthuizen has won one match here in three trips. He already has a win in Europe this year. Ramsay, from Scotland, makes his debut and snuck into the field at No. 63. Take Oosthuizen.
Robert Garrigus -150 vs. Branden Grace +115: Two first-timers in this one. Garrigus has been solid on Tour this year with four Top-25 finishes in as many starts. Grace started the year with three straight Top-10 finishes in European but missed the cut last time out. Take Garrigus.
Luke Donald -250 vs. Marcel Siem +185: Donald won here in 2011 but lost in the first round a year ago for the first time. Siem, a German, makes his debut. He has been mediocre so far in 2013, so Donald is the pick.
Scott Piercy -140 vs. Paul Lawrie +110: Piercy makes his debut while Lawrie plays for the sixth time but just second since 2003. He won two rounds in 2012. Piercy has three Top-10 finishes on Tour this year, but I go with the more accomplished and experienced Lawrie.
Rory McIlroy -250 vs. Shane Lowry +185: It’s McIlroy’s 2013 debut in the States and he gets the relative unknown in Lowry, who replaced Snedeker. McIlroy has yet to lose in the first round in four Match Plays and had that career-best runner-up last year. He hasn’t played since missing the cut in Dubai. I’d like to pick an upset but Lowry, an Irishman, has missed his past two cuts.
Rickie Fowler -150 vs. Carl Pettersson +115: Fowler lost in the first round in 2012 but won two rounds in his 2011 debut. Pettersson hasn’t played here since 2007. Fowler has two Top-10 finishes on Tour in 2013 so he’s the choice.
Tiger Woods -250 vs. Charles Howell III +185: Tiger is a three-time winner but might be a bit rusty after taking a few weeks off – unless you count his round with President Obama. Woods barely beat Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano last year in the first round before losing to Nick Watney. Howell hasn’t played this event since 2008. He played really well to start the year but missed the cut last week. Take Tiger.
Francesco Molinari -140 vs. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano +110: Molinari lost in the first round his first two trips but beat Thomas Bjorn last year before falling to Dustin Johnson. GFC had that first-round close loss to Tiger in 2012 in his first trip. GFC is playing better at the moment, so take him in a minor upset.
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