Golf Odds and Predictions: WGC Match Play Championship
by Alan Matthews - 2/23/2011
In my opinion, the most intriguing golf tournament of the season other than the four majors is upon bettors this week with the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in the Arizona desert.
What’s not to like with this event? It gives bettors a little bit of a bracket fix just a few weeks before Selection Sunday in college basketball. And it almost always has the best field of the early golf season until the Masters. The tournament, which begins Wednesday at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz., pairs the world’s Top 64 players in the only official match play event on the PGA Tour schedule. There will be two of the Top 64 missing this week, however, as Japan’s Toru Taniguchi and American Tim Clark are out because of injuries. They were replaced by Henrik Stenson and J.B. Holmes. But for the first time all year, the top Europeans are all playing in the States.
The beauty of match play is that one bad hole won’t torpedo a player’s entire round or tournament – it can be made up quickly. In addition, while you can find head-to-head props at most books in pretty much all of the bigger PGA tournaments, this offers true head-to-head betting. You don’t have to worry about one guy, for example, playing in the cold and wind in the morning and the other coming out to perfect conditions in the afternoon. Players are truly playing each other, not the field. That’s why some say it’s the easiest tournament to win because players only have to beat six other guys, not the entire field.
The field will be down to a Sweet 16 by the end of Friday. The quarterfinals are Saturday followed by both the semifinals and final on Sunday for 36 holes, or more if a playoff is needed. The bracket is divided into four sub-brackets after legendary golfers (with the top two seeds in each): Bobby Jones (Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker) and Ben Hogan (Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell) on one half and Gary Player (Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy) and Sam Snead (Tiger Woods, Paul Casey) in the other.
Obviously you can bet on a single player’s match each day and on futures to win the tournament. But, for example, Bodog offers betting on which player will win each individual bracket as well as which bracket the tournament champion will come from.
Despite the fact he still hasn’t won since his personal life spiraled off course on Thanksgiving weekend in 2009, Tiger Woods is the 10/1 overall favorite to win it all. He has won this tournament three times: 2003, 2004 (the only player to repeat) and 2008. I don’t recommend Tiger to win, however. His Snead Bracket is loaded. Casey, for example, has been the runner-up at this tournament the past few years. Geoff Ogilvy, who would face Tiger on Thursday if the Aussie beats Padraig Harrington, has won here twice and was runner-up once. If the seedings held, Tiger, presuming he beats Thomas Bjorn on Wednesday, would face Ogilvy, Dustin Johnson and Casey (or No. 3 Ernie Els) just to reach the Final Four. That’s tough. Thus the Snead Bracket winner is the +225 favorite to take this tournament. Don’t rule out Bjorn pulling the upset. He just won on the European Tour, and Tiger has lost to a 16th seed before, albeit years ago.
Casey is the second-favorite at 12/1, but, again, he is in that loaded bracket with Tiger. Kaymer is at 14/1 and has a victory in a Euro Tour event this year. He’s clearly the best player in the world right now. Kaymer could have an epic matchup with Rory McIlroy (16/1) to get to the Final Four. Mickelson (16/1) hasn’t ever gotten past the quarterfinals in this tournament. Westwood (18/1) has never gotten past the second round.
I happen to like 2010 U.S. Open champion McDowell at 22/1. He’s playing better than anyone but Kaymer right now and came up big in a similar format at last fall’s Ryder Cup. Other than a possible matchup with defending champ Ian Poulter, McDowell should have a clear path to the bracket final, possibly against Lefty. McDowell is 1-4 all-time in Match Play and hasn't played beyond the first round in his last three tries, but he’s much better now than he ever was.
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