PGA Tour Golf Odds and Predictions: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
by Alan Matthews - 2/21/2012
If you ask 100 devoted golf fans, 95 or so will say the Masters is their favorite tournament. Hard to argue, considering it’s the Super Bowl of the sport, has the most tradition of any tournament (at least in the U.S.) and it heralds the start of spring in America. The U.S. Open is always a can’t-miss event as well, what with the usual difficulty of those courses turning the pros into duffers like you and I. And, of course, no tournament has more tradition than the British Open, which allows Americans a rare look into links golf. The PGA Championship, while certainly the little brother of the four majors, at least might give us a shot at a Grand Slam one day and announces the end of golf season for many with football knocking on the door.
But if you ask me, the best tournament to bet on every year is the one start starts Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz,: The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. It’s a star-studded field (62 of world’s Top 64 players) with an NCAA Tournament-style bracket competition, the only official Tour event of its kind. There are far too many ways to bet this tournament to list here – I could go over every first-round pairing or break down the four brackets into four stories. So let’s just give a general overview and see if I can pick my first winner of 2012.
This is the final tournament of the West Coast swing, with the PGA Tour heading to Florida next week. And players will play the longest course on the tour this year at 7,791 yards -- the layout can be stretched nearly 100 yards beyond the total from the tips at Torrey Pines South. But long bombers haven’t won this the past three years. To gain entry into this tournament, a player had to be in the Top 64 of the Official World Golf Ranking as of Feb. 12. Two players did move into the Top 64 in the European Tour events that weekend: Rafael Cabrera-Bello (who won in Dubai) and Nicolas Colsaerts.
Two players who are eligible are not playing: Phil Mickelson and Paul Casey. Lefty has been brilliant the past two weeks in nearly winning back-to-back but had a family vacation planned well ahead of time. Casey is injured. They will be replaced by Ernie Els (who was bumped by Cabrera-Bello) and George Coetzee. Els is the No. 64 seed and, thus, has the unenviable task of opening with world No. 1 and defending champion Luke Donald.
Donald is the top seed in the Bobby Jones bracket, while Martin Kaymer is first in the Ben Hogan bracket. Donald beat Kaymer in the finals last year, but Kaymer took over the No. 1 spot in the world until Donald eventually ascended to the top. Rory McIlroy is No. 1 in the Gary Player bracket, while Lee Westwood is the final No. 1 seed in the Sam Snead bracket.
There are 32 first-round matches on Wednesday, 16 second-round matches on Thursday, eight third-round matches on Friday and the quarterfinals on Saturday. The semifinals are Sunday morning, while the championship and consolation matches will be held Sunday afternoon.
Golf Odds: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Favorites
McIlroy and Tiger Woods opened as the 11/1 favorites on Bovada to win the Match Play. Tiger is a three-time winner here, the last in 2008. And he has by far the most matches won in this tournament with 32 (next is David Toms with 23), not to mention the largest margin of victory in this event, beating Stephen Ames 9 & 8 in the first round in 2006.
Last year, however, Tiger was stunned by Thomas Bjorn in 19 holes in the first round. And in 2009 (he missed 2010) Tiger only made it to the second round. What kind of mental shape is Tiger in after that final-round meltdown at Pebble Beach two weeks ago? Plus Tiger likely will have to beat Nick Watney (presuming Watney beats Darren Clarke, a 2000 winner here) in Round 2 -- Tiger is the fifth seed in the Snead bracket.
McIlroy, in his 2012 U.S. debut, plays his fourth WGC-Match Play. A year ago, McIlroy was destroyed by Ben Crane in Round 2, 8 & 7. McIlroy’s best result came in 2009 when he lost to eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy in the quarterfinals. McIlroy opens this time with Coetzee and should have little trouble getting into the Round of 16, where Keegan Bradley, Sergio Garcia or Geoff Ogilvy figure to be waiting. Jason Day is the No. 2 seed in McIlroy’s bracket.
Donald and Westwood, the latter also making his 2012 PGA Tour debut, are next at 16/1 to win. Last year Donald was never in much danger on the way to victory, which was a springboard to his money titles on the PGA and European Tours (this is a Euro Tour event as well). Donald was threatened most in Round 2, beating Edoardo Molinari 2 & 1. As noted above, Donald opens with Els in one of the best matches of Round 1. Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson are on the other side of Donald’s bracket. Only Tiger has won back-to-back Match Plays.
Westwood has never fared well in this tournament. In fact, he has never even seen a Friday in 11 appearances at this event. If the Englishman does reach Friday this time, he could be facing Tiger. The other top seed, Kaymer, is 22/1. I would argue he is in the deepest bracket from top to bottom, with either David Toms (a previous winner here) or Rickie Fowler waiting in Round 2 and players like Steve Stricker (another previous winner), Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan also in the Hogan bracket.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Predictions
ESPN.com and the Golf Channel have some great numbers for breaking down this tournament. For example, No. 16 seeds in the round of 64 in the Match Play are 15-for-37, winning 28.8 percent of the time. Of course, a No. 16 seed has never won in the NCAA Tournament. Every year since 2006, at least one No. 1 seed has been knocked off in the opening round. In 2002, three No. 1 seeds lost.
Seeds 1-4 lose their opening-round match 30.3 percent of the time. In 11 of the 13 previous times this tournament was held, a three-seed was upset by a 14-seed at least once. In the last three WGC-Accenture Match Plays, the defending champions have won a combined two matches and never escaped the second round.
There are 23 Americans in the field. A U.S. player has not reached the finals of the Match Play since 2008, when Woods decimated Stewart Cink 8 & 7. In all but one of the seven American wins in the event, both finalists were from the U.S.
Of the nine 2012 PGA and European Tour winners in the field this week, all but one are set to face another fellow winner in the second round. Cabrera-Bello is the only player spared.
Wow, that’s a lot of information. I’m honestly a bit overwhelmed. But I’m going with Watson at 33/1 after he nearly knocked off Kaymer last year (losing in 19 holes) and lost in the consolation finals to Kuchar. Watson (No. 5 seed in deep Hogan bracket) has been solid on Tour so far this year and his length and strong short game should help him here.