Sometimes the most deserving golfer doesn't always win a tournament. That was not the case at all last week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans as England's Justin Rose didn't make a single bogey over his final 66 holes -- just think about that; Rose had a bogey and double on his first six holes -- to win his seventh career PGA Tour event. Rose finished at a tournament-record 22-under 266 to beat out Cameron Tringale by a shot and Boo Weekley by two. I feel somewhat bad for Tringale as his worst round was 69 and he had two 65s yet still didn't win.
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Rose took the lead in the final round at Nos. 17 and 18, draining putts from 10 feet 13 1/2 feet to shoot 66. Tringale came up just short on an eagle chip from about 50 feet for eagle on No. 18 that would have forced a playoff. Third-round leader Jason Day shot a final-round 69 and finished three shots back and tied for fourth. Day now has held a 54-hole lead five times on the Tour but won just once. Rose now has won at least one tournament in six consecutive seasons, trailing only Dustin Johnson, who has done it in eight straight.
My pick to win was Rickie Fowler, but his disappointing year continued by missing the cut. For a Top-10 result I got Rose at -115 but missed on Fowler and Keegan Bradley (T22). I hit on a Top 20s for Day (-225) as well as finishing positions of "over" 7.5 for Johnson (T43) and "under" 14.5 on Rose and under 24.5 on Bradley. Ditto on Rose as the top European at 5/4. Head-to-head, I was good on Rose over Johnson, Bradley over Harris English, and Day over Johnson.
So this week it's the unusual World Golf Championships-WGC Match Play, the only official match play event on the PGA Tour schedule. Unfortunately, one big name pulled out: Phil Mickelson for personal reasons. Tiger Woods isn't eligible because the field goes by the world golf rankings. This event used to be back in the winter in Arizona. Now it visits TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. It's no longer set up exactly like an NCAA Tournament bracket where one loss and you are out. Now every player will play three matches (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) as the 64 in the field are grouped into 16 pods of four players apiece, with the winner of each pod (best record) advancing to play Saturday morning. If two players tie, their head-to-head result will be the tiebreaker. A sudden-death playoff will break three-way ties. The reason for the change is so many top seeds were being knocked out in the first round.
The Top 16 seeds were placed atop each pod and then a random draw filled them out but with the other players broken down into sections of Nos. 17 to 32, Nos. 33 to 48, and Nos. 49 to 64. Had it been a straight draw, top-seeded Rory McIlroy would have been joined by Graeme McDowell (32), Keegan Bradley (33) and Francesco Molinari (64). Instead, McIlroy got Billy Horschel (18), Brandt Snedeker (35) and Jason Dufner (53). Masters champion Jordan Spieth, the No. 2 seed, drew Lee Westwood (26), Matt Every (40) and Mikko Ilonen (62). The round of 16 on Saturday morning will be followed by the quarterfinals in the afternoon, and then the semifinals and championship match on Sunday. It's sort of set up like the World Cup soccer group stage.
The defending champion is Day, but I'm not sure how much that matters with the format and course change. He is trying to join Tiger (2003-04) as the only repeat winners of this tournament. Day has an excellent 14-3 record in the event.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: WGC-Match Play Favorites
The Bovada favorites to win are Spieth, McIlroy (both 9/1), Day (14/1), Johnson and Henrik Stenson (both 16/1). You can also bet on odds to reach the final. I'm not going to go over every first-round matchup but here are some big names:
Rose (-240) vs. Marc Leishman (+180): Rose is my pick
Stenson (-240) vs. John Senden (+180): Stenson
Matt Kuchar (-180) vs. Ben Martin (+140): Martin
Day (-200) vs. Charley Hoffman (+155): Day
Sergio Garcia (-200) vs. Tommy Fleetwood (+155): Garcia
Spieth (-325) vs. Mikko Ilonen (+230): Spieth
Bubba Watson (-210) vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez (+160): Watson
Fowler (-130) vs. Harris English (even): Fowler
Dustin Johnson (-200) vs. Matt Jones (+155): Johnson
Adam Scott (-200) vs. Francesco Molinari (+155): Molinari
Rory McIlroy (-260) vs. Jason Dufner (+190): McIlroy
Golf Odds: WGC-Match Play Picks
An American winning is -125 , but I'm going with a European at +135. I'm taking Horschel (+400) to win McIlroy's Group 1. You can also bet on McIlroy's stage of elimination and the group stage is 5/6. I do like Spieth at even to win Group 2, although Westwood (+200) worries me a bit. Stenson (-110) should take what's a pretty easy Group 3 vs. Bill Haas, Brendon Todd and Senden.
Louis Oosthuizen (+250) is my guy in Group 4, upsetting Bubba (+125). Rose (-110) takes Group 6. Day (-110) takes Group 7. Victor Dubuisson (+275) upsets Johnson (+135) for Group 8; Dubuisson was runner-up to Day last year. Paul Casey (+185) knocks off Scott (+175) for Group 9. Sergio (+125) is the Group 10 winner.
I noted above I'm picking a European because they seem to always fare better in match play formats in the Ryder Cup. My pick is Stenson, who won this in 2007 and has three Top-5 finishes in the Tour already this season. He is also is somewhat familiar with the course having played there in the 2005 WGC-Cadillac Championship. If you are looking for a longer shot, go with England's Ian Poulter, a match play demon who won this event in 2010.
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