Picks for Thursday at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship

Thursday February 26th, 2009

Here's how Thursday's matches shape up, according to my warped view, and who's going to win, according to my humble opinion. (FYI, I went 12-6 with my first-round picks but I know, I know — what have I done for you lately?)

BOBBY JONES BRACKET
Tiger Woods (1) vs. Tim Clark (8) 2:02 p.m.
Picking against Tiger Woods is a good way to make yourself look stupid. Still, Clark is just the kind of pesky opponent who can give Woods trouble. He's a good iron player — he'll do a lot better than Brendan Jones did in that department, I guarantee it — and he's streaky with his putter. I wouldn't be shocked if Clark pulled the upset, but I'm not stupid. The pick is Tiger.

Geoff Ogilvy (2) vs. Shingo Katayama (10) 12:20 p.m.
Shingo played a four-hole stretch in five-under par on the back nine to close out Trevor Immelman. Ogilvy's power game is made for the desert, though, and he's already got a victory to his credit this year. The Aussie rules.

Camilo Villegas (3) vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez (6) 12:33 p.m.
Spiderman has all the glitz and glamour that the Mechanic doesn't. It's hard to pick against the guy who won by the largest margin Wednesday, a 7-and-6 effort over Rod Pampling. (Especially since I picked Pampling yesterday. My bad.) Villegas rolls on.

 

Rory McIlroy (4) vs. Hunter Mahan (12) 2:15 p.m.
Mahan somehow won his match over Mike Weir despite going birdieless on the back nine, although he did have an eagle and two birdies on the front. McIlroy is one of the teen candidates for Next Big Thing, but he'll have to wait. Mahan takes him out.

SAM SNEAD BRACKET
Anthony Kim (3) vs. Oliver Wilson (11) 12:08 p.m.
Kim was running on fumes after flying home from Australia, arriving here in Tucson late Tuesday afternoon. Luckily, Lin Wen-Tang played the worst golf of anyone in the field, shooting eight over par for 13 holes. Wilson, my dark-horse pick to go deep into this tournament, knocked off K.J. Choi. Wilson is a terrific chipper, a skill that goes a long way at this course.

Jim Furyk (4) vs. Martin Kaymer (5) 1:49 p.m.
Furyk is still working into a groove after getting a late start to the season, but this course plays into his strength — getting up and down. His short game should make the difference.

Justin Leonard (7) vs. Davis Love III (15) 11:55 p.m.
Love skated through his first-round match despite not playing well because former Match Play champ Henrik Stenson was worse. He looked like Rommel roaming all over the desert. Leonard was necessarily sharper, needing four birdies and an eagle to beat Andres Romero. Love and Leonard are friends, and they both excel in match play. Based on their first-round form, Leonard is the choice. He could be the man to beat in the Snead Bracket, believe it or not.

Ross Fisher (9) vs. Pat Perez (16) 1:36 p.m.
Perez took down Padraig Harrington Wednesday and is still on a roll since his win at the Bob Hope. Fisher is an aging chess champion who looks ripe for... what? Not the same Fisher? Well, I still like Perez.

GARY PLAYER BRACKET
Paul Casey (6) vs. Matthew Goggin (14) 12:58 p.m.
Casey, like Kim, was bedraggled after flying in from the other side of the world. But he lives in the Phoenix area and scouted out this course before his trip, getting in several rounds. The course knowledge advantage is an edge I like. Casey could make the final four.

Ian Poulter (8) vs. Charl Schwartzel (16) 2:28 p.m.
Charl and Sergio Garcia may have played the match of the day, as Schwartzel threw down five birdies on the front side and Garcia answered with three in a row on the back before stumbling in with three straight bogeys to lose. Poulter fired six birdies in 15 holes and may have had the hottest round of the day. Poulter moves on.

Sean O'Hair (12) vs. Boo Weekley (13) 2:40 p.m.
The Boo-meister pulled out his first-round match with a long birdie putt on the final hole, while O'Hair outplayed Adam Scott despite some missed putts. Weekley's sharp iron play will be the difference.

Stephen Ames (10) vs. Peter Hanson (15) 12:46 p.m.
Something about the desert agrees with Ames, the Trinidad & Tobago native who became a Canadian citizen — he often plays well out west. I like him to advance.

BEN HOGAN BRACKET
Vijay Singh (1) vs. Luke Donald (9) 1:11 p.m.
Quietly coming back from a wrist injury, Donald has played some solid tournaments. His precision will edge out Vijay's length.

Phil Mickelson (2) vs. Zach Johnson (7) 11:30 a.m.
This looks like the match of the day. Mickelson had a solid start and played well, but he couldn't put away Angel Cabrera, who won the last four holes to force overtime. Phil scratched out the win with a clutch birdie on the 19th hole. Johnson, meanwhile, fired a front-nine 31 and needed every bit of it to get past Graeme McDowell. This one's a toss-up, so I'll go with last week's champ, Mickelson.

Lee Westwood (3) vs. Stewart Cink (6) 11:42 a.m.
The dramatic finish of the day belonged to Cink, who won his match on the 19th hole by draining a monster putt of some 50 feet. But Westwood is a ruthless Ryder Cup foe who may just make the final four here.

Ernie Els (4) vs. Steve Stricker (5) 1:24 p.m.
Ernie used to have a rep as a great match-play player, but for some reason he's been cursed in this tournament. He never cared for the course at La Costa, for one thing. For another, somebody always comes out of the woodwork to throw a low round at him. Stricker, who nearly won in L.A., put down five birdies and an eagle in his win over Dustin Johnson. With Ernie's luck, Stricker will go low again on Thursday and knock him out.

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