Don’t succumb to Bracketology. This is the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, not the NCAA basketball tournament. Unlike the hoops tourney, seedings and rankings are pretty much meaningless in 18-hole golf matches between the best players in the world. You might as well line up the world’s best marathoners for 50-yard sprints and try to pick winners. Good luck, man.
Only an idiot would try to predict the outcomes of the 32 opening matches. So here’s how I see Wednesday shaping up. (If I bat .500 with these picks, I’ll be impressed.)
All times Eastern
BOBBY JONES BRACKET
Tiger Woods vs. J.B. Holmes
Tee time: 2:02 p.m.
The best way to look stupid is to pick against Tiger anytime, anywhere. Holmes loves desert golf, though, based on his two wins in Phoenix, and this course in Tucson, the Gallery Golf Club at Dove Mountain, is suited to big-hitters. That should be to his liking. Ditto for Tiger, however.
Mike Weir vs. Arron Oberholser
Tee time: 2:11 p.m.
Oberholser’s comeback from hand surgery was delayed at Pebble Beach when bursitis in his shoulder forced him to withdraw. Consider the rust factor.
Zach Johnson vs. David Toms
Tee time: 12:50 p.m.
Two evenly matched, steady players who aren’t bombers. It’s a tossup, so go with the reigning Masters champ.
Aaron Baddeley vs. Mark Calcavecchia
Tee time: 12:59 p.m.
Baddeley is a rising star, and he’ll have room to spray it on this course. Calc is an under-rated iron player, though, and he’s a bit of a desert fox after living in the Phoenix area for years. I’m taking the old guy in a minor upset.
Rory Sabbatini vs. Bradley Dredge
Tee time: 11:38 a.m.
While Dredge has one of my favorite names in golf, the pick has to be Sabbatini. Otherwise, we won’t have that Tiger vs. Rory showdown on Saturday morning.
Paul Casey vs. Robert Karlsson
Tee time: 11:47 a.m.
Casey had a brief fling with greatness at Oakmont but otherwise ranks near the top of the game’s leading underachievers. He’s got a house near Phoenix, so this is almost a home game.
K.J. Choi vs. Camilo Villegas
Tee time: 10:26 a.m.
Choi is one of the tour’s better ballstrikers. It’s Korea over Colombia in this one.
Ian Poulter vs. Soren Hansen
Tee time: 10:35 a.m.
Poulter caused a dust-up when he said recently he is Tiger’s true future rival. He might want to win some tournaments first, but I like the fact that he’s confident in his game. Plus, nice pants.
Winner: Poulter, in extra holes
BEN HOGAN BRACKET
Ernie Els vs. Jonathan Byrd
Tee time: 1:26 p.m.
Even though Ernie has a reputation as a great match-play player, mostly from the event at Wentworth (his home course) that features 36-hole matches, this tournament hasn’t been his cup of tea. He didn’t care for La Costa, the old site for this match play, and he was a late entrant for this week.
Retief Goosen vs. Andres Romero
Tee time: 1:35 p.m.
Romero is the guy who made 10 birdies in the final round at Carnoustie and somehow managed to lose the British Open. Ten birdies will pretty much win you any match in match play.
Henrik Stenson vs. Robert Allenby
Tee time: 12:14 p.m.
Allenby made a nice run last week at Riviera, but Stenson is a bomber and the defending champ. He’s confident on this track. It’ll be the Swedish Stealth Bomber.
Trevor Immelman vs. Shingo Katayama
Tee time: 12:23 p.m.
I’m still trying to figure out how Katayama stays in the top 50 in the world ranking.
Adam Scott vs. Brendan Jones
Tee time: 11:02 a.m.
It’s a tale of two Aussies, one you’ve heard of and one you haven’t. Put your money on the one you’ve heard of.
Toru Taniguchi vs. Woody Austin
Tee time: 11:11 a.m.
After his star turn as Aquaman at the Presidents Cup last fall, Austin is a player nobody is anxious to meet in match play. He snorkels into the second round.
Sergio Garcia vs. John Senden
Tee time: 9:50 a.m.
If you want to see some good iron play, watch this match. Sergio ranks with the best on tour, and the little-known Senden isn’t far behind. I like Sergio to get his year going with a high finish this week.
Martin Kaymer vs. Boo Weekley
Tee time: 9:59 a.m.
Kaymer is a 24-year-old German who just got his breakthrough win in Europe. Boo Weekley is Jethro Bodine incarnate with a repeating swing.
GARY PLAYER BRACKET
Phil Mickelson vs. Pat Perez
Tee time: 2:20 p.m.
Phil has had a couple of draining weeks, losing a playoff in Phoenix, bombing out with an 11 at Pebble and winning at Riviera. Perez is a birdie machine. I sense an upset.
Stuart Appleby vs. Tim Clark
Tee time: 2:29 p.m.
It’s a bomber vs. a non-bomber on a course for big hitters. It should be a perfect track for Appleby, who has never found consistency in his sporadically spectacular career.
Geoff Ogilvy vs. Justin Leonard
Tee time: 1:08 p.m.
Ogilvy is another talent who hasn’t achieved as much as expected since his U.S. Open win. Leonard is back to playing his style of golf and will be a strong opponent. Ogilvy’s length gives him the nod.
Lee Westwood vs. Brandt Snedeker
Tee time: 1:17 p.m.
I doubt if this match gets much TV time. I’ll take Snedeker … for absolutely no reason.
Justin Rose vs. Rod Pampling
Tee time: 11:56 a.m.
Last year was Rose’s breakout. He looks ready to contend in majors, and already has. Pampling is a solid ballstriker, however, and tough to beat.
Scott Verplank vs. Nick O’Hern
Tee time: 12:05 p.m.
The Aussie O’Hern is the man who ruined … I mean stopped Tiger’s run on Byron Nelson’s consecutive-victory streak a year ago. He’s as good on the greens as anyone using a long putter. Verplank is tougher and will take him down.
Vijay Singh vs. Peter Hanson
Tee time: 10:53 a.m.
I forget, was Peter the drummer or the keyboard player in the “Mmm-bop” video?
Niclas Fasth vs. Richard Green
Tee time: 10:53 a.m.
Another match destined for no air time in the U.S. I like the improving Aussie.
SAM SNEAD BRACKET
Steve Stricker vs. Daniel Chopra
Tee time: 1:44 p.m.
Write your own cheese-related joke here in honor of Wisconsin’s favorite son, Stricker, a former winner of this event. He’s played his best golf in the last two years. You’ve got to pick him.
Richard Sterne vs. Hunter Mahan
Tee time: 1:53 p.m.
Two young guns collide, one from South Africa and one from the U.S. Stern is a rising star in Europe. He pulls this one out.
Angel Cabrera vs. Anders Hansen
Tee time: 12:32 p.m.
Hmm, maybe Anders was the drummer in “Mmm-bop.” The course is a perfect fit for a mad bomber like Cabrera. Stick with your U.S. Open champ.
Luke Donald vs. Nick Dougherty
Tee time: 12:41 p.m.
Two of England’s brightest stars get to tangle in the opening round. Donald had a nice finish at Riviera, holing a ridiculously long putt on the 72nd green. He’s got the hot hand.
Jim Furyk vs. Colin Montgomerie
Tee time: 11:20 a.m.
Other than Tiger, who would you least like to face in match play? That’s right, Furyk. Sorry, Monty.
Stephen Ames vs. Charles Howell
Tee time: 11:29 a.m.
Ames sorted his swing out last fall but tends to be a slow starter. Howell didn’t exactly burn it up in defending his title at Riviera, but he manages a W here.
Padraig Harrington vs. Jerry Kelly
Tee time: 10:08 a.m.
Both men seem to have rededicated themselves to getting ready for ’08. This could be one of the great matches of the opening round.
Winner: Harrington, in extra holes
Stewart Cink vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez
Tee time: 10:17 a.m.
Cink’s wipeout of Garcia was one of the few American highlights in either of the last two Ryder Cups.