Off to Arizona for the first WGC event of the season, plus the first of 2 Match Play events this term with the Volvo World Match Play returning to the European Tour in May. The hype around this event will be immense with the Ryder Cup still fresh in the memories of many of the players here - the chances of re-matches from last October will be high and all eyes will be on the likes of Rickie Fowler & GMac who stole most of the column inches once the dust had settled. With all but 1 of the 64 top players in the World confirmed (Stenson steps in for Taniguchi), this is bound to be a cracker and one of my favourite events of the season. If any player withdraws now, they will be replaced like-for-like meaning the remaining matches will be unaffected - to get a printable copy of the brackets and matches click here: WGC Accenture Brackets
Last year I went for a strategy which left me 1 selection per 'division' as E/W places are paid for the top 4 only this week, plus there's no value in my view picking multiple players from the same bracket. This strategy paid off with both Poulter and Casey making the final, eventually bagging us a 28/1 winner. Let's see if we can repeat that again this year!
Looking through the history of this event, we can eliminate a number of players based on some solid trends:
- Since 2003, all winners of this event have secured at least one professional victory in the previous 12 months. Following the same logic this year, 14 players are eliminated including Woods, Goosen and Fowler.
- Since 2003, all winners achieved a top 4 finish in at least 1 of their previous 6 starts on their respective Tour. Of the 50 players left, we lose another 12 here including Kim, Edoardo Molinari, Rose and Villegas.
- First timers can win (Geoff Ogilvy is a case in point), however those with a poor record in this event can be discarded - you need to have got to the 3rd round at least in the past if you've played multiple times. We lose some big names here - Westwood, Kaymer and McDowell to name just 3. In total we're now down to 25 candidates.
- The greens are large, undulating Bentgrass and you'll need to be confidently holing out to stand a chance of making the final. There's no room for error here, so anyone who missed 2 or more cuts on a Bentgrass surface last season are eliminated in my opinion. That removes Els, Furyk and Harrington as well as another 12 players.
So we're left with 10 contenders: Mickelson, Casey, McIlroy, Stricker, Poulter, Jimenez, Schwartzel, Hanson, Day & Manassero. Looking at the draw this throws up some interesting challenges, however my selections are as follows:
Bobby Jones Division
Westwood is the headline act here and, despite his poor record in this event, I'd expect him to overcome an out-of-form Henrik Stenson and the winner of Kim/Watney, however that may well be as far as he gets with Francesco Molinari my favourite to succeed on that side of the draw. On the other side, 2 of our shortlisted players Stricker & Manassero meet in round 1, however I'd expect the victor to eventually lose to my first selection:
The South African is playing some great golf at present with form of 2/4/4/1/8 in his 5 European Tour starts this season. Twice a winner last season, plus impressive finishes of 9/2/58/16 in the 4 WGC events, reinforces my opinion that Schwartzel is a World-class player. Defeated Hunter Mahan and Jim Furyk last year before a 19th hole loss to Stewart Cink halted his progress. His biggest threat will come from a potential meeting with Luke Donald in round 3 who has an excellent Match Play record, however the South African could well win the Bobby Jones bracket and secure us at least an each way payout. Paddy Power have the widest range of markets this week from the bookies we've reviewed, to see them all and claim your £50 in free bets for new accounts click here. RESULT: T17
Ben Hogan Division
Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Louis Oosthuizen dominate the top side of the draw, however I reckon that Peter Hanson has the best chance of progressing out of all of them as he's been showing some improving form of late and will have benefited from his Ryder Cup debut. At the bottom I'd expect GMac and Poulter to meet in round 3 and, given Poults' far superior record in this event, I'd favour him to come out on top. That would leave Poulter vs Hanson, so my second selection is:
Defending champion Poulter is 100% made for Match Play and won't relinquish his title without a massive fight. His first match against Stewart Cink is likely to be the toughest before the semi-final so, assuming he gets past the Turnberry champion, I can see no reason why he won't progress to the semi finals. Won his last event in November with a classy 22-under total in Hong Kong, straddled either side of a 6th place finish and the infamous playoff defeat to Robert Karlsson in Dubai. Forget his 2011 form - he's just been warming up for this! RESULT: T33
Gary Player Division
Only 2 of our shortlist here - Miguel Angel Jimenez and Rory McIlroy. Quite simple for me:
If you can call a division 'poor' that contains such talented players, then this is it. Martin Kaymer could well progress to the quarter finals with some ease, however that's where I think he'll find a hungry and talented 21 year old from Northern Ireland ready to take a large scalp! McIlroy hasn't won enough strokeplay events yet given his undoubted star quality, however with the fearless abundance of youth and massively positive memories from last October, I'm expecting a big performance this week. He's finished in the top 10 in his last 5 starts, typically ruined by 1 bad round - if he can get away with his bad round this week then he could go all the way. Get more No Lose Bets here: No Lose RESULT: T17
Sam Snead Division
Tiger Woods is the headline, however I'd expect him to struggle to get past round 2 as Match Play specialist Geoff Ogilvy awaits him should a resurgent Thomas Bjorn fail to overcome the former World number 1. In the bottom half there's only one standout player for me:
It may be a case of 'third time lucky' for the Englishman who is also a resident in Scottsdale. Two consecutive defeats in the final will have hurt Casey, however they'll have also made him even more determined to win in a format he loves and a course which suits his eye. His biggest challenge may come from the young Aussie Jason Day who thrives on this type of surface, however other than that I can't see anyone stopping him get to the semi finals, even Geoff Ogilvy who he's destined to meet in the quarters. For more no lose bets like the 188Bet offer click here: No Lose Bets RESULT: T17
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 19:15GMT 21.2.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.