WGC Accenture Match Play Championship: Players to Watch
Is anybody on the planet playing better golf recently? In his last 10 starts worldwide, he’s posted two wins and nine top fives. Of the No. 1 seeds, McIlroy seemingly has the most manageable route through the brackets. In addition, he’ll be anxious to redeem himself for the embarrassing second round 8 & 7 defeat to Ben Crane last year. A potential third round match-up with Sergio Garcia could be interesting, especially if Garcia reproduces the form that saw him fire a 64 in the final round of last week’s Northern Trust Open. Luckily for McIlroy, Garcia’s even less consistent than post-Thanksgiving Tiger.
Phil Mickelson failing to convert at the Northern Trust proved just how hard it is to win two weeks in a row. But Haas is the definition of a grinder, which is a big advantage in match play competitions. He’s putting extremely well and also has a favorable draw through the first few rounds. Haas exited in the first round in his only start in this event last year after running into a buzz saw in Bubba Watson. While he faces another tricky opening match against Ryo Ishikawa, his steady nature could provide a good run.
A semi-finalist last year in his only appearance, Watson is the epitome of an exciting match play golfer. First, he rarely cards a par. The guy makes a ton of birdies and with his length, most par fives are eagle targets. On the other hand, he is also prone to a couple blow-up holes. To his credit, he’s seemed to start limiting those mistakes recently. But with such a volatile player, you never can know what to expect. Second, his distance can take a toll on you. Imagine how frustrating it must be to be hitting five or six iron into greens while your opponent is throwing lob wedges in there and stopping it on a dime. The only negative for Bubba this week is that he’s utterly surrounded by other strong match play guys. Should he get by his first round match with Ben Crane, Martin Kaymer, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler all potentially await within the next two rounds.
Sleeper: Kyle Stanley
It’s tough to imagine the top guy in the FedEx Cup standings to be a sleeper, but Stanley enters his first WGC appearance as the 13 seed in the Jones bracket. We know he has the game, and we thought it could take a while to recover from his Torrey Pines meltdown. But his win in Phoenix the very next week proved he has the guts too. If he can get past KJ Choi in the first round, a rematch with Farmers Open champ Brandt Snedeker could be next. Wouldn’t that be something?