The Loop

Don't worry about the brackets, our editors have you covered for this week's Match Play Championship

February 18, 2014

The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship might be the most difficult tournament to predict all season. After all, it's not every day that golfers have to fill out a bracket.

But not to worry, because our crack team of web editors are here to help. Below, Web Editor Sam Weinman, Deputy Web Editor Ryan Herrington, Contributing Writer John Strege, Associate Editor Alex Myers and Assistant Editor Luke Kerr-Dineen offer their thoughts and predictions on the coming week.

Which debutant will have the best tournament?

Luke Kerr-Dineen: Harris English. He hits a lot of greens, makes tons of birdies, and he's only finished outside the top 11 once in his last seven tour events.

John Strege: Billy Horschel. He's talented and he "loves match play."

Ryan Herrington: Patrick Reed. He's played well already in 2014, his win at Humana followed by top 20s at Phoenix and Pebble Beach. Meanwhile, he had a standout match-play record in his amateur days, reaching the semifinals of the 2008 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst and posting a 6-0 mark while helping Augusta State claim back-to-back NCAA titles.

Alex Myers: The man who held off Tiger Woods and Justin Rose in Turkey in October, Victor Dubuisson, has two other top fives on the European Tour since then and recently finished T-13 at Pebble Beach. Just 23, he is a former top-ranked amateur in the world and won the 2009 European Amateur.

Sam Weinman: Graham DeLaet. That's assuming you count "winning the whole thing" as having the best tournament.


What will be the biggest first round upset?

Luke: No. 13 seed Gary Woodland has been a little streaky this year, but he faces a potentially rusty No. 4 seed Graeme McDowell, who's only played one tournament so far in 2014. The scene is set for an upset.

John: Mikko Ilonen over Bubba Watson. After his victory in LA, Bubba Watson is ripe for a letdown.

Ryan: Marc Leishman over Sergio Garcia. Garcia's a No. 2 seed but his record in the WGC-Match Play is more spotty than you'd think. In 11 starts, he has gotten past the third round only once (fourth place in 2010), lost in the first round four times and the second round three times. Meanwhile, it's been a while since he last played in the U.S. (at the Tour Championship last September).

__Alex:__Scott Piercy over Justin Rose. The top seed in the Gary Player bracket just made his 2014 debut at Riviera, where he came back from a shoulder injury to finish T-45.

Sam: Numerically speaking, I suppose my pick of Scott Stallings over Jason Dufner is the biggest upset, but not when considering Stallings has won once this year while the reigning PGA champion has been conspicuously absent from leader boards so far in 2014.

Who is your final four?

Luke: It's an All-American final four: Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner, Harris English and Dustin Johnson. They're all playing well, and they're all good ball strikers. It's worth noting, too, that Dufner has a 6-2-0 (2-0 in singles) record in the 2012 Ryder Cup and 2013 Presidents Cup. Could be a sneaky one.


Ryan: Patrick Reed, Ian Poulter, Jordan Spieth and Hunter Mahan. Hot hands in Reed and Spieth continue their nice ride to start 2014, while Poulter and Mahan have the experience of solid past performances in the event to help them find their groove at Dove Mountain.

Alex: Sergio Garcia, Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson, Jason Dufner.

Sam: The aforementioned DeLaet, Harris English, Hideki Matsuyama, and Stephen Gallacher. For the record, this means I predict anyone seeded fourth or higher to be eliminated before the weekend.

Who is your pick to win?

Luke: Webb Simpson. He's really solid and always seems to ride just beneath the radar. Not sure I have any other reasons.

John: Billy Horschel. He's cocky enough and proclaimed his love of match play.

Ryan: Ian Poulter. I'd feel even more confident about my pick if he had started 2014 better than missing the cut in Phoenix and T-59 at Riviera. But I can't shake the crazy look Poulter had at Medinah in 2012, when he seemed to will in every putt he stood over. His match-play bona fides are impressive, with a win here in 2010 and a fourth-place finish a year ago.

Alex: Garcia over Dufner. In a match up of two players who will compete in the Ryder Cup later in the year, Garcia comes through to reclaim the mantel of best current player without a major championship.

Sam: DeLaet, and not just because he's drawing inspiration from his native Canada's run through the Olympic hockey tournament. It's also because he was one of the few bright spots for the International team in last year's Presidents Cup, he's got five top 10s already in 2013-14, and because if he wins I look like a genius. (And if he loses, no one will remember.)