The Loop

WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship: Day 4 primer

February 24, 2012

A match-play tournament always has the potential to fizzle if it produces less-than-compelling pairings. Of course, it's also less entertaining to watch if the matches themselves aren't very competitive. Such was the case in Friday's round of 16 at the WGC-Accenture, as nearly all eight of the golfers who advanced had big leads for most of the day. Now those players will compete in four quarterfinal matches beginning at 10:05 a.m. MT on Saturday. Here's a rundown of what to look for.


Hunter Mahan dusted Steve Stricker 4 and 3 on Friday.

Red, White and Blue Pairing

No. 4 Matt Kuchar vs. No. 6 Hunter Mahan: An American hasn't made the championship match of this event since 2008. This match guarantees one U.S. player will at least have the opportunity to reach the finals come Sunday morning. With these Ryder Cup teammates each cruising in their past two matches (Perhaps Steve Stricker celebrated his 45th birthday too much Thursday night...) after squeaking out first-round wins, it's tough to give either an edge. Kuchar gets the nod, though, based on his trip to the semis last year, where he lost to eventual champion Luke Donald.

Drive for show and putt for dough...

Mark Wilson: If the diminutive Wisconsinite was intimidated playing the much longer and much, much more famous American Dustin Johnson, he certainly didn't show it. Wilson, who has as many PGA Tour wins since the beginning of 2011 as anyone, crushed DJ 4 and 3 with a deadly short game that included an unlikely chip-in for birdie on No. 12. He'll try to ride his putter past an equally-hot Peter Hanson, another underrated player. Hanson, a member of the 2010 European Ryder Cup team, made eight birdies in 15 holes to eliminate Brandt Snedeker, one of the early season's biggest stories. Weren't looking forward to this matchup of 9 and 10 seeds when filling out your bracket? Don't worry, neither were Golf Channel or NBC...

Biggest mismatch (on paper)

No. 1 Rory McIlroy vs. No. 11 Sang-Moon Bae: We say "on paper" since at this level, even Senden/Bae knocking off the game's newest superstar should only be considered a minor upset. We've touted Bae, the 25-year-old South Korean, all year. Still, it's tough to pick against McIlroy, who at 22 and after beating the field's oldest player (Miguel Angel Jimenez), has his sights set on taking this tournament and taking over the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Conquering Europe one man at a time

Martin Laird: The Scotsman has defeated someone from his continent in each of his first three rounds, including fellow countryman Paul Lawrie in the round of 16. He'll have a chance to knock off England's finest remaining player in the draw next when he takes on No. 1 Lee Westwood. And how about the world's third-ranked player? After 11 years of not making it past Day 2 here, he suddenly looks like a match-play wiz. And despite his dismal track record in this event, Westy now enters the weekend with a bit of recent history on his side. Fellow Englishmen Luke Donald and Ian Poulter have won this event the past two years.

-- Alex Myers

(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)