Let us preface this by saying nothing is a lock in betting. And in golf especially. That being said, as careful followers of the pro tours, we're confident enough to make a few wagers.
Which is why we're ready to call these three match-up bets "near locks" on Thursday at the WGC-Match Play. (All odds mentioned are from Sportsbook.ag.)
Billy Horschel (-165) over Jason Dufner
We feel bad for Duf. We really do. He's probably not in a great place emotionally as he goes through his divorce with Amanda. And his golf game is not looking good. Rory McIlroy beat Dufner handily, 5 and 4, on Day 1, even with only one birdie on his card. Meanwhile, Horschel dismissed one of the best putters in the world -- Brandt Snedeker -- 5 and 4. Dufner's putting short-comings are well-documented. Horschel should be able to take this one.
Hunter Mahan (-140) over Ben Martin
Sure, Martin's ace in his match with Matt Kuchar on Wednesday was all the buzz at the WGC-Match Play. But Martin's still a rookie when it comes to this event. Mahan, meanwhile, quietly dismissed Ryder Cupper Stephen Gallacher 7 and 6 in the biggest rout of Day 1. And Mahan is a former WGC-Match Play champ with a ton of elite match-play experience. We'll take the guy with the better match-play pedigree.
Gary Woodland (even) over Ian Poulter
Considering his match-play prowess, Poulter would seem to be the favorite here. But the Englishman had one of the ugliest scorecards on the first day of match play. He made four bogeys in his first eight holes to fall behind really early to Webb Simpson. Unless Poulter finds something to turn around his game before today, we'll go with a guy who can go on a birdie run at any point. Woodland took down Jimmy Walker in 19 holes on Wednesday, and afterward, said he loves the way TPC Harding Park sets up for him. Yeah, we'd recommend backing that confidence.
Other matches we also like: Hideki Matsuyama (-185) over Joost Luiten. Louis Oosthuizen (-250) over Miguel Angel Jimenez. Mikko Ilonen (+135) over Lee Westwood.