Feb 9, 2014; Pebble Beach, CA, USA; Hunter Mahan on the fifth green during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship-Picks & Previews-1st round


Feb 25, 2012; Marana, AZ, USA; Rory McIlroy with his tee shot on the second during the quarterfinal round of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship at Ritz-Carlton GC. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

The always exciting and unpredictable WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships get underway today outside Tuscon at Dove Mountain. If history is any indication, expect plenty of upsets and a wide open tournament 64 of the world’s best go head-to-head in this giant match play bracket.

Yesterday, I gave my overall picks and shared the group info if you want to enter a bracket (or two or three) into our group on the PGA Tour site and get warmed up for bracket mania coming next month. If you’re looking for a great gallery and overview of the course, the WGC site has a really nice one available by clicking here.

Here’s my brief preview and pick for each of the 32 matches on the schedule for today:

Jones Bracket

(1) Henrik Stenson vs (16) Kiradech Aphibarnrat: The FedEx Cup winner takes on the most difficult name to spell in the field in this first round matchup.  Stenson not only secured the FedEx Cup last year, but he also has a previous win in this event back in 2007. Aphibarnrat will be making his debut as the last man into the field. Pick: Henrik Stenson

Jan 23, 2014; La Jolla, CA, USA; Jason Day watches his tee shot on the eighth hole during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

(2) Jason Day vs (15) Thorbjorn Oleson: Day’s my pick to win the whole tournament, but he doesn’t start with an easy win as he takes on Oleson who will look to make a splash for something other than the meaning of his first name (Thunder-Bear).  Day recently finished runner-up at Torrey Pines and made it to the final four last year. Pick: Jason Day

(3) Steve Stricker vs (14) George Coetzee: Coetzee has been playing exceptionally well, but he has a horrible draw against Stricker who has a good history here and will be emotionally boosted after the situation with his brother.  This could be an upset, but Stricker is too good here and would be too good a story to pick against in the first round. Pick: Steve Stricker

(4) Brandt Snedeker vs (13) David Lynn: Snedeker hasn’t finished in the top 55 in his last four tournaments and doesn’t seem to be back in form since his injury.  David Lynn isn’t well known, but he’s been making cuts on tour this year even though he hasn’t gotten onto a leaderboard this season. Pick: David Lynn

(5) Webb Simpson vs (12) Thongchai Jaidee: Simpson made a nice run last year getting to the quarterfinals.  Last week wasn’t a good one for Simpson, but before heading to Riviera he had logged seven straight top 25′s.  Many are picking him to the final four, but I have him losing to Day in the Elite Eight just like he did to Hunter Mahan last year. Pick: Simpson

Feb 1, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Graeme DeLaet on the tee of the sixth hole during the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

(6) Graham DeLaet vs (11) Patrick Reed: These are two emerging stars on the PGA Tour this season. DeLaet finished t70 last week coming off of four straight top-8 finishes.  Reed got the win at the Humana Challenge and has top-20′s in his last four tournaments. This should be a great matchup and one that could easily take extra holes to decide. Pick: Graham DeLaet

(7) Jason Donaldson vs (10) Billy Horschel: Horschel’s emotional game could be his biggest asset or what unravels him in this format, but I think he’ll get the win at least in the first round coming off a strong start to the season.  Donaldson is a seasoned veteran who hasn’t pulled out any big finishes in big tournaments but is steady–basically the opposite of Horschel. Consider this a contrast in styles, and it’s a pretty intriguing match, actually. Pick: Billy Horschel

(8) Louis Oosthuizen vs (9) Nick Watney: Oosty and Watney is one of the bigger-name first round matchups. Neither has been in top form lately although Oosthuizen did win in South Africa before missing the cut at Riviera.  If Watney can get his putter going, he can be unbeatable, but he hasn’t been able to recently making this a bit of a tricky pick. Pick: Nick Watney

Hogan Bracket

(1) Rory McIlroy vs (16) Boo Weekly: McIlroy looks like he’s re-discovered his form and will be looking to make a statement that he’s back as he returns stateside.  He finished second here in 2012, and I have him in my final four once again this year.  Weekly hasn’t  played recently due to a knee injury, so picking this upset seems like a stretch. Pick: Rory McIlroy

Sep 13, 2013; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Sergio Garcia tees off on the 1st hole during the third round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

(2) Sergia Garcia vs (15) Marc Leishman: Sergio’s volatile nature always makes him intriguing in this format where he can either get on a roll and go far or crash out early. He’s won two of this last three tournaments so comes in in great form as he takes on the big Aussie Leishman.  Leishman has struggled in his last two tournaments, but did log a runner-up finish at Torrey Pines. Garcia’s form and match-play history makes him the pick here. Pick: Sergio Garcia

(3) Ian Poulter vs (14) Rickie Fowler: In the most fashionable matchup in the first round, expect Poulter to continue his run of excellent play in Match Play. Poulter thrives on this format while Fowler hasn’t been able to get any traction lately. Pick: Ian Poulter

(4) Charl Schwartzel vs (13) Kevin Stadler: Stadler broke through with a win at Scottsdale, but Schwartzel is playing extremely well despite a checkered history here. Pick: Charl Schwartzel

(5) Jim Furyk vs (12) Chris Kirk: Furyk has made it out of the first round in just one of his last nine trips to Dove Mountain.  Kirk had a nice run of four straight top-25 finishes, including a win and solo second, but he has struggled lately finishing 76th in Phoenix and t61 at Pebble Beach. Pick: Chris Kirk

Feb 9, 2014; Pebble Beach, CA, USA; Jimmy Walker tees off on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Links during the final rounds of the AT&T National Pro-Am. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

(6) Jimmy Walker vs (11) Branden Grace: No one has been more impressive early in this PGA Tour season than Walker who has three wins in the 2013-2014 wrap-around format. Grace has excelled overseas, but this is a tough draw for a player who hasn’t found success in the US yet. Pick: Jimmy Walker

(7) Bill Haas vs (10) Miguel Angel Jimenez: As opposed to Walker, Haas has been flying under the radar but has also been piecing together a solid season with three top-25′s in his last five tournaments.  Jimenez has a solid history here, but I don’t see the 50-year old pulling this upset as Haas finally escapes the first round in his fourth try. Pick: Bill Haas

(8) Lee Westwood vs (9) Harris English: This pick to me is all about momentum. Westwood has been above par in five of his last ten rounds while English has five top-12′s in his last six tournaments and already has a win on tour this year. Go with the good form over the big name in this one. Pick: Harris English

Player Bracket

(1) Justin Rose vs (16) Scott Piercy: Rose is a one-seed even though he hasn’t played much at all recently and is dealing with some tendinitis in his shoulder. This event has never been one of his better one’s historically, and Scott Piercy actually has a solid history here.  He made it to the sweet 16 last season but is coming back from his own injury as well. Just because one #1 always seems to go down early–Pick: Scott Piercy

February 24, 2013; Marana, AZ, USA; Matt Kuchar poses with the trophy after defeating Hunter Mahan (not pictured) 2 and 1 and winning the Accenture Match Play Championships at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

(2) Matt Kuchar vs (15) Bernd Wiesberger: Last year’s champ owns a 15-3 record here and looks primed to make another deep run after making the quarterfinals in each of the last three years.  The only warning sign for Kuchar is that he did miss the cut at Riviera last week, but I don’t think Wiesberger will pull this huge upset in his debut at this event. Pick: Matt Kuchar

(3) Jordan Spieth vs (14) Pablo Larrazabal: Spieth has been playing exceptionally well coming into his first trip to Dove Mountain, and I have him making a deep run (to the final four).  He’ll start with Larrazabal who won recently on the European Tour (in Abu Dhabi). Pick: Jordan Spieth

(4) Jason Dufner vs (13) Scott Stallings: Stallings surprised most golf fans with his win at the Farmers Insurance Open after not finishing better than t47 in his previous five events.  Since his win, he’s returned to earth with a missed cut and a t45.  In Stallings favor, though, is that Dufner hasn’t played much this season and has struggled when he has teed it up.  Dufner is also 0-2 in this event all time, so I’ll take Stalling in this match which should be a close one that I think could go extra holes. Pick: Scott Stallings

(5) Luke Donald vs (12) Matteo Manassero: Donald took home the title in 2011 and has made it out of the first round in all but one of his nine trips to the event. Manassero hasn’t been in good form lately. Pick: Luke Donald

(6) Thomas Bjorn vs (11) Francesco Molinari: Molinari and Bjorn have histories here at the event, but unfortunately for them they aren’t good histories.  Molinari is 1-4 while Bjorn is 5-9. Whoever does get out of this match is probably second-round fodder for Jordan Spieth. Pick: Thomas Bjorn

(7) Ryan Moore vs (10) Joost Luiten: Moore had been consistent with four top ten’s in six events this season including a win last fall at the CIMB Classic, but he tumbled out of the Northern Trust Open last week with a 76 in the second round. He’ll need to bounce back as he takes on Joost Luiten who won in September in his native home in the Netherlands.  Maybe I’ve been watching too much speed skating, but I’m going with the Dutchmen in an upset. Pick: Joost Luiten

Aug 2, 2013; Akron, OH, USA; Stephen Gallacher hits out of the sand trap on the 9th hole during the second round of the World Golf Championships – Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

(8) Ernie Els vs (9) Stephen Gallacher: Els is a tough call since he succeeds when its unexpected (as a 16 seed in 2012) and doesn’t when he’s expected to (as a 1 seed in 2008).  Gallacher comes in off a win over Tiger and Rory in Dubai and makes a nice sleeper option. Pick: Stephen Gallacher

Snead Bracket

(1) Zach Johnson vs (16) Richard Sterne: There always seems to be a number one seed that goes down in round one, but Zach Johnson should be able to escape Sterne who has only a single top-25 in his six starts on the European Tour this season. Pick: Zach Johnson

(2) Dustin Johnson vs (15) P Hanson: I originally had Johnson hoisting the trophy at the end based on his great form, but I decided to go with J-Day instead.  That fact bodes well for DJ who will probably prove once again the “never change your pick” axiom.  Johnson has four top ten’s in four events this season including a win back in October and a runner up finish in each of the last two weeks.  His history at this event isn’t nearly as steller, though, as he’s crashed out in the first round in four of his five Match Play events.  Can Peter Hanson make it five of six?  I don’t think so, but I don’t think Johnson runs the table here either as I originally did. Pick: Dustin Johnson

Feb 16, 2014; Pacific Palisades, CA, USA; Bubba Watson (USA) receives the trophy after winning the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports

(3) Bubba Watson vs (14) Mikko Ilonen: Watson is coming off a win last week and hasn’t been upset in the first round in any of his previous three trips to Dove Mountain.  He’s in great form with the win giving him a pair of top three finishes so far this season.  His opposition in this match is Ilonen who is a Finnish golfer making his debut in the event although he does have a trio of wins on the European Tour. Pick: Bubba Watson

(4) Graeme McDowell vs (13) Gary Woodland: McDowell won the Volvo Match Play Championship last season which is the European match play event.  Unfortunately for McDowell, he has a tough draw with Gary Woodland playing well.  While I like the upset potential, I like McDowell too much to go deep like he did last year (elite eight). Pick: Graeme McDowell

(5) Hideki Matsuyama vs (12) Martin Kaymer: Kaymer has a nice history here with a 9-3 record highlighted by a run to the final in 2011.  However, his recent form hasn’t been great.  He’ll be opposed in the opener by Matsuyama who is making his debut but has the length and steady game to make a splash. Pick: Hideki Matsuyama

(6) Keegan Bradley vs (11) Jonas Blixt: Blixt is making his first start here as he matches up against the in-form Bradley.  Keegan has finished in the top 20 in five of his six events this year.  Last year, Bradley was upset in the first round by Aussie Marcus Fraser, but I think he’ll avoid the same fate this year. Pick: Keegan Bradley

(7) Victor Dubuisson vs (10) Kevin Streelman: Streelman and Dubuisson are both making their debuts in this event and are relatively unknown internationally despite their success in the last year.  This is one of the hardest matches to pick since there’s so little track record to deal with. Pick: Streelman

(8) Hunter Mahan vs (9) Gonzalo Fernendez-Castano: Mahan won the event two years ago and made it to the finals last year before falling to Matt Kuchar.  Mahan has been playing well this season with back-to-back top ten’s before a fairly quiet week last week at Riviera.  Fernandez-Castano won a couple matches last year at this event, but I don’t see him pulling this upset. Pick: Mahan

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