The Match Play’s back this week.
Cue 99% of the field mumbling that it’s a shame they “don’t play more of this format” on tour. I have to say I agree with them, although the reasons are obvious – the final few rounds consist of 8, 4, and then 2 players on the course (not ideal for the TV audience) – the match play format is a widely played form of the game by the rest of us mortals.
They’ve spiced it up this year, however, with a bracketed format where the world’s 64 top ranked players are segmented up into groups of four for the first three days. The winner of each group then goes forth to the last-16 and so the knockout begins; it means the eventual finalists will rack up seven rounds in five hot desert days. Poor blokes.
The new format has thrown up lots of potential accumulator opportunities. Some recommendations are below, with the order of the names the order of world ranking. e.g. in Group 1, Spieth’s the top ranked guy, Donaldson’s the lowest. Apologies for not including odds, there’s only so much time in the day.
Get comfy: it’s a long one.
Group 1. Jordan Speith, Justin Thomas, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson
Who wins? Spieth. He hasn’t had a top 10 since the first week of the season but you’ve got to fancy him on home Texan turf against this bunch.
What if I want to play it risky? Frenchman Dubuisson is a good shout, he took Jason Day to a playoff in the final last year.
Group 2. Jason Day, Paul Casey, Thongchai Jaidee, Graeme McDowell
Winner? Paul Casey. Great match play record.
Not Jason Day, last year’s victor? I’ve put my reputation on the line with this one. There’s some bad blood here, Casey will be out for revenge. Tough to not pick the Aussie given his exploits last week, but Casey played well too, and his odds admittedly sway my thinking.
Group 3. Rory McIlroy, Kevin Na, Smylie Kaufman, Thorbjorn Olesen
Surely McIlroy tops this one? That’s where the smart money is. Although young Kaufman has had a very promising start to the season…
Group 4. Bubba Watson, JB Holmes, Emiliano Grillo, Patton Kizzire
Interesting group. Indeed. Bubba and Holmes hit it so long it’ll be tough for Grillo or Kizzire to get close in honesty. Length off of the tee can get into your head in match play.
So Bubba? Yes, just. Grillo a close second. I’m a bit cautious about Bubba’s mystery injury however.
Group 5. Rickie Fowler, Byeong-Hun An, Scott Piercy, Jason Dufner
Who wins this? Fowler cruises through. Next.
Group 6. Adam Scott, Bill Haas, Chris Wood, Thomas Pieters
I know I know, Scott takes it. Move on. Right? Englishman Chris Wood’s playing well, I’d back him to beat the other two guys. Scott should win the group though, he’s won twice already this year.
Group 7. Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Fabian Gomez
Who wins this? Tough one, Rose on paper but Lahiri has an ability to go low. The Indian edges it for me after a great finish last weekend. Having touted him in another post, I can’t not pick him, can I?
Group 8. Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Robert Streb
DJ? He’s got such an advantage over these guys off the tee – Johnson top with Aphibarnrat a close second.
Group 9. Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Matt Fitzpatrick, Daniel Berger
Group of death? Arguably, yes. Reed’s a top 10 player. Phil is, well, Phil. Fitzpatrick won the U.S. amateur (match play format) and Berger’s had a hot start to the season (hence his presence here).
Get off the fence. Berger. Reed second.
Group 10. Danny Willett, Brooks Koepka, Billy Horschel, Jaco Van Zyl
Jaco Van who? He’s been raking in top 10’s on the European Tour for a solid year now and is 5/1 to win the group.
Err any other valuable insights? Willett came third last year and has been playing well this season. I’d have thought he could see off these three well enough.
Group 11. Branden Grace, Russell Knox, David Lingmerth, Chris Kirk
Who are these guys? Good golfers. You’ve got to fancy Branden Grace though. Lingmerth will no doubt fire a 29 front nine at some point but the South African should have enough over three days to clinch it.
Group 12. Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Kisner, Soren Kjeldsen, Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Who wins? Matsuyama will be too good for these guys. He’s a walking ATM machine and plays well every where he goes. He barely speaks English and I fancy him to make the semi-finals at least this week.
Group 13. Sergio Garcia, Marc Leishman, Ryan Moore, Lee Westwood.
Garcia? He’s got such good experience to call upon.
Group 14. Zach Johnson, Shane Lowry, Martin Kaymer, Marcus Fraser
I’ve never heard of Marcus Fraser. Neither have I, but he’ll probably earn $45,000 after he gets knocked out in the group stage, so I doubt he cares.
Let’s concentrate. Right, err, Lowry for this one. He should really beat Kaymer and Fraser, whereas I can see Johnson slipping up.
Group 15. Brandt Snedeker, Charl Schwartzel, Danny Lee, Charley Hoffman
Almost there. Thank god for that. Schwartzel should clean up here. Danny Lee hasn’t come to life after I tipped him for greater things, and Sneds has disappeared off the face of the earth. Hoffman bombs it but Schwartzel should advance to the weekend on current form (he won a couple of weeks ago).
Group 16. Louis Oosthuizen, Andy Sullivan, Bernd Wiesberger, Matt Jones
FINALLY. Alright, alright. Sullivan nicks this ahead of Jones.
So who should I put money on again? Spieth, Casey, McIlroy, Watson, Fowler, Scott, Lahiri, Johnson, Berger, Willett, Grace, Matsuyama, Garcia, Lowry, Schwartzel, Sullivan.