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Accenture: Bookies like Tiger
By Neville Leck Last updated: 19th February 2013
Eighteen-hole match play is always something of a lottery - and this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is no exception.
If Tiger Woods, a three-time winner of this event before it was moved to The Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona, five years ago, has said it once, he's said it half-a-dozen times; Anything can happen in 18-hole match play golf.
It's always possible - and has often been the case - for one of the lesser mortals in the initial field of 64 who, as always, will tee off on Wednesday in this five-day event, to whisk up some early momentum and topple one of the sports loftiest icons.
The first round on Wednesday could be especially bloody. Atrocious weather has been forecast by reliable Golfweather.com.
The forecaster is expecting strong winds, peaking at midday at 24 mph, to bring rain - and with the temperature not expected to get above 48 degrees Fahrenheit - even some chilly afternoon snow.
The good news for those players still standing on Thursday is that they can expect mostly sunny, five-star weather for the rest of the week
And this on a latter-day Jack Nicklaus course that at 7,791 yards, is the longest on the PGA Tour, has wide fairways, but with many uneven lies, and, as is usually the case with the 'Golden Bear's' layouts, gets tougher the closer you get to the pin.
For while the greens average out at 6,000 square feet, a series of undulations makes it vital to hit them in the right places.
This week's field is expected to be as strong as ever.
Phil Mickelson, back to number nine in the world, is taking a break to spend holiday time with his family and world number four Brandt Snedeker is nursing a rib injury, but all the best of the rest will be there to make up the 64-strong field, including the world numbers one, two and three Rory McIlroy, Woods and Luke Donald.
As I have already said, no one can be too sure of anything this week, but for the record, McIlroy, Woods, Donald and Louis Oosthuizen have respectively been made the top seeds of the Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan brackets.
In Wednesday's stormy first round McIlroy is set to play Ireland's Shane Lowery, Woods meets fellow-American Charles Howell III, Donald takes on Germany's Marcel Siem and Oosthuizen, the South African number one, goes up against Scotland's Richie Ramsay.
If McIlroy makes it through the first round some of the dangerous opponents he might have to face in his bid to make the quarter-finals in the Bobby Jones bracket include fellow Americans, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, South Africa Charl Schwartzel and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell.
To do the same thing in the Gary Player bracket, some of the men Woods might have to oust include fellow Americans Jason Dufner and Hunter Mahan and a strong European brigade topped by England's Lee Westwood, Sweden's Peter Hanson and Germany's Martin Kaymer...
In Donald's case, the men in his bracket he'll most likely have to topple to make the quarter-finals include Ian Poulter, a fellow-Englishman, who, like him, is a former Accenture Match play champion, Americans Steve Stricker, the first Accenture champion, and Nick Watney and Australia's top player Adam Scott.
In the Ben Hogan bracket, some of the most dangerous rivals Oosthuzen may bump heads with in his bid to make the quarters include world number six Justin Rose, Ernie Els, one of the game's most titled match play specialists, former PGA champion Keegan Bradlay and fellow-American Bill Haas, big-hitting Belgium Nicolas Colsaerts and Spanish star Sergio Garcia.
There are so many strong contenders, its difficult to mention them all with and with the event being the magical mystery show that it so often is, the winner could quite likely be none of the above; someone like Dustin Johnson, who hits the ball almost as far as Watson and Colsaerts.
Donald isn't one of the long hitters, but he's a fine irons player, scrambles and putts well and makes fewer bogies than most and in the solid form he'll be bringing to Dove Mountain this week, he's the top seed I see as having the best chance of carrying off the trophy, especially as he'll be playing with the invigorating memory of knowing he can and has won here at Dove Mountain before.
McIlroy and Woods? Both have been out of the game for a good few weeks and their current form is an imponderable factor right now, but they are both classy golfers who on their day are cable of great feats, so neither can be written off.
And you can say the same about Els - except that in his case, he does seem to be sporting some form, having finished in a tie for 13th at Riviera in his 2013 PGA TOUR debut last week where he posted a bogey-free 68 in the second round and made no more than 7 bogeys all week.
But who knows? The British bookies, maybe?
Woods is the their favourite. Both Skybet and Paddy Powers have him at a cautious 11/1 with McIlroy the second favourite at 12/1.
Then comes Luke Donald at 16/1, Charl Schwartzel at 18/1, Pouler at 20/1 and Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen at 22/1.
Knowing who the previous winners and the loosing finalists of this event are might help some. They are:
All the WGC-Accenture Match play winners:
2001: Steve Stricker who beat Pierre Fulke 2 & 1
2002: Kevin Sutherland who beat Scott McCarron 1 up
2003: Tiger Woods who beat David Toms 2 & 1
2004: Tiger Woods who beat David Love III 3 & 2
2005: David Toms who beat Chris DiMarco 6 & 5
2006: Geoff Ogilvy who beat Davis Love III 3 & 2
2007: Henrik Stenson who beat Geoff Ogilvy 2 & 1
2008: Tiger Woods who beat Stewart Cink 8 & 7
2009: Geoff Ogilvy who beat Paul Casey 4 & 3
2010: Ian Poulter who beat Paul Casey 4 & 2
2011: Luke Donald who beat Martin Kaymer 3 & 2
2012: Hunter Mahan who beat Rory McIlroy 2 & 1
And here, based on their seedings, is how the 64 players will face up in the four brackets for the first round:
Rory McIlroy v Shane Lowry
Rickie Fowler v Carl Pettersson
Dustin Johnson v Alexander Noren
Graeme McDowell v Padraig Harrington
Bubba Watson v Chris Wood
Jim Furyk v Ryan Moore
Charl Schwartzel v Russell Henley
Zach Johnson v Jason Day
Tiger Woods v Charles Howell III
Gonzalo F-Castano v Francesco Molinari
Webb Simpson v David Lynn
Peter Hanson v Thomas Bjorn
Lee Westwood v Rafael Cabrera-Bello
Martin Kaymer v George Coetzee
Jason Dufner v Richard Sterne
Hunter Mahan v Matteo Manassero
Louis Oosthuizen v Richie Ramsay
Branden Grace v Robert Garrigus
Keegan Bradley v Marcus Fraser
Ernie Els v Fredrik Jacobson
Justin Rose v KJ Choi
Bill Haas v Nicolas Colsaerts
Sergio Garcia v Thongchai Jaidee
Matt Kuchar v Hiroyuki Fujita
Luke Donald v Marcel Siem
Paul Lawrie v Scott Piercy
Steve Stricker v Henrik Stenson
Nick Watney v David Toms
Adam Scott v Tim Clark
Jamie Donaldson v Thorbjorn Olesen
Ian Poulter v Stephen Gallacher
Bo Van Pelt v John Senden
NOTE: In the quarter-finals, the last men standing in the four brackets will play off against each other as follows:
The Bobby Jones winner v the Gary Player winner
The Ben Hogan winner v the Sam Snead winner
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