Sobel: My WGC-Match Play Bracket Predictions
Jasen Vinlove, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Dustin Johnson
We’ve run all the projections.
We’ve looked at match play history and course fit and current form.
We’ve done our due diligence.
Now it’s time to make some picks.
Because of the round-robin opening-round format at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship, the bracket isn’t as neat and clean as filling one out for the NCAA hoops tourney, but I’ll list my picks to advance in the order of how the matches will play out and hopefully it’ll all make some sense.
Group 1: Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Branden Grace, Chez Reavie
My pick: Dustin Johnson
I didn’t really want to start my bracket with chalk, but I didn’t see any way around it. I’ve been driving the Matsuyama bandwagon for a while – he’s going to win soon, but not this week.
Group 16: Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry, Andrew Putnam
My pick: Sergio Garcia
Our projections only have one player with the best chance of advancing who isn’t a top seed in his pod, and that player is Sergio. Reed is working on his swing with David Leadbetter, while Lowry and Putnam haven’t looked great lately. Easy call for me.
Group 8: Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Si Woo Kim
My pick: Jon Rahm
I can see the wildly inconsistent Kim putting it all together this week and pulling an upset here, but I’m sticking with the known commodity in Rahm, who reached the final two years ago and has been playing really solid golf recently.
Group 9: Xander Schauffele, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood
My pick: Rafa Cabrera Bello
One of the tougher groups for me, as I can see any of these four players winning it. I gave RCB a slight advantage based on his ball-striking, but if you’re firing a few longshot bets on players to advance, I don’t hate throwing a dart on Westwood.
Group 4: Rory McIlroy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Justin Harding, Luke List
My pick: Matthew Fitzpatrick
Yeah, yeah. I know: I’m crazy for picking anyone but Rory. That might be true, but I’ve got two edges on my side: 1) McIlroy wouldn’t hate a Friday elimination that allows him to rest up and start prepping earlier for a career grand slam bid at Augusta soon; and 2) These two players just squared off in the final pairing at Bay Hill and while neither played great, Fitz beat Rory by a stroke.
Group 13: Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Brandt Snedeker, Aaron Wise
My pick: Tiger Woods
Would’ve been fun to see a few more marquee matches against Tiger, as these opponents shouldn’t scare him much at all. Cantlay is obviously talented – I can’t wait to see how he fares against Tiger on Friday afternoon.
Group 5: Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley, Matt Wallace, Lucas Bjerregaard
My pick: Justin Thomas
Just a warning: You’re probably going to see Thomas’ name pretty frequently in everything I write for the next few weeks. I’m in full JT-mode right now, as I think he’s trending nicely going into the heart of the season.
Group 12: Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk
My pick: Jim Furyk
This might be the “Group of Death,” but Furyk has been breathing some life back into his career. I think he loves being the underdog against three more heralded players and I also think he’s extra motivated to move from 54th in the world ranking into the top-50 and get into the Masters field. It’s probably not the popular pick, but I’m going with the guy who needs it the most.
Group 2: Justin Rose, Gary Woodland, Eddie Pepperell, Emiliano Grillo
My pick: Eddie Pepperell
It’s pretty clear that Rose, the world’s second-ranked player, doesn’t love this format (or just this event) as he hasn’t played here in three years. Really, my decision came down to the two lower-ranked players in this group, with the edge toward Pepperell for better recent form.