Match Play second-round preview

Updated: February 23, 2006, 4:22 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- Ernie Els, take it easy. Jim Furyk, see ya later. Kenny Perry, take a hike. Michael Campbell, peace out. Darren Clarke, buh-bye.

While those five players packed their bags and said their goodbyes after Wednesday's first round, they won't be joined at the airport by any others in the world's top 20. One member of each of the top five seeding spots was given his walking papers, meaning there are plenty of elite players remaining at La Costa.

Let's break down Thursday's 16 matches:

BOBBY JONES BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Tiger Woods vs.
(8) Robert Allenby
What do you do if you're Allenby? Send Tiger some bad room service? Stay up all night quivering? Just fail to show up Thursday and say your dog ate the map to La Costa? Obviously, Allenby's only real option is to bring his A game to this match, because anything less will leave him feeling an awful lot like Stephen Ames. Allenby can take solace in three things: (1) He owns a 9-0 career playoff record, so he enjoys the match play format; (2) Woods lost in the second round to an Aussie player last year, so it could happen again; and (3) Tiger has yet to play past the 10th hole, so he could struggle on the back side. On second thought ... maybe not.
(4) Henrik Stenson vs.
(5) Chad Campbell
First one to crack a smile wins. Or loses. Something like that. Either way, these guys will be all business on the course, as words will be at a premium. Interestingly, these players won on back-to-back weeks last month, albeit on different continents. Most casual observers don't realize how good Stenson really is. With a win here, he'll likely get a chance to play Woods in perhaps the biggest round of his career so far.
(2) David Toms vs.
(7) Jose Maria Olazabal
Want to see some pure ball striking? Take a gander at this match, where the drives won't be too lengthy, but the approaches will be accurate and the putts will be smooth. Toms really didn't play very well in beating Ian Poulter in the first round. He made just one eagle and one birdie in 19 holes. The defending champ will need to do better than that against Ollie, who thrives in this environment.
(3) Adam Scott vs.
(11) Tom Lehman
Scott came from behind to defeat Lucas Glover in the first round, depriving Lehman of getting a firsthand look at a potential candidate for his Ryder Cup roster. Meanwhile, Lehman is in danger of playing his way onto his own squad, which could fall under the category of being careful what you wish for. Scott has made it past the second round in his past three starts here. Lehman would love for a top American player to step up and beat him in match play, but he probably didn't have himself in mind.

BEN HOGAN BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(9) Mike Weir vs.
(16) Bernhard Langer
Canada vs. Germany? Is this pairs figure skating or professional golf? Obviously, neither player was too distracted by the Olympics to pull off an opening-round upset (Weir over Stewart Cink, Langer over Els). Oh, Canada. The Germans lead the latest medal count, but Weir follows the path of his country's gold medal-winning hockey team -- the women's one, that is -- by getting the W here.
(5) Nick O'Hern vs.
(13) Geoff Ogilvy
Wow, look at all the similarities! Both players hail from Australia and their last names begin with the letter O and ... well, that's about it, actually. In last year's second round, O'Hern defeated Woods, so playing Ogilvy should prove to be a much more manageable task. There's something about O'Hern's match play mojo that you have to like.
(2) Phil Mickelson vs.
(10) John Daly
Ho-hum. Just another meaningless second-round match. Yawn. OK, OK, hope you caught the slight hint of sarcasm there. Mickelson and Daly draw crowds like a Tanith Belbin look-alike contest. It'll be fun to see Lefty try to keep up with Long John off the tee all day. Bart Bryant didn't even finish a few holes, conceding three of the final six and basically handing the match to Daly on Wednesday. Don't expect Mickelson to do that, as he'll be amped up for this one.
(3) David Howell vs.
(6) Scott Verplank
These two guys combined to play 48 total holes in the first round (Verplank needed 26 holes to beat Lee Westwood; Howell defeated Steve Elkington in 22 holes). Quipped Verplank afterward: "I was kind of thinking ... if I won today, I'd probably practice a little bit, but I think I already did." Verplank remains tops on the PGA Tour in putting average and second in putts per round. Those are tough numbers to ignore.

GARY PLAYER BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Vijay Singh vs.
(9) Miguel Angel Jimenez
Singh played almost flawlessly on Wednesday, making six birdies in 14 holes against Graeme McDowell. And here's the thing about Vijay: He usually gets only better as the week progresses. That last bit of information is bad news for Jimenez, who rallied in come-from-behind fashion to beat Rory Sabbatini in the first round. If he wants to win this one, he'll have to get ahead early and stay there.
(4) Angel Cabrera vs.
(5) Padraig Harrington
Exactly when, why and how Cabrera shot past Harrington in the World Ranking is a mystery to us. The beefy Argentine has plenty of game, but he should hardly be the favorite in this match. Harrington didn't have much work to do against Rod Pampling, who made only one birdie to go with his three bogeys and one concession. He'll be challenged more by Cabrera.
(2) Chris DiMarco vs.
(10) Arron Oberholser
DiMarco loves this format and has the ability to play up -- or down -- to the level of any opponent. Oberholser might be gassed after needing 21 holes of bogey-free golf to beat Tim Clark on Wednesday. DiMarco's still looking for his first PGA Tour win since 2002, and the Match Play could be as good a place as any for him to find the winner's circle.
(6) Davis Love III vs.
(14) Carl Pettersson
Love has to be licking his chops about not only avoiding Perry in the second round but also facing a guy who played the final 11 holes in 3-over during the first round. The two players combined for a total of four birdies and five bogeys Wednesday, so the first one to go on a little scoring binge might take this one.

SAM SNEAD BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Retief Goosen vs.
(9) Ben Crane
If Goosen isn't the best match play competitor on the planet this side of Tiger, we're not sure who is (although Toms or DiMarco could have an argument). Crane missed three weeks with a back injury leading up to this event. His swing looked good in a first-round defeat of Justin Leonard, but he'll have to be at his best against the Goose.
(4) Luke Donald vs.
(12) Shigeki Maruyama
In his final six holes against Darren Clarke, Maruyama made four birdies and earned a concession. That's a pretty good win against a guy who once defeated Woods in the final of this event. We already know Donald is good, but as a potential Ryder Cup competitor for the next 15 to 20 years, how is he in this format? We could find out a lot this week.
(10) Sean O'Hair vs.
(15) Zach Johnson
As Dickie V might say, "This is Upset City, baby!" O'Hair knocked off Fred Couples and Johnson beat Furyk in the first round, bringing a pair of fresh faces to Thursday's play. Lehman has his own troubles to deal with, but he might want to request a tape of this match for, oh, a little special research.
(3) Colin Montgomerie vs.
(11) Shingo Katayama
There are no lopsided matches this far into the bracket, but if there were one, well, this would be it. Monty only made one birdie in 23 holes against Niclas Fasth, but you have to think he'll be at his best against Katayama. As always, there's a large media contingent from Japan here at La Costa. If a Maruyama/Katayama Snead bracket final match somehow happened, we can only imagine that it would lead the weekend news in Tokyo.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.

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