Match Play third-round preview

Updated: February 24, 2006, 9:38 AM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

CARLSBAD, Calif. -- It's interesting how, after two rounds at the Accenture Match Play Championship, each of the four brackets has taken on a personality of its own.

The Bobby Jones bracket has been dominated by Americans, with four former Ryder Cup players comprising the entire remaining field. The Ben Hogan bracket has been home to the most tightly contested matches, with five of 12 needing extra holes. The Gary Player bracket is the closest to going chalk, as four of the top six seeds remain. And the Sam Snead bracket is Upset City, with one double-digit seed guaranteed a trip to the quarterfinals.

How will the Sweet 16 matches unfold? We break 'em down for you:

BOBBY JONES BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Tiger Woods vs.
(5) Chad Campbell
Campbell had already shown himself Ryder Cup-worthy, with a victory at the Bob Hope Classic and a runner-up finish at the Sony Open, but Thursday's gutty triumph over probable European team member Henrik Stenson should help his cause. A victory over Woods wouldn't hurt, either. "I'm looking forward to it," the soft-spoken Texan said. "Best player in the world, should be fun." Which Tiger will show his stripes? The one who birdied seven of the first nine holes on Wednesday? Or the one who bogeyed three of his first five against Robert Allenby in the second round? Take away that stretch and Woods is 11-under in the other 23 holes this week. Expect more birdies to fall against Campbell.
(2) David Toms vs.
(11) Tom Lehman
Well, here's one way for the Ryder Cup captain to get a good look at his squad -- play against them. Toms is a lock to make the team, but you know having the boss in his pairing will be going through his mind at times during the round. Whose destiny will be fulfilled? Toms would like an opportunity to not only continue defending his title, but perhaps get another shot at Woods, who defeated him in the final three years ago. Meanwhile, Lehman seems like a guy who has both luck and mojo on his side right now.

BEN HOGAN BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(9) Mike Weir vs.
(13) Geoff Ogilvy
The only man to need extra holes in each of his first two matches, Ogilvy has become the Cardiac Kid of La Costa. Nothing against Weir, but after wins against fourth-seeded Michael Campbell and fifth-seeded Nick O'Hern, a date with the No. 9 seed doesn't look so daunting to the young Aussie. The birdies might come, but they'll take a while. Both players could be a bit gassed from working overtime on Thursday. If they come out cool and refreshed, it'll be a fun one to keep an eye on. The prediction? No surprise -- this one's going extra holes.
(2) Phil Mickelson vs.
(3) David Howell
How good is Howell? Well, he's a European Ryder Cup player, but still a bit of an unknown in the U.S., though not to his Friday opponent. "We don't hear about him much, but as a player, we know he's a great player," Mickelson said. "He's a talented individual and I have a tough match now." Against Scott Verplank on Thursday, Howell birdied three of his last four holes, four of his last six, and five of his last nine. You can win a lot of matches that way. He won't be intimidated by the presence of Mickelson and his band of supporters, but Lefty might know this course too well to be overcome.

GARY PLAYER BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Vijay Singh vs.
(5) Padraig Harrington
After spotting Miguel Angel Jimenez the first two holes on Thursday, Singh played the final 15 holes in a bogey-free 7-under. Watch out for Vijay as the week wears on; he always tends to play better as tournaments progress, so now that he's gotten this far, he could be headed to his first truly successful outing in this event. Harrington didn't make a birdie until the 14th hole in his match with Angel Cabrera. He'll need to do much better than that against Singh; an early lead might be crucial in this one.
(2) Chris DiMarco vs.
(6) Davis Love III
How cool is DiMarco? "I like my chances because I know how competitive I am," he said after beating Arron Oberholser, 6 and 5. "There might be guys that are better than me, but as far as competitiveness and never giving up and always fighting and clawing, I don't think there's too many guys that have that." What will we be saying at the end of this match? That there was no love lost in this one. Actually, it should read more like, "No. Love lost." DiMarco continues to roll in this event, as Love -- who looked a bit lackluster in his victory over Carl Pettersson -- won't be able to keep pace.

SAM SNEAD BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Retief Goosen vs.
(4) Luke Donald
This is going to be a terrific match. Goosen has established himself as one of the top two or three match play competitors in the world. And Donald is locked in right now, playing 15 holes of bogey-free golf in his defeat of Shigeki Maruyama on Thursday. Goose is unflappable. He was 2-up coming to the 16th tee in his match against Ben Crane, when the American dropped an ace on the par-3 hole. Rather than get rattled, Goosen just came back with a workmanlike par on the next hole to clinch the match. Donald's going to have to be at the top of his game once again to knock him out.
(11) Shingo Katayama vs.
(15) Zach Johnson
OK, raise your hand if you had Katayama and Johnson reaching the Sweet 16 in your bracket. If you saw this one coming, high-tail it to Ladbroke's and give us a call on the way. We'd, uh, like to pick your brain about a few things. One of these double-digit seeded players is going to be the Cinderella of the tournament, advancing to the quarterfinals. Katayama was only even-par against Colin Montgomerie on Thursday, but Johnson looked like he poured a lot of effort into his defeat of Sean O'Hair. Give the American a slight edge, but just barely.

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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