Match Play first-round preview

Updated: February 21, 2007, 2:34 AM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

MARANA, Ariz. -- Golf's version of March Madness starts Wednesday. The Accenture Match Play Championship features 64 of the world's top golfers, each looking to make it through six rounds and grab the trophy that Geoff Ogilvy claimed last year. Here are the breakdowns for all 32 first-round matches:

BOBBY JONES BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Tiger Woods vs.
(16) J.J. Henry
Back in 1998, as the No. 64 seed in the U.S. Amateur, Henry knocked off stroke-play medalist Joel Kribel, who was once a teammate of Woods. Oh, and the last time Tiger competed in a non-Ryder Cup match play event? He lost to Shaun Micheel at Wentworth. We're just sayin' … OK, enough of the conspiracy theories. Tiger wins, but you can absolutely, positively take this to the bank: Henry will fare better than Stephen Ames, who lost to Woods in last year's first round, 9 and 8.
(8) Tim Clark vs.
(9) Robert Allenby
Paging Mr. Clark. Will Tim Clark please pick up the red courtesy phone? Mr. Clark? Remember this guy? We do … vaguely. He hasn't teed it up in a PGA Tour event since October. At least he should be, uh, well rested. Coming off a T-3 finish at the Nissan, Allenby not only cruises in this one, but he can start looking ahead to a Thursday match with Woods, which will be much closer than most folks expect.
(4) Nick O'Hern vs.
(13) Lucas Glover
This won't quite duplicate last year's John Daly/Bart Bryant match in terms of brawny versus scrawny, but it's close. Glover is a big bomber off the tee, while O'Hern is a straight-and-short type of guy, who's among the best putters around. Let's see: Only one of these players has competed in this event before, only one has reached the quarterfinals, one one has defeated Woods. O'Hern accomplished each of those two years ago, so give him the edge.
(7) David Howell vs.
(10) Rory Sabbatini
Howell reached the quarterfinals at La Costa last year, beating Phil Mickelson in the process before losing to eventual champion Geoff Ogilvy in extra holes. He has dealt with a shoulder injury in recent months, but seemed healthy in finishing T-29 in L.A. last week. Might pace of play have a hand in determining the winner of this match? Howell isn't the quickest of players, while Sabbatini thrives in a "ready golf"-like environment. Let's see who controls the tempo of this match.
(6) K.J. Choi vs.
(11) Carl Pettersson
A 1-4 career record in this event for Choi? If you can figure that one out, call us. In the NCAA hoops tournament, we're always reminded to be wary of an "upset" in the 6-11 game. A win by the Swedish Redneck won't be an upset here; these guys are evenly matched.
(3) Henrik Stenson vs.
(14) Zach Johnson
These two were born just over a month apart, but the similarities end there. Stenson is a Swede who lives in Dubai and hits the ball a long way; Johnson is an Iowan who lives in Florida and plods his way around the course. Johnson teamed with Scott Verplank to beat Stenson and Padraig Harrington in Fourballs at last year's Ryder Cup. Tough to exact revenge when your team wins by nine points, but perhaps it'll provide a little extra motivation.
(7) Shingo Katayama vs.
(10) Aaron Baddeley
Avert your eyes, folks, as these players undoubtedly will feature the whitest pants in the field this week (and no, that's not a euphemism for anything; they're both partial to bleach-white trousers). There's a rodeo in town this week, too, which could be the next destination for Katayama and his cowboy hat. Baddeley will remain undefeated in his adopted home state of Arizona this season.
(2) Luke Donald vs.
(15) Miguel Angel Jimenez
Jimenez always appears satisfied on the course, no matter the situation. Well-nourished, sun-streaked, confident … throw in his patented stogie and you've got a man who enjoys the good life. Don't expect a victory cigar for Jimenez in this one, as the course -- and the format -- should suit Donald well. We've been waiting for a big win to follow his Honda triumph of a year ago. Could this be it?

BEN HOGAN BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Phil Mickelson vs.
(16) Richard Green
While left-handers make up about 10 percent of the general population, they account for just over 6 percent of the Match Play field. These two join Mike Weir and O'Hern as the only southpaws playing this week. Here's wondering if Phil was perusing the bargain bin at Ned Flanders' Leftorium, looking for a driver that goes straight under pressure. You saw it, we saw it … but did Green see it? We're talking, of course, of another Mickelson ch--- (sorry, we can't even type the word) job down the stretch at Riviera. If this match gets to 18, will the Aussie take his par and run, hoping for another final-hole bogey from his competitor?
(8) Michael Campbell vs.
(9) Justin Rose
We kid you not: Campbell recently injured his neck while performing headstands as part of an exercise routine. After not practicing for more than a week, Campbell will have his world, uh, turned upside down once again, as Rose has been hot with the flatstick.
(5) Stuart Appleby vs.
(12) Charles Howell III
With a win and two runner-up finishes already this season, CH3 is the hottest golfer on the planet, other than his buddy Tiger. Will he still be riding a high from Sunday's Nissan victory? Perhaps our favorite match of the first round. Both guys should be able to reach the two short par-4s and both can make birdies in a hurry. This one will be fun.
(4) Sergio Garcia vs.
(13) Darren Clarke
Clarke hasn't competed in the States since last year's U.S. Open in June, so expect a little rust. Garcia, meanwhile, is coming off a sixth-place finish this past week. Not only did he hit the ball well at Riviera, Sergio made some putts, too. Such has been an uncommon occurence for El Nino, but should give him oodles of confidence entering this event.
(6) Chris DiMarco vs.
(11) Brett Wetterich
Interesting paradox here: Wetterich is remembered as a guy who snuck onto the Ryder Cup team and couldn't get the job done (0-2 record), while DiMarco is remembered as a bulldog competitor who thrives in match play (0-3-1 record at The K Club). Something's fishy. No doubt DiMarco has established himself as a top match play guy, reaching the third round of this event each of the last three years and clinching the Presidents Cup with a spine-tingling putt in '05. Will the magic continue?
(3) Trevor Immelman vs.
(14) Thomas Bjorn
As any "My Name is Earl" watcher can tell you, karma's a great equalizer. Last year, Bjorn pulled out of this event at the last minute, ruining the brackets of all those who had made early selections. While young players like Garcia and Donald get more ink, Immelman is a 3-seed based on his meteoric rise up the World Ranking and might just turn out to be the best of the lot, when it's all said and done.
(7) Ian Poulter vs.
(10) Bart Bryant
Call this one style versus substance. Poulter will be wearing spiffy pants and spiked, bleached-blond hair. Bryant will be rocking khaki and a moustache … and plenty of game. In missing the cut last week, Poulter four-putted the 16th green on Friday when he missed a birdie putt, rapped the ball back between his legs toward the original spot and then missed again. How's that stroke feel now?
(2) Ernie Els vs.
(15) Bradley Dredge
When Charl Schwartzel pulled out just prior to the event, it meant Dredge moved up from a date with Mickelson to one with Els. Gee, thanks, Charl. Els hasn't done well in this event, but blame the former venue (La Costa) rather than the format. After all, he's won the HSBC Match Play five times at his home in Wentworth.

GARY PLAYER BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Jim Furyk vs.
(16) Brett Quigley
Originally scheduled to face Woods in the first round, Quigley intimated last week that he had purchased Tiger's video game to analyze how to beat him … and even jokingly said he found some weaknesses in his would-be opponent's game. Unfortunately for Quigley, there is no "Jim Furyk PGA Tour '07" game on the market, so he'll have to go into this one blind. Furyk, an ex-U. of Arizona Wildcat, should know the area well.
(8) Angel Cabrera vs.
(9) Chad Campbell
Cabrera actually is going to make a go of it on the PGA Tour this year, taking fully exempt status rather than simply competing in a handful of U.S.-based events. He'd love to get off to a good start here. Buried somewhere beneath that laid-back, stoic demeanor of Campbell is a fiery, competitive dude. He's made it to the third round each of the last three years, including last year, when he beat Woods en route to the quarters.
(5) David Toms vs.
(12) Arron Oberholser
Oberholser hasn't played since suffering a bulging disc in his back at Kapalua prior to the season's opening week, but will give it a try this week. In winning this event two years ago, Toms played perhaps the best golf of his life. If Oberholser isn't fully fit, he should win this match pretty handily.
(4) Davis Love III vs.
(13) Ben Crane
The numbers are staggering: Since the inception of this event in 1999, Love has played all but one time. He's won his first-round match in six straight and has been runner-up in two of the last three years. Crane is a guy who can get hot with the putter, but Love brings too much know-how and match-play moxie to this one.
(6) Stewart Cink vs.
(11) Jeev Milkha Singh
The other Singh in the field (no relation to Vijay), Jeev Milkha has made a name for himself on the Asian Tour, capturing the Order of Merit title a year ago. Cink hasn't been setting the world afire with his play as of late, but Singh has only five career official PGA Tour starts. Experience will rule.
(3) Padraig Harrington vs.
(14) Lee Westwood
Another matchup of European Ryder cup teammates who should know each other's game well and have fun competing in this one. Harrington had a big week at the Nissan, but watch out for Westy in this format; he's undefeated in his last 10 RC matches.
(7) Robert Karlsson vs.
(10) Stephen Ames
Ames could say anything he'd like about Karlsson's lack of accuracy off the tee … and he won't cause near the firestorm as when he did so last year prior to facing Woods in the first round. Even though he followed with a Players Championship title shortly thereafter, Ames might have to win 20 more times before we stop thinking "9 and 8" every time we hear his name.
(2) Vijay Singh vs.
(15) John Rollins
Yikes, Veej. Before winning two matches in this event last year, Singh had never made it out of the second round, despite always being one of the tournament's top seeds. Don't look now, but Rollins is enjoying one of the finest seasons on tour so far, with two runner-up finishes and three other top-25s in six starts. Upset special, anyone?

SAM SNEAD BRACKET
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Adam Scott vs.
(16) Shaun Micheel
The last man to defeat Woods in match play? That would be Micheel, who defeated him in a 36-hole match in the first round at Wentworth last fall. With another victory, Micheel has a great chance to become known as a giant-killer, something that can only increase his chances of making Ryder/Presidents Cup teams in the future.
(8) Yang Yong-Eun vs.
(9) Rod Pampling
Yang could forge a second-round match between Two Guys Who Beat Tiger, as he held on to beat Woods (among others) at the HSBC Champions tournament in November. With little experience in the U.S., Yang will fall to Pampling, who nets his first win in three tries at this event.
(5) Colin Montgomerie vs.
(12) Johan Edfors
Edfors is a flashy dude, who supplanted Poulter as last year's Golf Punk of the Year, given by -- who else? -- Golf Punk magazine. He can also play a little, too, having won three times in 2006. We all know Monty has an unblemished singles record in the Ryder Cup, but he's never made much noise in this event and could have his hands full with the Swede.
(4) Paul Casey vs.
(13) Mike Weir
These two faced off at last year's HSBC, when an injured Weir gutted it out, but lost to Casey. After a pedestrian start to the season, Weir showed signs of life, with a final-round 66 at the Nissan. He's made it out of the first round in five of six attempts at the Accenture. Casey was a record-breaker at Arizona State and still lists Scottsdale as a place of residence. His ability to fly the ball way past Weir off the tee should equate to more birdie chances.
(6) Jose Maria Olazabal vs.
(11) Paul Goydos
Wow, talk about your different paths to Tucson. Olazabal has been among the game's top players for two full decades, while Goydos has finished outside of the top-100 on the money in five of the last seven years, only getting in based on the strength of his Sony Open win last month. Olazabal has played as many match play games as anyone over the course of his career, while Goydos likely hasn't done so since he was an amateur in the late-1980s. Big edge to Ollie.
(3) Geoff Ogilvy vs.
(14) Steve Stricker
Ogilvy has said that he feels like he's defending two titles this week. Two years ago, he won an opposite-field event in Tucson during this week; last year, he won the Match Play. He could go far again, but ... ... beware the man who can putt. Stricker is known as one of the top rock-rollers in the business, a trait that vaulted him to the Accenture title in 2001.
(7) Joe Durant vs.
(10) Niclas Fasth
What's in a name? Well, not much. Fasth (pronounced FAHST) is among the game's slower players. Another matchup between short and steady (Durant) and long and crooked (Fasth). From early rumors, it looks like length will be more important than accuracy this week.
(2) Retief Goosen vs.
(15) Scott Verplank
Goosen's another quiet, stoic player who won't look too fired up during the course of a match, but still burns for that victory, as proven by his T-5 and third-place results in this event over the last two years. Verplank will be a chic upset selection, but he hasn't done much since a T-8 at the Hope over a month ago.

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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