Snead draw the stingiest of the four
CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The Accenture Match Play Championship is one of the toughest events to handicap, because anything can happen in an 18-hole match.
You can go out and shoot a 65, but if the guy you're facing fires a 64, you're going home. To prove the point, take a look at Tiger Woods' last two finishes here. Last year, he became the first player ranked in the top 10 to win it, but in 2002 he was eliminated in the first round by Peter O'Malley. You just never know what's going to happen.
Nevertheless, here's my breakdown of the brackets:
In the NCAA Tournament, a 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1. But at the Match Play, anything goes. No. 1 Tiger Woods getting beat by No. 16 John Rollins isn't that farfetched a notion, considering their stroke averages aren't really that much different. Last year, Rollins' average was less than three strokes higher than Woods'.
That said, Woods has a great draw here in the Bobby Jones bracket, as it's the weakest of the four. If he wins his first match, he could likely play a red-hot Shigeki Maruyama in the second round. The winner of this will be the favorite to advance from that bracket.
David Toms, who finished second to Woods last year, is the No. 2 seed in this bracket. However, I don't expect him to go nearly as far this time around. He's coming off a wrist injury and has played only 36 holes all year, missing the cut in his debut last week at the Nissan Open.
Vijay Singh has been the best player in the world the last six months, but he's never had much success in the match play format. Singh is a streaky putter, and in match play, you need to consistently make key putts at key times, and he just hasn't been able to do that in the past.
In a potentially great second-round match between two international stars, Singh could face ninth-seeded Sergio Garcia. Up-and-comer Chad Campbell and 50-year-old Jay Haas could be headed for an intriguing second-round clash as well.
Phil Mickelson has played exceptionally well to begin the season, and has more confidence than he's had in a long time. But unfortunately for Phil, he got stuck in the toughest bracket. It's stacked. There are six or seven guys here that I could see winning the whole thing: Mickelson, Davis Love III (who was great in the Presidents Cup), Charles Howell III, Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby and Adam Scott. One potential second-round match to watch for is Love vs. one of his best friends, Fred Couples.
Coming off his Nissan Open victory, Mike Weir has to be the favorite in this bracket. In talk about the best on the PGA Tour, Weir flies under the radar a bit. We seem to lump Woods, Davis Love III, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els together because they all hit the ball so far, but Weir's not as far behind them as you'd think, even though he's 5-foot-9, 160 pounds. He's got a great short game, great poise and a lot of confidence on the course.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North serves as an analyst for ESPN and will be covering the Accenture Match Play at La Costa all week.
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