Accenture Match Play first-round preview

Updated: February 20, 2005, 9:35 PM ET
By Jason Sobel |

It's golf's version of March Madness and it starts on 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's been property of Tiger Woods for two straight years. So, get your brackets ready as we preview the 32 first-round matches.

Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Vijay Singh vs.
(16) Shingo Katayama
Singh is coming off one the most dominant seasons in tour history. Katayama slid into the field when world No. 3 Ernie Els decided to forego the event. Shingo's got the better headgear (he often sports a cowboy hat); Singh's got the better game.
(8) Jonathan Kaye vs.
(9) Jay Haas
Great contrast of personalities in this one, as the tour's bad boy takes on one of the game's gentlemen. Kaye has looked strong early this season, while Haas has been wearing down since the Ryder Cup.
(5) Justin Leonard vs.
(12) John Daly
Daly's a streaky player capable of going low or blowing up. Leonard is Mr. Consistency. Sure, Daly might outdrive Leonard by about 50 yards on every hole, but can he putt as well? It's doubtful.
(4) Chris DiMarco vs.
(13) Tim Herron
Whatever happens, these guys will have a good time out there. They're two of the more outwardly emotional players on tour. DiMarco finished strong in '04, but hasn't done much in '05.
(6) Lee Westwood vs.
(11) Steve Flesch
Both players have seen a lot of ups and downs in their careers. Westwood has said he'll play more in the U.S. this year. Expect that to include at least another round at La Costa.
(3) Davis Love III vs.
(14) Chris Riley
These Ryder Cup teammates are two of the better putters in the world. A "tired" Riley can only go nine holes; Love wins by default. Flashback, anyone?
(7) K.J. Choi vs.
(10) Tom Lehman
Lehman's got to cool down from his hot streak at some point. Choi's got to heat up from his, um, tepid streak, too. A pair of bulldogs in this one -- extra holes won't be out of the question.
(2) Stewart Cink vs.
(15) Fred Funk
Cink is sneaky long off the tee; Funk is sneaky short. At least he hits it straight. Look for Cink to clean up in one of the bigger routes of the day.
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Retief Goosen vs.
(16) Stephen Leaney
Don't know much about Leaney? Think Goosen, only more stoic (if that's even possible). Goosen overslept for the Nissan Pro-Am, but Leaney's the sleeper in this one despite his Final Four appearance in '04.
(8) Peter Lonard vs.
(9) Fred Couples
Couples is in the twilight of his career, but Lonard is just reaching his peak on the course. You always get the feeling Couples wouldn't mind having a long weekend to himself when he's at this event. No problem, he'll have it.
(5) Chad Campbell vs.
(12 Fredrik Jacobson
Campbell's got the smoothest swing this side of Els; Jacobson's closer to a Furyk clone. Campbell's been playing well, but you never know how he's going to play. Jacobson could pull off the upset.
(4) Miguel Angel Jimenez vs.
(13) Rod Pampling
Jimenez has a long, curly, blond ponytail. Pampling doesn't. With stogie planted firmly in mouth and a gait which says he's not going anywhere fast, Jimenez always looks under control on the course. He'll control this one, too.
(6) Todd Hamilton vs.
(11) Robert Allenby
Allenby recently said, "I haven't been hitting the ball very well. My short game has been terrible. My putting has been horrendous, and I have been driving the ball pretty bad. And I've been hitting my irons pretty average, too." Yikes. By that statement, you get the feeling even Allenby might pick Hamilton in this one.
(3) Darren Clarke vs.
(14) Graeme McDowell
There are only two world-class golfers from Northern Ireland and they're both playing in this match. Clarke's always solid at this event. He won't let a fellow countryman beat him.
(7) Tim Clark vs.
(10) Craig Parry
The vertically-challenged match of the day -- both players are listed at 5-foot-7. This just in: Clark's got "mad game," as they say on the streets. He wins this one.
(2) Mike Weir vs.
(15) Kirk Triplett
We actually had to look up Triplett's stats to see if he's still playing. That's a bad sign. Weir's got a hockey player's mentality. He'll cruise here.
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Tiger Woods vs.
(16) Nick Price
Nick Price is generally considered the nicest guy on tour. And you know what they say about nice guys. Tiger almost fell to John Rollins in the first round a year ago. He won't let this one get that close.
(8) Nick O'Hern vs.
(9) Charles Howell III
You don't see many better seeds as underdogs, but that's the case here as O'Hern's an unknown commodity on U.S. soil. CH3 is going to win a tournament -- and soon. But O'Hern prevails in a close one.
(5) Luke Donald vs.
(12) Zach Johnson
Pencil in this one on Ryder Cup Sunday for the next 15 years. Maybe our favorite matchup of the first round. Donald wins in extra holes.
(4) Kenny Perry vs.
(13) Thomas Levet
Perry's still riding that great '03 season. Look for him to plummet in the World Ranking pretty soon. Fewer fans at La Costa watch this match than any other.
(6) Jim Furyk vs.
(11) Ian Poulter
Poulter made a run here last year, reaching the Elite Eight. Furyk is long overdue for a big win. Could this be the week?
(3) Stuart Appleby vs.
(14) Joakim Haeggman
Quick: Name one thing about Haeggman. OK, we'll give you three -- he was the first Swede to make the Ryder Cup team, he was an assistant captain at Oakland Hills last year and ... ... he's going to lose this match. There -- that's three.
(7) Thomas Bjorn vs.
(10) Rory Sabbatini
Bjorn's fresh off a final-round 77 in Malaysia. That's not exactly the way you want to enter an event like this. Expect a close one, but neither of these guys will go too far.
(2) Padraig Harrington vs.
(15) Jeff Maggert
Maggs won this one six years ago, back when higher seeds were winning this event a lot. Harrington is planning on playing more in the U.S., but don't be surprised if he only plays one match this week.
Matchup Analysis The smart money says ...
(1) Phil Mickelson vs.
(16) Loren Roberts
Mickelson is the hottest player in the world; Roberts is a few months shy of joining the Champions Tour. Beware the Boss of the Moss -- Roberts is one of the game's best putters -- but Lefty will prevail.
(8) Angel Cabrera vs.
(9) Paul Casey
Casey's in a bad place right now. He's dealing with the anti-American comments he made, playing new clubs and has a bad back. Cabrera's game has seen better days, but he finds himself in a nice matchup here.
(5) Stephen Ames vs.
(12) Mark Hensby
Interesting matchup of two players who have been around for quite a while, but just reached success on the PGA Tour in the past year. This one could go either way -- neither guy has done much this year.
(4) David Toms vs.
(13) Richard Green
Unless you wake up early to catch some Euro Tour events, you may have never seen southpaw Green before. Trust us: He's good. Toms made the finals two years ago, but Green's gotta make a splash someday. Why not now?
(6) Shigeki Maruyama vs.
(11) David Howell
Maruyama almost won the Sony, but succumbed to Singh and Els in the final round. Armed with one of the most popular smiles in golf, Maruyama will be showing his pearly whites at the end of this one.
(3) Adam Scott vs.
(14) Trevor Immelman
Great matchup. Two young power players who will be around for a long, long time. Scott's playing too well right now. It's too bad -- we like Immelman.
(7) Scott Verplank vs.
(10) Jerry Kelly
Verplank is always steady, but Kelly's a bulldog at this event. He beat Garcia, Singh and Campbell last year. We've been waiting for Kelly to have a big week. This could be it.
(2) Sergio Garcia vs.
(15) Alex Cejka
Sergio always plays well at Riviera, but skipped it this year. Is he gearing up for the Match Play? Cejka's solid, but don't expect an upset here.

Jason Sobel is's golf editor. He can be reached at

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