What can you say about Bubba Watson? He broke his winless drought in incredible fashion with a pair of 64s on the weekend. But there is no rest for the PGA Tour. This week the World Golf Championships, Accenture Match Play Championship is on the docket as three of the projected number one seeds elected to pass on the event. there will be no Tiger Woods, Adam Scott or Phil Mickelson this week in Arizona. The tournament is played at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana Arizona just outside Tucson. The course will play to an approximate length of 7,792 yards and a par of 72. The course carries a slope of 147 and a rating of 77.1. Not exactly a pushover of a track.
A standard week on tour consists of 72 holes of stroke play golf with a cut happening after round 2. Not this week as match play has come to town. Some players thrive in stroke play while others love the purity of match play. It is you against your opponent, that’s it. Beat them and you move on. So who is in the field, who are the top seeds and who should win the tours marquee match play event? Below is the 2014 Accenture Match Play Championship Bracket. Then let’s get to the predictions and picks for the 2014 Northern Trust Open.
Contender – Matt Kuchar
Matt Kuchar is a clear choice on the contenders list at the Match Play Championship. Since 2010, Kuchar has finished tied for 17th, tied for fifth, third and won the event in last year’s crazy weather conditions holding off a late rally from Hunter Mahan. Kuchar is 15-3 lifetime at the event carrying a 83.3 career winning percentage. He is also coming into this year’s event with a winning streak of six matches thanks in part to his victory in 2012.
During the early part of this season, Kuchar has made the cut in three of four starts making the most of those weekend qualifying events capturing three top-10s including two top-8s on the Hawaii swing. He did miss the cut last week at the Northern Trust Open but the extra rest of trip to Arizona might serve as rest and motivation this week to defend his title.
The Pick – Hunter Mahan
While many might question why I would pick Hunter Mahan over Matt Kuchar or the rest of the field for that matter let me explain. Mahan has an impeccable record at the Match Play championship including ties for 17th in 2008 and 2009 coupled with a tie for ninth in 2011, a runner up last season and a title here at Dove Mountain in 2012. Lifetime Mahan is 15-5, good for a career winning percentage of 75 percent in match play competition just outside Tucson.
Mahan also holds the honor playing the fewest number of holes to reach the championship match twice (76 in 2013 and 79 in 2012, good for second and fourth all-time). He has not received a simple draw in the bracket but if he can get through Martin Kaymer in the round of 16 it appears that has next real match play test might not be until semi-finals. Yes the field is littered with quality players but I would pick Mahan in every matchup that I can see throughout the bracket.
This season Mahan finished sixth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and tied for fourth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open the week before. Last out, at the Northern Trust Open he closed with a 71-70 finish with an uninspiring result. However, that line resembles the 70-72 that he closed with in 2012 before he came to Arizona and won the Match Play Championship.
Yes it has been two years since he won on tour but Bubba Watson was in the same situation last week while returning to form. Why not Mahan in an event he loves and is clearly built to excel in. The reality is anyone can win this week if they get a hot putter or can put the pressure on early but if forced to pick a winner I will lean on history and that history tells me Hunter Mahan is the choice.
Who will win the 2014 Accenture Match Play Championship?
- Other (Please leave comment) (54%, 25 Votes)
- Matt Kuchar (24%, 11 Votes)
- Hunter Mahan (22%, 10 Votes)
Total Voters: 46