I think that match play must be the most difficult form of golf to handicap. While a stretch of bad holes can be overcome in stroke play, it is usually the kiss of death in match play. That makes the outcome so much more unpredictable. Over the course of four days, a top player can have one bad round—or even two—and still manage to win on the strength of two great days. One bad round in match play sens you home permanently.
That’s why we don’t see more match play in professional tournaments. Television doesn’t like the unpredictability. If Tiger has a bad Thursday in stroke play, he’ll probably go low on Friday and television will be able to adore him for the rest of the weekend. If Tiger has a bad day on the first day of match play, he’s on a flight back to Florida.
My guess is that’s also why he decided to skip Match play. His domination of media coverage for the weekend is not assured.
But enough of the cynicism.
Rory McIlroy, at 12/1, is the punters’ favorite to come out on top of the brackets. He’s playing better these days, but is that enough for a match play victory? Hard to say. McIlroy is the top seed in his bracket, but has to get past match play savant Ian Poulter.
Dustin Johnson and Jason Day are at 18/1. Johnson’s distance will give him a decided advantage on a course that lends itself well to long hitters. As for Jason Day, I would not be surprised to find that 2014 is his big year. A Match Play Championship would be a good start.
Henrik Stenson and Jordan Speith are in at 20/1. Stenson had an incredible year in 2013, but has not had much of a year thus far. Speith, on the other hand has a second and five top 25 finishes.
At 22/1 are a trio of players, any one of which I think could walk away with it all: Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Sergio Garcia. Mahan has played deep into the brackets the last two years. Sergio likes match play. I wonder about Bubba, though. It seems to me that he loses his concentration—or interest—at times, and that will get him a plane ticket home.
The rest of the odds are below:
|Graham De Laet||40/1|
|Miguel Ángel Jiménez||125/1|