I think golf’s attempt to catch some of the bracket fever that consumes people each spring loses ground every year. It is, unfortunately, just another golf tournament. It’s a unique format, but in the end it provides more boring weekends than epic battles. There are plenty of intriguing 1st round match-ups, and this year is no different, but more often than not it is someone in the 2nd tier of stars getting hot and killing the field, see Ogilvy, Geoff and Poulter, Ian. While some players have proven to be more adept at match play than others, this is mostly a golf lottery. I guess we can still hope for a classic final, though. At least until Wednesday afternoon when the 1st round is over and several top seeds have packed their bags for Florida. My preferred finals, sticking to possible outcomes in the brackets:
Tiger vs. Phil.
This is the ultimate no-brainer. International golf fans can go pound sand, this would send the ratings into the stratosphere and give the event a good 5-yr reprieve. Both these guys have a brutal road to the final (everyone does), but Tiger in particular. If he beats Thomas Bjorn (who already won this year) in round one, he faces the winner of Geoff Ogilvy vs. Padraig Harrington. Ogilvy has the 2nd best record in this event (next to Tiger) and Harrington while always tweaking his game would be a very tough out. Phil has a possible match against Ricky Fowler in round two, and has McDowell, Poulter, and possibly the most consistent American player in the world right now, Matt Kuchar in his portion of the bracket. Neither of these guys is really on form, either. Chances of this happening? About, .01%.
Tiger vs. Westwood or Phil vs. Kaymer.
Really, I’d take any of the following Americans (Phil, Tiger, Dustin Johnson, AK, or Fowler) against a top European player Westwood/Poulter/Kaymer/McDowell. The Official World Golf Rankings aren’t a real friendly home for Americans these days. Phil Mickelson fell to 5th this week, which puts Euros in 3 of the top 4 spots. I don’t know for sure, but this might be the first time this has happened since the late eighties when Europe was dominating the world scene? Not only are Americans down in the rankings, but they’ve never done great in this event (aside from Tiger). Poulter has done well, Casey, Stenson and an Aussie Geoff Ogilvy, but American stars have balked at this event, which is surprising considering their success in Ryder and Presidents Cup singles. We need to salvage a bit of stars and stripes pride this week and avoid a situation like last year when the final rounds looked like European Ryder Cup practice.
Fowler vs. McIlroy.
I am really touting Fowler here, and I’d rather have someone else, considering Rickie looks like he was dressed by a Japanese animator and doesn’t own a PGA Tour win, but he’s proven to be pretty deadly in match play and I am starved for a young American with some stones. Someone that doesn’t curl up into a ball and play for the 2nd place check. I’d like Fowler to be that guy. McIlroy is quickly becoming one of my least favorite Europeans. He seems awfully full of himself (for someone who also hasn’t won much), he’s too cute on Twitter (not that I follow, but golf websites have weekly updates about his Twitter goings on with Poults and Westy), and I honestly think he’s got a little buckle in him. Don’t know if I trust the short game. Fowler’s got the much tougher road, Mickelson in round 2 for starters. McIlroy’s bracket, with Kaymer on top, looks the weakest aside from that, considering everyone’s current form. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rory or Kaymer make the Final 4 quite easily.
And, for fun my top-10 Nightmare Finals:
- Charl Schwartzel vs. Thomas Bjorn
- Robert Allenby vs. Mike Angel Jimenez
- K.J. Choi vs. Zach Johnson
- Ian Poulter vs. Rory McIlroy
- Ben Crane vs. Heath Slocum
- Y.E. Yang vs. Sean O’Hair
- Robert Karlsson vs. Peter Hanson
- Bill Haas vs. Nick Watney
- Mark Wilson vs. Ross Fisher
- Stewart Cink vs. Ernie Els