Thursday, February 24, 2011

Whose Loss Was Worse, Phil or Rory's; Picking The Winners

   Observations from a second day at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship:

  -- Who's wipe-out was worse, Rory McIlroy's 8 & 7 loss to Ben Crane or Phil Mickelson's 6 & 5 loss to Rickie Fowler?

    Does it matter?

   McIlroy walked into a buzz saw against Crane, who was 7-under par par for the 11 holes they played if you count one conceded birdie. That's going to beat anyone especially when the other guy -- McIlroy in this case -- isn't sharp.

   Crane is famously, uh, deliberate over his shots but the good news is he didn't have to hit many shots against McIlroy. Crane is also famous for his on-line videos, which prove pro golfers can have a sense of humor.

   Asked if he's underrated in match play, Crane deadpanned that he's never made it past the round of 16 so it would be hard to say he's underrated.

   "I don't think anyone is going, 'Wow, Ben Crane is really coming through this bracket...look out. Gosh, sorry you've got to play Ben Crane..boy, tough draw there.'"

   Who knows, maybe that's what Miguel Angel Jimenez is saying right now.

    Fowler's win over Mickelson was another case of a player getting hot at the right time. Fowler had six threes on his card and he only played 12 holes. Not hard to do the math there.

   "If you ham and egg it the right way, you make birdies on the right holes and make pars on the others, a match can go that way. It's the beauty of the beast," Fowler said.

   But Mickelson didn't look sharp. He keeps talking about how close his game is to being very good but after a second-place finish to start the year, Mickelson hasn't been a factor on Sunday.

   He won't be this Sunday, either.

  -- It was a tough way to go for Charlotte's Robert Karlsson. He was 1-up on Hunter Mahan with six holes remaining but lost the last three holes, three-putting twice, to be eliminated.
  -- Remember the name Matteo Manassero, if you don't already know it.

    He's young enough (17) to make Fowler feel old but his game is grown up. He's not super-long -- a rarity among young players -- but he's solid and already seems comfortable on the big stage.

   Manassero faces Luke Donald, an excellent match-play golfer, in the third round today. That's a tough ask for Manassero but don't be surprised if he pulls it off.

   -- Now that they're down to eight matches, here's a look at each one:

  •    Y.E. Yang vs. Graeme McDowell: Two recent major championship winners square off. Yang has stayed under the radar and McDowell admits his game isn't where he wants it to be but he's played better than he's practiced. Pick: McDowell.

  •  Fowler vs. Matt Kuchar: This may be the week when Fowler breaks through. He loves match play and it shows: Pick: Fowler
  •       Luke Donald vs. Matteo Manassero: A classic youth against experience pairing. Manassero is playing well but Donald thrives in his format. Pick: Donald.

  •    Ryan Moore vs. Nick. Watney: This was supposed to  be Lee Westwood's bracket but it hasn't turned out that way. Watney has been working with Butch Harmon on the range after his rounds this week and it's apparently paying off. Pick: Watney
  •       J.B. Holmes vs. Jason Day: Holmes wasn't supposed to be here but got a last-minute call to fill in for Tim Clark and now he's beaten Camilo Villegas and Ernie Els. If he can do that...Pick: Holmes
  •    Bubba Watson vs. Geoff Ogilvy: This is an odd pairing but then most of them are where Watson is involved, given his incredible power. Ogilvy's track record in this event suggests he can get it done. Pick: Ogilvy
  •  Miguel Angel Jimenez vs. Ben Crane: After playing 11 holes 7-under par against McIlroy, did Crane spend all this birdies on Thursday? He's an underrated player who may change that view this weekend. Pick: Crane
  • Mahan vs. Martin Kaymer: This could be one of the best matches of the day. Neither makes many mistakes. But there's a reason Kaymer is ranked No. 2 in the world. Pick: Kaymer.