The second quarter, or ‘Ben Hogan Bracket’, is jam-packed with big names who have persistently under-performed in the World Matchplay. Phil Mickelson may have made me look stupid last week, but I’m happy to oppose him again in an event where he’s never made the last-4. Asking Lefty to play six good rounds in succession is ambitious to say the least. Similarly, Vijay Singh has never reached the last-4 in nine attempts, while Ernie Els has never gone beyond the last-32 when the event has been held in the US. In any case, the stats suggest they’re all too old.
My money here is on the unrelated ZACH JOHNSON and DUSTIN JOHNSON. Zach is a huge price on his recent form; two wins and five top-12s from his last eight events; and proved his matchplay mettle by reaching the semis in 2006. As for namesake Dustin, he’s bang in form having won a fortnight ago, and must come into the argument if previous trends at Dove Mountain favouring the big-hitters come into play again.
In the third quarter, the Gary Player Bracket, Sergio Garcia looks a very vulnerable favourite. Though Garcia may be the king of Ryder Cup foursomes, his singles record is markedly less impressive and he’s never made the last-8 in seven tries at this event. His first round opponent, Charl Schwartzel, rates one of the value bets of day one.
I’m having two picks in this quarter, and again they’re two stars from the last Ryder Cup, BOO WEEKLEY and IAN POULTER. Boo looked absolutely perfect for match play at Valhalla; confident and fearless. His tournament debut last year also showed plenty of promise, with two wins from three matches, and frankly his 80/1 odds are an insult.
Similarly, Poulter’s previous Matchplay record warrants a bet at 66/1. Besides being Europe’s top-scorer at Valhalla, Poulter showed his liking for this format when reaching the last-8 in 2004, and last-4 the following year. He’s a much more complete player nowadays, and showed enough promise on last week’s seasonal debut to suggest the rust has been worked off and he could be ready to win.