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Opinion & Analysis

The Real Top 10: WGC-Accenture Match Play Preview

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At 9:25 a.m. Eastern Time Wednesday morning, golf fans will be following and enjoying probably the most exciting wire-to-wire golf event that the professional tours have to offer. The top 64 golfers in the world will be competing head-to-head in a singles match play format where anything can happen. The parallels between this event and NCAA March Madness are obvious, but where the NCAA pulls teams into their national tournament that for the most part have no chance of advancing past the first round, the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship gives us the gift of the top-64 golfers in the world, matched up by four brackets seeded 1 through 16, where the 16-seeds have a very real chance of knocking off a No. 1, and have before.

Last year, we witnessed a fair amount of upsets early with a 16-seed Ernie Els taking down the overall No. 1 in Luke Donald, as well as 15-seed Matteo Manassero taking down 2-seed Webb Simpson, 3 and 2. It also gave us some intriguing late matchups with a Rory McIlroy vs. Lee Westwood semifinal, both 1-seeds in the tournament, and produced an amazing final match between McIlroy vs. Hunter Mahan final, which Mahan emerged victorious.

This year has the look of producing the same amount of excitement. Tiger Woods will be back in the field competing as the second-ranked player in the world, which adds another possibly great storyline to this year’s event that 2012 did not have.

Since the rankings of this even are based off of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR), let’s highlight the top-10 in the OWGR and look at some of their possible match-ups and make some projections.

Andrew Redington/Getty

1. Rory McIlroy (Jones Bracket)

Rory enters the WGC as 2012’s runner-up and this year’s top-seed. Rory hasn’t played much this year yet, his only worldwide start being in Abu Dhabi where he failed to make the cut. Hopefully Rory has figured out his new Nike equipment and is able to make a similar run that he made in this tournament last year. He plays his first match against another Irishman and a friend in Shane Lowry, who he should take care of fairly easily. If McIlroy is able to play decent golf, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be able to at least make it to the round of 16.

Andy Lyons/Getty

2. Tiger Woods (Player Bracket)

Everyone is ready for Tiger to get started this week. He takes on Charles Howell III in his first match of the tournament, who has been playing great golf so far this season. The Player Bracket sets up for Tiger to possibly be the hardest bracket to come out of in the tournament. It features a bottom part of the bracket that is loaded with talent, including last year’s champion, Hunter Mahan, and a great young match play player Matteo Manassero, who has the capability of taking anyone down in this tournament. A lot of matches need to go Tiger’s way to have a generally easy road to the final four, but he looks good to get there no matter what.

Getty Images

3. Luke Donald (Snead Bracket)

It seems like the Snead Bracket could be one of the harder brackets to come out of in this tournament with the kind of talent that sits in certain spots. Donald shouldn’t have a terribly hard time winning his first two matches, but when he has players like Nick Watney, Steve Stricker, Adam Scott and Ian Poulter in his bracket, and could see two of them in back-to-back matches, it could be difficult for Donald to get out of his bracket. Don’t think he can’t take it all though – he won this tournament in 2011, and carries one of the best tee-to-green games in the world.

*Note: Number 4 in the OWGR Brandt Snedeker is not in the field for this tournament.

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4. Louis Oosthuizen (Hogan Bracket)

Heralded as one of the sweetest swinging players in the world, Oosthuizen has been playing great golf so far this year, and has a win at the Volvo Golf Championships on the European Tour. For a No. 1 seed, it looks like Oosthuizen might have the easiest path to the final in a bracket that looks ripe for upsets early. Oosthuizen’s biggest test could come in the bracket championship versus Justin Rose, but the way the top part of the bracket matches up with the bottom part of the bracket, who knows what that final match-up could be, but there’s a good chance that Oosthuizen will be in it.

Justin Rose

5. Justin Rose (Hogan Bracket)

Justin Rose has the look this year so far that he could win a major very soon. He has been striking the ball wonderfully, and has put together some phenomenal rounds of golf so far this year. The bottom of this bracket is vastly different from the top, and it looks like Rose could be upset before the bracket championship considering his matches going to the final four could be K.J. Choi, Bill Haas, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen. That could be one of the hardest roads for a top-seeded player to the final four in the entire tournament.

Adam Scott Adam Scott of Australia reaches for a golf ball on the practice ground during the final round of the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club on September 9, 2012 in Carmel, Indiana.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

6. Adam Scott (Snead Bracket)

We haven’t seen much of Adam Scott yet this year, except for his only start on the PGA Tour at the Northern Trust Open, where he finished tied-10. Adam Scott should make quick work of Tim Clark in his first round match, but in his second round match where I project he will be playing Thorbjorn Olesen, he will start having a hard time, and I believe has a good chance to lose in his second match. Scott has shown that he he can go on long runs of playing great golf, but I’m not so sure this is where he starts to show it.

Lee Westwood

7. Lee Westwood (Player Bracket)

Westwood hasn’t had the greatest of starts to his season this year, and has most recently finished tied-46 at Pebble Beach just a couple weeks ago. He doesn’t carry a great match play record, and the match-ups he could face could give him a lot of trouble. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a first round knockout, but he should be able to get past his first match. He would meet either Martin Kaymer or George Coetzee in the second round, which will be a very tough match for Westwood no matter who he plays in the second round. Seeing him and Tiger in the bracket championship would be a great treat for the viewer though.

*Note: Number 8 in the OWGR Phil Mickelson is not in the field.

Bubba Watson

8. Bubba Watson (Jones Bracket)

There could not be more of a wild card in this top-10 than Bubba Watson. His unpredictability could throw his opponents off tremendously, or it could throw him off as well. His road doesn’t look too bad with a first round match against Chris Wood, and then facing the winner of Jim Furyk and Ryan Moore. I think his hiccup will come when he faces the 3-seed Charl Schwartzel in the third round of the tournament. We never know what Bubba is going to give us, and this week should be no different.

Charl Schwartzel sweeps all before him in Alfred Dunhill Championship

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9. Charl Schwartzel (Jones Bracket)

Schwartzel could be the possible winner of the Jones Bracket. He has been swinging the club as good as he ever has so far this season, and hits a lot of fairways and greens. His bracket championship could end up being against Rory McIlroy, that he could have a very good chance of beating, or maybe no even have to beat at all, depending on how things work out for him. The way that Schwartzel has been striking the ball and the way he is capable of playing in this match play event by being able to put the ball in the hole from everywhere around the green could be a recipe for success.

American golfer Jason Dufner rose to a career-high 14th in the world rankings after winning the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Getty Images

10. Jason Dufner (Player Bracket)

Jason Dufner has played pretty well this season so far with two top-10s in Europe and a missed cut at the Phoenix Open. The calm and cool Dufner sits at the bottom part of the bracket which could possibly be labeled the “Bracket of Death”. He will not be able to look past Richard Sterne in his first round match, and if he gets past that, he will have a very rough match to deal with against the Hunter Mahan vs. Matteo Manassero winner. As a good ball striker and a proven winner, Dufner could make some noise in this tournament in a bracket that could see some great golfers leave early.

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Nick is a true New Englander with a love for Boston sports, and carries a deep passion for golf and hockey. He played hockey collegiately, but has since focused mainly on golf. When Nick isn't working on his swing, you can find him sharing his sports opinions, or earning a living as chemist.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. randywildman

    Feb 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Half of the real top ten is done after the first round in Tucson and Luke Donald should have lost as well.

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Opinion & Analysis

“I Love You, Tiger!” At Big Cedar lodge, an outpouring of affection for Tiger Woods

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What a difference a year makes.

About one year ago, Tiger Woods was in Branson, Missouri at Big Cedar Lodge to announce that he was designing a golf course there; Payne’s Valley, his first public course. That day was attended by hundreds of national and local media, the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri and Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops owner and the visionary behind the amazing golf complex that has been established at Big Cedar Lodge.

That day, Woods had not played competitive golf for awhile, and he was recovering from multiple surgeries. Woods took a couple of ceremonial swings, the last of which clearly left him in physical distress. Days later, he was in surgery again and his playing career looked to be all but over. The situation became worse when Woods was arrested for driving under the influence, found with multiple substances in his system. It seemed as though the sad mug shots from that arrest might be as prominent in his legacy as the smiles and fist-pumps that accompanied his 79 wins and 14 major championships.

Fast forward to yesterday, where Woods was back in Missouri to do a Junior Clinic at Big Cedar. An estimated crowd of over 7,000 kids and parents showed up on a school day to catch a glimpse of Woods. The atmosphere was carnival-like, with sky divers, stunt planes making flyovers and rock music blaring from giant speakers. When Woods finally arrived, the reaction was electric. Mothers and their kids were chanting. “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” at the top of their lungs. Photographers battled soccer moms for position to get a picture of his swing. Some of the kids were as young as 6-years-old, which means that they had probably not seen Woods hit a meaningful shot in their life. At one point, when Woods was hitting shots and explaining how to execute them, a woman shouted, “I love you, Tiger!” Not to be out done, a woman on the other side of the crowd, who was their with her husband and kids, shouted “I love you more, Tiger!” Maybe the only people with more affection for Woods would be the people in the golf business. A senior marketing official in the golf industry leaned over at one point in the event and said, “God, we could use just one more from him.”

Woods swing looks completely rehabilitated. He was hitting shots of every shape and trajectory on-demand, and the driver was sending balls well past the end of the makeshift driving range set up for the event. But even more remarkable was the evidence of the recovery of his reputation. Surely there are still women out there that revile Woods for the revelations of infidelity, and no doubt there are those that still reject Woods for his legal and personal struggles. But none of them were in Missouri yesterday. Mothers and children shrieking his name confirmed what we already knew: Tiger Woods is the single most compelling person in American sports, and he belongs to golf.

Unlike a year ago, Woods is swinging well, and seems as healthy and happy as he as ever been as a pro. Add to that the unprecedented outpouring of love from crowds that once produced a combination of awe and respect, but never love. Fowler, McIlroy, Spieth and the rest may get their share of wins and Tweets, but if the game is to really grow it will be on the broad, fragile back of Tiger Woods. It’s amazing to think what can happen in one short year.

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Opinion & Analysis

12 reasons serious golfers don’t realize their potential

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What stops serious golfers from realizing their potential? If you are an amateur who wants to get better, a young player trying to achieve more, or a young professional with big dreams, this article is for you.

I’ve made a career out of helping athletes maximize their abilities, golfers in particular. And the things I see young playing professionals doing prior to our work together is often what is holding them back. The reality is that most young players, no matter what their level, have three key problems:

  1. They’re distracted by what’s not important
  2. They have no detailed structure and plan to reach the targets they determine are important to them
  3. They have no formal process to develop mindset and attitude

In the list below, I share what I see working with these young players and some common blind spots.

1. No real plan and steps to achieve targets

Most players do not know how to create a long-term and short-term plan that outlines all steps needed to reach targets. Players should have yearly plans with targets, steps and actions and weekly plans to organize/schedule their time and prioritize key needs.

2. Not focused enough on the object of the game

This goes hand in hand with No. 1. Surprisingly, players seem to forget that the object of the game is get the ball in the hole in the least amount of strokes. Trophies and checks are not issued for the best swing, the best putting stroke or most balls hit.

3. Not enough pressure in practice

Most young players have loose practice. The intensity of feelings between the practice tee and the course are too different. Focus and intensity must be a part of all practice. Add competition and outcomes to sessions so some urgency is created.

4. Too much practice time on full swing

The data is clear — most shots in golf happen from 100 yards and in from the green. If the majority of practice time is not spent on these shorter shots, practice time is wasted.

5. An obsession with the look of the swing

Players are not generally prepared to own their own swings and embrace the differences that make them unique. Obsessing over swing mechanics is a major distraction for many players. Many players convince themselves that if it doesn’t look “good” on their iPhone, their swing won’t get results.

6. No structure with the driver

Since scoring is the main goal, a consistent, reliable shape to each shot is important. My experience has been that if players are trying to go both ways with the driver, that is a sure-fire way to elevate numbers on the card. Pick a shape and eliminate one side of the course. Predictability from the tee increases a player’s confidence to put the ball in the fairway more often, creating more opportunities to score.

7. Expectation that they will hit the ball well everyday

Many players have the unreasonable expectation that they will hit lots of fairways and greens every time they play. This expectation leads to constant disappointment in their game. Knowing that the leading professionals in the game average about 60.6 percent driving accuracy and 11.8 greens in regulation per round should be a good benchmark for the expectations of all players.

8. Trying to be too robotic and precise in putting

Some players get so caught up in the mechanics of putting that their approach becomes too robotic. They become obsessed with precision and being perfect. Feel, flow and instinct have to be a central part of putting. This can get lost in an overly robotic mindset trying to be too precise and perfect.

9. No process for assessment and reflection

Players do not have a formal process for assessing practice or rounds and reflecting on the experience. The right lessons are not consistently taken away to ensure step-by-step improvement. Knowing how to assess practice, play and ask the right questions is key to development.

10. Getting in their own way

The voice inside of most young players’ heads is not helpful for their performance. It’s often a negative, demanding voice that insists on perfection. This voice leads to hesitation, frustration and anger. The voice must be shaped (with practice) into the right “emotional caddie” to support efforts and promote excellence over perfection.

11. A focus on the negative before the positive

A default to the mistakes/flaws in the round before looking at the highlights and what worked. When asked about their round, most players highlight three-putts, penalty shots and any errors before anything else. Emphasis should always be on what went well first. Refection on what needs improvement is second.

12. The blame game

Young players love excuses. Course conditions, weather, coaching and equipment are a few of the areas that are often targets, deflecting responsibility away from the player. Many players do not take full responsibility for their own game and/or careers.

I hope this provides some insights on roadblocks that could get in your way on the path to reaching your targets in the game. Whether it’s lowering your handicap, winning a junior tournament, working toward the PGA Tour — or just general improvement — considering these observations might help you shorten the road to get there.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Valero Texas Open

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With one of the weakest fields of the year, TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open this week. Only one player from the top-20 in the Official World Golf Rankings will tee it up here. That man is Sergio Garcia, who co-designed this course with Greg Norman.

Just like last week at the RBC Heritage, the wind can wreak havoc at TPC San Antonio. The course features an exposed layout, making the level of wind is often unpredictable. Expect it to be a factor yet again this year. Unlike last week, the longer hitters do have an advantage on this course, which measuring more than 7,400 yards with little rough off the tee.

Last year, Kevin Chappell held off a charging Brooks Koepka to post 12-under par and win his first title on the PGA Tour.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Sergio Garcia 14/1
  • Matt Kuchar 18/1
  • Charley Hoffman 18/1
  • Luke List 25/1
  • Ryan Moore 28/1
  • Kevin Chappell 28/1
  • Adam Scott 30/1

From the top of the market, it’s hard not to love Luke List (25/1, DK Price $10,000) this week. The big-hitting American is still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, but he is knocking on the door relentlessly. In his last eight events, List has finished no worse than T-26.

He was so close once again last week, and he should take plenty of confidence from that performance onto a course that theoretically should suit him much better. On this long track, List will have a significant advantage as one of the longest hitters on Tour. Over his last 24 rounds, he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 1st in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green. List is also flushing his irons. He was second in the field last week for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, and over his previous 24 rounds he sits 3rd in the same category.

It’s not only his long game that is highly proficient right now, either. List’s short game has been stellar over this impressive stretch, too. He ranks 8th for Strokes Gained-Around the Green and 28th for Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds.

The one department holding the big man back is his putting, where he ranks 145th for the season. The rest of his game is so sharp at the moment that he’s in the enviable position of not needing that hot a week with the flat-stick to win. He only needs an average week on the greens to finally break through and claim his first PGA Tour event. There’s nothing to suggest List isn’t going to play well once more this week, and at 25/1 he seems undervalued.

Returning to a track that he adores, Brendan Steele (33/1, DK Price $8,900) is always a danger at this event. As well as winning the title here in 2011, Steele has finished in the top-20 three times since then. Whatever it is about TPC San Antonio, it’s a course that brings out the best in Steele’s game.

It’s been an excellent season for the West Coast native, too. He won his opening event of the season at the Safeway Open and has since finished in the top-30 six times. One of the main reasons for his strong run of form has been his work with the driver. Steele is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee over his last 24 rounds, and he has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained statistic in this category once since this event last year.

Recently, Steele’s game is showing trends that he may once more be close to hitting the form that saw him win at the back end of last year. In his previous 24 rounds, the Californian is ranked 10th in Ball Striking and 7th in Strokes Gained-Total. Always a threat at this event, Steele is coming into this week with all parts of his game in sync. He should be a live threat once more in San Antonio.

Another man who has played well all year is Xander Schauffele (35/1, DK Price $8,800). The Californian has made seven of eight cuts this year, and he has finished in the top-25 in four of those occasions. Excellent off the tee, TPC San Antonio should suit the 24-year-old this week, too. Schaufelle ranks 7th in Strokes Gained-Off The Tee and 17th in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his last 24 rounds.

With wind likely to play a factor this week, pure ball striking will be necessary. That shouldn’t be an issue for Xander, who sits 7th in Strokes Gained-Ball Striking over his last 24 rounds. There is nothing off about Schauffele’s game right now. He ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting over his previous 12 rounds and 5th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green over the same period. It’s only a matter of time before the two-time PGA Tour winner puts himself in the thick of contention again, and there’s no reason why it can’t be this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Luke List 25/1, DK Price $10,000
  • Brendan Steele 33/1, DK Price $8,900
  • Xander Schauffele 35/1, DK Price $8,800
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