The brackets in any sporting event where matches are played seldom deliver their potential, but in the case of the WGC Accenture Match Play event, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy could meet head-on in a final match. This year's event runs from February 20-24 in Marana, Ariz.
The stars would have to align. They would have to both run the brackets of all other players in their half of the draw. But it could at least happen.
Each would need to win five matches, a feat which has proven difficult for top-ranked professional golfers in seasons past. Five golfers stand between them and a final.
It should be easier than beating 156 players, which is the typical field size on the PGA Tour. The problem is there are no second chances. No extra days to shoot a low round and move up the leaderboard. It’s one and done, except for the third- and fourth-place matches, which are mainly about the money.
Woods will have to carve his way though his bracket and then get past Luke Donald or whoever emerges from Donald’s side. McIlroy will have to defeat Louis Oosthuizen, should he end up as the last man standing in his bracket. Woods, McIlroy, Donald and Oosthuizen are all No. 1 seeds of their respective brackets.
Match play has proven a precarious situation for the Woods, who has spent more time at world No. 1 than any other player. Woods is the only No. 1 to have marched through to the finals, never mind to victory. Woods was No. 1 in the world for many seasons, yet he was never an automatic winner.
However, he is the only repeat winner and only multiple winner since the event started. His biggest challenges will likely come from Thomas Bjorn, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood. If Bjorn is at all on his game, he is probably the least threatened by Woods since he has beaten Woods head-to-head in stroke play.
McIlroy may have to face fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell or Irishman Padraig Harrington. His bracket is stacked with explosive players like Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Charl Schwartzel.
Louis Oosthuizen’s toughest opponents may be Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar.
Luke Donald’s bracket includes the always-tough match player Ian Poulter as well as past winner David Toms.
Picks to watch in the first round include:
Woods vs. Charles Howell III, McIlroy vs. Ireland’s Shane Lowry, Bubba Watson vs. Chris Wood of England, Ernie Els vs. Fredrik Jacobson, Bill Haas vs. Nicolas Colsaerts, Nick Watney vs. David Toms, Martin Kaymer vs. George Coetzee and Hunter Mahan vs. Matteo Manassero.
Matches start as 7:25 a.m. Tucson time, or 9:25 a.m. EST. They will be televised on The Golf Channel from noon to 6 p.m.