Accenture Match Play 2013: Why Europeans Have the Upper Hand

Joe WirthContributor IIIFebruary 20, 2013

Rory McIlroy is the No. 1 player in the world and one of the favorites this week.
Rory McIlroy is the No. 1 player in the world and one of the favorites this week.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

The Accenture Match play tournament is annually the toughest event to predict on the PGA Tour.

Like the NCAA Tournament, this event consists of a bracket of 64 that play their way to the title. Unlike the NCAA Tournament, the seeds have little bearing on how a player will fair in the tournament.

In this tournament, No. 16 seeds routinely defeat No. 1 seeds in the first round. The difference between the No. 1-ranked player and the No. 64-ranked player is not that much and that razor-thin margin is often accentuated this week.

As witnessed by the last few Ryder Cups, Europeans have a huge edge over Americans in match play situations and their prowess has manifested itself in this tournament.

There has been at least one European in the finals of this tournament in five of the last six years, including two all-European finals in 2010 and 2011.

This is because many of the top European players play a global schedule, which includes more match play events than a typical American would play.

Another factor for European success in the tournament is that they have been the best golfers over the last five years. Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood have all spent time as the No. 1-ranked player in the world and players like Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer have been big-time contenders and each have spent time in the top-10.

Putting is critical to success in match play situations. Poor tee-to-green play can be salvaged by a hot putter and Europeans on the whole are better putters than Americans. Europeans like Francesco Molinari and Carl Pettersson are some of the best putters in the world; look for them to make a deep run in the bracket this week.

European success can also be attributed to the fact that many Europeans, especially those who are not as well-known, play in America with something to prove. The average golf fan severely underestimates the quality of the fields on the European Tour.

Take a player like Nicolas Colsaerts. Very few golf fans had heard of him before last year, yet he had been successful in the European Tour and translated that success into strong performances at both the U.S. Open and Open Championship in 2012.

In 2013, look for the European success at the Accenture Match Play to continue. It is nearly impossible to predict the outcome this week; that being said, I am picking Italian Francesco Molinari to take the title.