The suspense is over. We now know how the Cadillac Match Play is going to work, although we don't know whether we will like the results or if the players will like the results.
Phil Mickelson, who withdrew over the weekend, is obviously taking a wait-and-see approach. Tiger Woods is spared the decision, being higher than 64 in the world rankings at this juncture. The rest of us will get to decide as the week unfolds.
The "pods" were revealed in a made-for-TV drawing on Golf Channel, and now the analysis can begin. Let's face it, it's going to be an upset if the top 16 don't win their "pods." But that doesn't mean there aren't some interesting groupings.
For example, Rickie Fowler and Graeme McDowell are in the same group, and only one of them can emerge to the round of 16. Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley are in the same group, and again, only one guy can come out on top, and both might be beat. Jim Furyk and Martin Kaymer are in the same boat.
Rory McIlroy, world No. 1 and top seed for the tournament, has to take care of Billy Horschel (18), Brandt Snedeker (35), and Jason Dufner (53) to advance to Saturday.
Jordan Spieth (2) needs to knock out Lee Westwood (26), Matt Every (40) and Mikko Ilonen (62) to get to the round of 16.
Bubba Watson (4) must defeat Louis Oosthuizen (29), Keegan Bradley (33) and Miguel Angel Jimenez (63) to move on to the weekend.
To pick farther down the bracket food chain right now, you have to say you like one guy in the group to beat all the others. Or worst case to go into a tie that he can win.
If the stars align, Bubba Watson or Rory McIlroy could play Jordan Spieth in a final, which would be a needle mover in the US. Although if Bubba or Rory played Henrik Stenson, it might be a ratings bonanza in Europe. It would definitely be big in Sweden.
Until Friday, you have to have superpowers to figure out who will play whom.
From there out, we now know how the round of 16 bracket will work. The winner of the McIlroy bracket will play the winner of the 16th group, which includes Hideki Matsuyama (16), Kevin Na (20), Joost Luiten (43) and Alexander Levy (52).
The winner of the Spieth group meets whoever emerges from the "pod" of Patrick Reed (15), Ryan Moore (28), Danny Willett (48) and Andy Sullivan (57). The complete bracket can be viewed here.
Because we cannot count on any player to emerge from his group of four to advance to the round of 16, it is risky business to make winning picks until Friday. By then, the ashes of defeated golfers will be scattered all over TPC Hardin Park.
As usual with the Cadillac Match Play, nobody can have a bad round and emerge automatically into the round of 16. However, a guy can have an average day or bad day and still advance, just so long as he plays better than his opponent. It's like they say about alligators: You just have to run faster than the person you are with.
All we know about this match-play week is whatever we think will happen most likely won't. Something will surprise us, just like Victor Dubuisson did last year. What we will find out is who is the most determined to win and who is in best shape, because there are seven matches in five days for the winner and next three places.
There are the additional questions the new format raises:
- How many of the top players will be left at the end of the day Friday? Will it be more or less than in all previous years of the tournament?
- Will players who are 0-2 in pod matches starting Friday show up to play? Will the difference in money matter enough to them so that they try for 1-2 instead of 0-3?
- What happens if someone WDs after Thursday? Will a bunch of guys catch the flu then?
- Will player pride be enough to get them through the week if they are playing poorly?
For sure, the guys who gut it out with only a chance of being a spoiler on Friday will be as interesting to watch as those who emerge as winners.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the PGA Tour, USGA, R&A or PGA of America.