Picking winners in golf is one of the hardest guessing games in sports. It’s harder in a Tiger-less tournament—harder still over just 18 holes where anything can happen. If you don't believe that, just ask Nick O'Hern who beat Tiger Woods in the 2007 Accenture Match Play Championship.
Someone will win it. The trick is to figure out who. The top 28 in the world are in Tucson. With Tiger (No. 1) and Phil (No. 3) both passing this week, it opens the door for someone else to take home a fat check.
So will it be Steve Stricker? Jim Furyk? Lee Westwood? Martin Kaymer? Geoff Ovilgy again?
Picking all the winners of all the matches before the first tee ball is stuck is beyond me, but I have a decent record at picking individual matches. Of course, you’ll just have to take my word for it, since it’s the first time I’ve done this in public. Usually it’s just for fun in the media center.
For those new to this event, the top 64 players in the world are put into brackets much like the NCAA basketball tournament. Even if you don't pick winners today, you can start tomorrow with a fresh set of matches.
The Crystal Golf Ball says Round One match winners are:
1. Steve Stricker over Ross "dress for less" McGowan to borrow a Chris Bermanism.
2. Ryo over Sim, no matter how well Sim has played. Ryo was the star of the non- Americans in the Presidents Cup, and he likes the moment.
3. Karlsson over Sabbitini.
4. Fisher over Jaidee. Fisher has been showing up on leader boards in majors, and that counts.
5. Paddy over Jeeve
6. Kuchar over Kim. Anthony still seems to be on vacation.
7. Ian over Justin. Ian selects special outfits for each day. Don't you love the purple and lilac.
8. Cabrera over Scott, even though Adam is on a comeback.
1. Kaymer over Campbell. Once Martin Kaymer figures out how good he is, the rest of the European Tour may be in trouble.
2. Tim Clark over Vijay Singh. Vijay has lost his mojo of late. Tim Clark is the dog who chases the postman.
3. David Toms over Sergio. Sergio is fabulous, but David Toms has a great record in this event.
4. Lucas over Hansen. How can you go against a US Open champ?
5. Rory over Kevin. Beware the injured golfer rule.
6. Jimenez over Oillie Wilson. He just won in Dubai.
7. Allenby over Hansen.
8. Luke over Graeme McDowell because the galleries love to yell Luuuuuuke .
1. Lee over Chris Wood. Westwood will eventually sink some putts.
2. Nick Watney over Yuta Ikeda. I kid you not. Sorry. I have never heard of Mr. Ikeda, and therefore have to pick someone who has actually won a US tour event.
3. Ryan over Ernie, who, I hate to pick against because he’s one of the classiest guys in golf. But he typically does not like this event, and it’s hard to pick a guy who does not especially like the event he’s playing. Any other time, I’d pick Ernie. He skipped it last year because he has had such bad luck here.
4. Goose over Soren.
5. Henrick over Ben Crane. Henrick has new clothes—Travis Mathew line—which, hopefully, he will keep on.
6. Soren Kjeldsen over YE. YE never has to win anything again. Really. However, not picking Soren "Hansen the Goosen" match, totally eliminates the possibility of a Soren vs. Soren third round match, which would drive announcers crazy.
7. Geoff over Alexander Noran. Geoff has already won this thing.
8. DJ over Camillo. DJ just won. Camillo plays better in Florida.
1. Furyk over Verplank in the all grinders match.
2. Hunter over Charl. Charl is a comer, but Hunter is very tough.
3. Sean, who needs to learn to spell his name Shawn so we blondes aren’t confused, over Simon, who will have a sunburn when he leaves the desert.
4. Cink over Molinari. The Molinaris—in this case Eduardo— are hot, and not in the golf sense.
5. Stephen Ames over Paul Casey. Stephen Ames disappears for a couple of seasons and then wins stuff. He’s overdue.
6. Quiros over Mike Weir. Quiros can hit as far as Dustin Johnson, which gives Quiros an advantage. He seems to have learned to keep the ball in play. Plus, those retro sideburns, how can you pick against those?
7. Kenny over Brian. Old Guys Rule. And you can buy clothes that say that.
8. Zach Attack over the other Molinari, Francesco.