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PGA Tour Stats Review: Entering the WGC Match Play

Jeremy Schilling

Schilling covers golf for RotoWire, focusing on young and up-and-coming players. He was a finalist for the FSWA's Golf Writer of the Year award. He also contributes to PGA Magazine and hosts the popular podcast "Teeing It Up" on BlogTalkRadio.

Tiger Woods - who coincidentally is skipping this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship - says it every time he's interviewed about match play: the format is an absolute crapshoot. You can shoot 65 and lose and shoot 75 and win. You can miss every putt all day but make one four-footer that clinches the match when someone else makes a mistake.

While the PGA Tour's match play event bracket is set up just like the NCAA tournament, there are no classic upset specials to watch for based purely on seeding; 16s beat 1s regularly, and especially in a field that is without Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, anyone really can beat anyone.

So who among these 64 names has the best chance to win? Well, like every stats column I write, it starts with the history lesson.

History Lesson

The Accenture Match Play is played at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. To say the course is not liked is an understatement. It continually ranks among the bottom of all the PGA Tour courses in annual player polls. So as a result, when looking for a pick, you must look at those who look past the deficiencies and play their best no matter the hurdles.

The defending champion is Matt Kuchar, who beat Hunter Mahan in the championship match. In 2012, Mahan beat Rory McIlroy, in 2011 Luke Donald defeated Martin Kaymer, in 2010 Ian Poulter got past Paul Casey and in 2009 - the event's first year at Dove Mountain - Geoff Ogilvy bested Casey.

Of that group, our recommendations are Kuchar and Mahan.

Kuchar, besides being the defending champion, has three top-10s in four events played this season on the PGA Tour. He's 17th in scoring average, third in sand save percentage, fourth in final-round scoring average (match play is kind of a final round every single day if you think about it) and 48th in greens in regulation.

Mahan has two top-10s in four starts this season, is fourth in strokes gained-putting, fifth in total driving and first in putting from 10-15 feet. He also has the aforementioned success at Dove Mountain.

Regional Winners

Here are my players to watch for from each region in the bracket.

Bobby Jones Bracket:
Graham DeLaet - This guy has to win on the PGA Tour soon; his game is just too good. Besides the fact that he had huge success last year at the Presidents Cup (a match play event), consider this: he has four top-10s in six starts this season and ranks sixth in driving distance and greens in regulation, is ninth in scoring average and 16th in the all-around ranking. Strong stuff indeed, and he's my pick to win it all because of that.

Ben Hogan Bracket:
Harris English - English has one win in each of the last two seasons and has four other top-10s to his name for 2013-14. Statistically he's ninth in greens in regulation, fifth in birdie average, third in scoring average, eighth in total driving and fifth in the all-around ranking. He's a force to be reckoned with.

Gary Player Bracket:
Kuchar - see above.

Sam Snead Bracket:
Bubba Watson - Not only is he last week's Northern Trust Open champion but the wild style that is Bubba can be rewarded when it comes to match play. In his winning performance last week he averaged 318 yards off the tee (first in the field), hit almost 71 percent of his greens in regulation (T3) and was 21st in strokes gained-putting.