Tiger Woods tops the Gary Player bracket as its No. 1 seed, with 5Dimes.eu favoring the 37-year-old at 10/1. Key challengers Rory McIlroy (12/1), Charl Schwartzel (18/1), Luke Donald (18/1), and Louis Oosthuizen (23/1) also look to advance through the battle’s early matchups.
Will the big names be able to reach the “Final Four” – or are some longer shots worth a look?
Woods hunting for fourth title
Woods last captured the tourney’s title in 2008, clinching the 36-hole final after the 29th green in his triumph over Stewart Cink. The grueling format has seen closer affairs in its four years since then, with last year’s champion Hunter Mahan edging out Mark Wilson and Rory McIlroy by two holes in the semifinals and finals, respectively.
Woods took the links in January’s Farmers Insurance Open, shooting 14 under par en route to his seventh triumph for the event. The present World Golf Rankings list Tiger as No. 2 (8.91), between No. 1 Rory McIlroy (12.09) and No. 3 Luke Donald (7.35).
McIlroy’s runner-up spot in last year’s battle combined with finishing in the top three spots of seven events last year make him a threat to make the finals again. The Northern Ireland native ranked fifth in driving distance in 2012 (310.1 YPD), while leading in money with $8,047,952.
Donald was upset in last year’s Match Play Championship, losing as the Bobby Jones bracket’s No. 1 seed in the first round to Ernie Els. The 35-year-old finished in 16th place as part of this past weekend’s Northern Trust Open, shooting four under par.
Oosthuizen faces tough draws
Oosthuizen notched a No. 1 seed in the Ben Hogan bracket thanks to his top-five World Golf Ranking (6.36), but could faces his share of challenges in the third and fourth rounds. The South Africa native’s group of 16 includes promising overlays Justin Rose (23/1), Sergio Garcia (30/1), Keegan Bradley (35/1), and Ernie Els (90/1).
Rose finished in the top eight of both last year’s Masters and PGA Championship, but was edged out by Paul Lawrie in the first round of the 2012 Match Play Championship. Garcia nearly faced Bradley in a second round matchup last year, but was eliminated as a No. 4 seed by fellow Spain native Miguel Jimenez.
Els followed up last year’s upset of Donald with a second-round defeat to No. 9 seed Peter Hanson, while going on to win July’s British Open. The rest of the year saw a drop in momentum for Els until November’s second-place finish in the WGC’s HSBC Champions, shooting 19 under par.
Selections: Schwartzel, Els, Simpson, Donald
I am going with my traditional approach to making my sports picks this tourney, mixing in favorites and long shots from each bracket.
Donald is the sole top seed that I have chosen to include, with 18/1 being a reasonable payoff thanks to an easier bracket compared to last year’s matchups. Charl Schwartzel at the same odds shows promise in the Bobby Jones bracket, following a third-place paycheck in last week’s Northern Trust Open (-10).Els at 90/1 is a sizable price and could cruise into the “Final Four” thanks to the rest of the Ben Hogan bracket facing some tough hurdles against each other. Webb Simpson is also paying nice odds at 30/1, with the capability of upsetting Woods should the pair meet in Friday’s third round.