The WGC-Match Play gives us a chance to see the world’s best go mano-a-mano, reigniting old rivalries and creating new ones. Here’s 10 potential early matches we’d like to see play out this week in the Arizona desert:
1. Keegan Bradley-Rory McIlroy (Round of 16): They’re 25 and 22 years old, respectively. They’re major champions in top form. What’s not to like about this pairing? There’s nothing like two young bombers dueling it out in the desert. Maybe we’ll see this match again at Medinah.
2. Rickie Fowler-Bubba Watson (Round of 16): They’re two of the PGA Tour’s most colorful characters. They’re good friends and former Ryder Cup teammates. The real reason I want this match to happen? So I can bet friends on the number of “Golf Boys” references made during the match. I put the over-under at 65. Watson meets another “Golf Boy,” Ben Crane, in the first round. We just have to hope they don’t sing.
3. Martin Kaymer-Bubba Watson (Round of 16): I love a good rematch. These two have a good history, with Kaymer beating Watson in last year’s semifinals and in the 2010 PGA Championship playoff. There’s something enjoyable about watching a guy who wore a scarf at last year’s Match Play taking on the man who drives the General Lee.
4. Darren Clarke-Tiger Woods (2nd round): This is going way back. I was a high-school senior when Clarke upset Woods in the final of the 2000 WGC-Match Play Championship. Clarke, the cigar-smoking Northern Irishman somehow found a way to upset Woods, who would win three majors that year. A win by Clarke this year may be a bigger upset, though. He has just one top-25 in a full-field event since his Open Championship victory.
5. Kyle Stanley-Brandt Snedeker (2nd round): Stanley already got redemption for his heartbreaking loss at the Farmers Insurance Open. He won the following week’s Phoenix Open. The Torrey Pines playoff between Snedeker and Stanley was entertaining enough to merit a mulligan, though.
6. Sergio Garcia-Rory McIlroy (Round of 16): Garcia was an assistant captain at McIlroy’s 2010 Ryder Cup debut. Now Garcia is back among the best in the world. This match would pit Europe’s one-time wunderkind against its current one. McIlroy is No. 2 in the world, a position once held by Garcia. McIlroy could become the world’s No. 1 golfer with a win this week.
7. Darren Clarke-Lee Westwood (Round of 16): This match between two members of Chubby Chandler’s fun-loving stable would be for all of you who enjoy a cigar and a pint of Guinness. This light-hearted affair would be fun to watch. I have a feeling a 3-footer or five may be conceded. Clarke may have to get through Woods in the second round to meet his friend, though.
8. Alvaro Quiros-Matteo Manassero (2nd round): Quiros is the European Tour’s longest driver, averaging 315.1 yards per tee shot. Manassero hits it 43 yards shorter, ranking 173rd out of 185 players. They may not see each other until they shake hands on the 18th green. Watching players with two disparate styles of play is often entertaining. I’d like to watch the potential Dustin Johnson-Luke Donald quarterfinal match for the same reason.
9. Martin Laird-Tiger Woods (Quarterfinals): Laird, a Scot who’s been in based in the United States since playing college golf at Colorado State, has his sights set on this year’s Ryder Cup. The two-time PGA Tour winner is No. 40 in the Official World Golf Ranking, but an unknown quantity to most of his compatriots because he’s played almost exclusively in America. Beating Woods would get their attention.
10. Kevin Na-Louis Oosthuizen (2nd round): Oosthuizen’s last name has five times as many letters as Na’s. That’s interesting, right?
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