What I learned from the finishers in the top 16 as winning two matches this week gets you a mention!
Victor Dubuisson: He showed his mettle late last season as he held off a very strong field to win the Turkish Airlines Open in early November. He backed that up with a solo third at the DP World Tour Championship and a T5 at the Volvo Golf Champions so he should NOT have been an unknown quantity. He’s teed it up a few times on TOUR this season and his best finish was T13 at Pebble Beach. His amateur career is well documented as he was the 2006 French Amateur champ, 2008 Mexican Amateur champ and the 2009 European Amateur champion. That’s quite strong. With his solo second, he now has 60 days to accept Special Temporary Membership (STM) which would allow him, among other things, unlimited sponsor’s exemptions for the rest of this season. Gamers, that’s good news. The bad news is that he will NOT be eligible for The Playoffs unless he WINS this year; his non-member points at the end of the season will determine his status for 2014-15. This is his fourth top-five finish in his last seven tournaments worldwide. That’s quite large. He needs to be on your radar. We’ve now seen Spieth and Matsuyama make a splash. Don’t be late to the Dubuisson party!
Rickie Fowler: His solo third is his best finish at this event in four tries and his best finish on TOUR since his T3 last March at Bay Hill. Fowler is presently employing Butch Harmon to help fix his swing and this week was the first time this season we’ve seen results in a positive direction. Fowler entered the week on the heels of three consecutive MCs so his result this week was nothing short of surprising to gamers. It was even more surprising that he had to knock out match play maven Ian Poulter in round one. The hottest player on the planet, Jimmy Walker, was his victim in round two. Sergio Garcia couldn’t knock him out in round three. Jim Furyk couldn’t handle the task in the regional final. That’s three Ryder Cup veterans and the world’s hottest player just to hit the final four. Jason Day finally knocked him out in the semis before he rebounded to beat Ernie Els in 19 holes in the consolation match. Not a bad week’s work. I’m going to take this week with a grain of salt but he does live in Jupiter and should be excited the TOUR is heading to his backyard next week.
Ernie Els: Arguably one of the great match players ever on the European Tour his game has rarely translated into the WGC as Els has only found the weekend twice in his previous 13 tries. He dispatched red-hot Stephen Gallacher, No. 1 Justin Rose, No. 4 Jason Dufner and upstart No. 3 Jordan Spieth before Dubuisson outlasted him in the Sunday morning semifinal. Els ditched the belly putter and his new wand was sparkling this week. Rob Bolton suggested playing Els, Day or Spieth this week in OAD was an excellent idea. I should have listened! Beware gamers that Els didn’t break par until his match with Jason Dufner as he was FOUR-over in his first two matches that he won.
Jim Furyk: Solid play from the crusty veteran saw him win three matches in this competition for the first time in five years. His tournament ended with Rickie Fowler beating him 1-up in the Ben Hogan regional final. Gamers, I like the fact that he beat THREE hot players (Kirk, Schwartzel and English) and he’ll be on my radar during the Florida Swing, especially at Innisbrook where he’s won before.
Jordan Spieth: Any course. Anytime. Anywhere. Who cares how old he is? Finishing T9 in his first match play tournament is quite impressive, just like his entire game. He’ll learn from his beat-down by Old Man Els and be even better next year.
Louis Oosthuizen: In his fifth trip to WGC-Match Play, Oosthuizen has broken through to another level. His first two years he lost in the first round; his last two years he lost in the second round. This year, he blasted No. 1 Henrik Stenson 4 & 3 and shredded Webb Simpson 5 & 4 before succumbing to Jason Day in the quarterfinals. His win at the Volvo inspired him but it was a bad back that ultimately slowed him down. Gamers, he remarked after his match with Jason Day that he’s used to playing with back pain. Buyer beware!
Graeme McDowell: His last four events on TOUR include a third, T15, T7 and T5 this week. His nerves were made for this event and his short game doesn’t hurt either. He barely led the entire week but still found out a way to grind out three victories, including a rematch of the final singles match of the 2010 Ryder Cup against Hunter Mahan. Victor Dubuisson put him out in the Sam Snead final but I have no hesitations endorsing GMAC going forward or in any match play down the road. Remember, he won the Volvo World Match Play last year as well. His record at Marana includes T9 or better three of the last four years. #primetime
Harris English: After knocking off Ryder Cuppers Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, it was US Ryder Cupper Jim Furyk who finally put an end to English’s week. Not bad for his first venture into the deep end of the pool. His game is dead solid and his confidence is doing nothing but soaring. #hoponboard
Sergio Garcia: He’ll be remembered this week for “good-good” during his match with Rickie Fowler where he gave Fowler a 17’ par putt because of his slow play the previous hole. Garcia is making news even when he’s trying not to make news. He’s another example of how Ryder Cup supremacy does NOT automatically transfer to THIS event. He only has one top 10 finish in his last seven trips to the desert for this event.
Hunter Mahan: Two more wins in this event were nice but gamers riding the Mahan bus this week were hoping for another final four performance. The 2011 QF won in 2012 and was runner-up last year so this year can only be categorized as a disappointment if you are a sick bastard. There are no guarantees is golf or fantasy golf but he is 17-6 in this event.
Bubba Watson: The putter that was responding so well at Riviera last week ditched him at the worst time as he fell 1-down to Dubuisson in the round of 16. His ball-striking in that match also had him shaking his head and talking to his caddy. Such as life as a Watson owner! He’s already paid off gamers who expected a bounce-back 2014! In his fourth event here, Watson has won at least two matches each time.
Webb Simpson: Another fan of desert golf, Simpson tore through Thongchai Jaidee and good buddy Brandt Snedeker before running into the Oosthuizen buzz saw. Simpson was seven under through his first two matches but the South African blitzed him for an eagle and three birdies on the front to run away and hide.
George Coetzee: In his third straight visit to the desert, Coetzee finally broke his duck and did so in style as he bested Steve Stricker and Patrick Reed before being disposed by Jason Day in the round of 16. Gamers, before mining the data on him remember that he was three-OVER to win those two matches. Ah, match play!
Jason Dufner: His slow start to 2014 gained some momentum with two victories this week but season-long gamers should just be patient. Also, his two wins were his first two in three events so that’s even better. As for his slow start, he pulled this trick last year before burning up in August and September.
Matt Kuchar: He’s now 17-4 in this event. Gamers hope this will be the week where it clicks moving forward as Kuchar had a slow start last week at Riviera after an extended break.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
In each bracket, I listed my winner, sleeper and fade. Let’s see what happened.
Bobby Jones Bracket
Winner: Webb Simpson, see above.
Fade: Brandt Snedeker; knocked out David Lynn in 20 holes before be dispatched by Simpson 4 & 3. Snedeker’s early season form should have gamers concerned.
Sleeper: Patrick Reed; He did the hard part knocking off birdie machine Graham DeLaet in round one before slipping up to Coetzee in three extra holes. Would to have loved to see him vs. Day but, alas, it didn’t happen.
Ben Hogan Bracket
Winner: Rory McIlroy; he couldn’t match Harris English in round two and just like the other three No. 1s, he went home after Thursday’s play.
Fade: Jim Furyk; see above
Sleeper: Chris Kirk; he was beaten by Furyk in the first round. Ha.
Gary Player Bracket
Winner: Jordan Spieth; see above
Fade: Justin Rose; in nine events, he’s made the quarterfinals once; knocked out in round two.
Sleeper: Scott Stallings; defeated in round one by Jason Dufner. Sigh.
Sam Snead Bracket
Winner: Keegan Bradley: #fail; lost round one 2 & 1 to Jonas Blixt
Fade: Bubba Watson: #failx2; won two matches
Sleeper: Victor Dubuisson, see above. That was a tasty sleeper, no?
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at The Honda Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.