Each week, our panel of writers will be asked a question about the game of golf. Topics will range from their predictions for the Tour season to what they would order from the concession stand at Augusta National Golf Club. No subject is off limits for this esteemed group.
March is synonymous with two things in the sports world: brackets and upsets. This year’s NCAA tournament has not seen many upsets, but traditionally delivers a few thrillers and results most don’t expect. Golf has its own version of March Madness this week at Austin Country Club, and we asked our writers to predict an upset that will shake up the bracket.
This week’s question: Which non-favorite do you see advancing out of their group at this week’s Match Play?
Bear: Alex Noren (Group 3) – Is Alex Noren playing bad golf right now? No – he is playing atrocious golf right now, going MC, MC, T62 over his last 3 events. But in match play more so than any other event, you can almost throw form out of the window. It is just such a different type of golf – mono y mono. Noren is simply a guy that performs well in this format with a 3rd and T5 the last two years in Austin. He beat Bryson on Sunday at the Ryder last year as well. Brooks, you are officially on upset alert.
Sam Scherman: Lucas Bjerregaard (Group 5) – Still a relatively unknown name on the PGA Tour, but over on the Euro Tour, he can make birdies in bunches and has an elite SG: OTT game, which is one of the only stats I’m weighing this week. Justin Thomas is of course an elite player, but with him playing here then going to Augusta, I think his mind could be elsewhere if he were to lose his first or second match and just punt this event. Also, JT has lost strokes on his approaches his last 2 tournaments and has only made it out of the Round of 64 once in 3 tries. Moving through the rest of the group, Keegan is an abysmal Match Play player, as he’s an impressive 1-10-2 all time and 0-1-2 in this event. Lastly, we’ve seen Matt Wallace play quite well in the US recently and while I could see him putting up some strong matches, he only has one documented match play performance (a loss), making him a relatively unknown. Bjerregaard is definitely a long shot, but I could see him getting hot and his inevitably blow up hole will only cost him once instead of his normal 2 or 3 strokes in stroke play tournaments.
Sean Carney: Lee Westwood (Group 9) – Most people would think I would take Hatton to come out of group 9 as an upset. Coming off a great Friday 80 this past week would make him due. However, I am going with a veteran, Lee Westwood. First and foremost, this is a guy who has played a lot of match play in his career. He knows how to navigate the matchup and when to take his chances. Additionally, he is sitting just outside the top 50 in world golf rankings. If he posts a good week and slides into the top 50, he would get an automatic bid for The Masters. I think he may be playing with a bit more of an edge in Austin.
Jake Mulholland: Rafa Cabrera Bello (Group 9) – I don’t see X getting out of this group with two wins. Hatton is a grinder and will wear down X mentally. Westwood is a complete wild card and for a man who doesn’t play many events, he’s still dangerous. The winner of this group will be Cabrera Bello in Austin, Texas. Cabrera Bello has been consistent all year, and I believe his smooth swinging and work on the greens will carry him through the group stage. I have Bello taking down fellow Spaniard, Jon Rahm in what will be the biggest upset of the tourney. Rafa will then meet DJ in the Quarterfinals, ultimately losing 5 & 4. He doesn’t have the stamina to go the whole distance (as we’ve seen him falter in third/fourth rounds this year on tour), but don’t be surprised if he makes a run.
Tony Kasper: Charles Howell III (Group 10) – As I mentioned in the OAD piece (https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/03/27/one-and-done-picks-wgc-dell-match-play/), I like Chuck’s draw here. Paul Casey is the favorite in this group for good reason, as he’s been in great form to start the year with multiple top five finishes and a win last week. However, Paul has followed up those top performances with a 25th place finish and a MC, so he is prone to a letdown. Howell III has advanced the last two years out of the pod, so don’t be surprised if he makes it three in a row.
Frank Laterza: Louis Oosthuizen (Group 11) – March Madness – just in a different sport! I think there are definitely multiple lower seeds that will advance, but the one I will focus on is Group 11. I think people are hyped up about Tommy after the Ryder Cup, but he won’t have the Italian Stallion on his side. In his only match play event during that run, he got ran over by Tony Finau. I really am not a huge fan of his game, but there is no denying Louis Oosthuizen is on a bit of a tear. He has a match play record of 19-10, was runner up to Day in 2016, and is coming off a 66-69 weekend. Give me Sweet Lou to represent Group 11 on the weekend.
Jack Corrigan: Keith Mitchell (Group 14) – This guy is silently having a hell of a season, and he’s definitely got some big names to take out in his group. He is someone who I believe has no fear. Kevin Kisner and Ian Poulter had phenomenal runs last season, and Tony Finau pulled off a great Sunday singles at the Ryder, so he has some work to do. He’s a very accurate driver and his ball striking has been great this season. As long as he’s able to do that at this course, I believe he’ll roll some putts and shock group 14.
Kevin Walsh: Ian Poulter (Group 14) – A lot of options to pick from this week, but I am going with a non-favorite from group 14. Tony Finau is certainly a formidable opponent, but the rest of this group has either had serious match play success or is on fire right now. Everyone knows Ian Poulter’s Ryder Cup resume, and Kevin Kisner has proven to be a tough out at Austin Country Club. Throw in Keith Mitchell, who is playing some of the best golf on tour right, and I don’t see a guy who can’t win this group. I’ll put my money on Poulter in a playoff, who will be fired up to get revenge after Kiz destroyed him in 2018. I expect both to finish 2-1 along with Finau and advance to the round of 16. If any of these boys won this group, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised.
Mike McNamara: Shane Lowry (Group 16) – My upset special in group stage play this week is Shane Lowry taking home Group 16. Most experts have already started labeling this group as a battle between two Ryder Cup icons in Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia. Shane, as well as Andrew Putnam, have been completely written off, and quite frankly I don’t think that sits very well with the fiery Irishman. Shaner will not be intimidated by either Reed or Garcia, and I expect both of those two to struggle throughout the week. While it won’t be easy, you can go ahead and pencil Shane Lowry into the Sweet 16.
Week of 03/18 – Clothing Sponsor of Choice – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/03/19/qotw-clothing-sponsor/
Week of 03/11 – Players Feature Groups – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/03/13/qotw-players-round/
Week of 03/04 – Result You’re Pulling For – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/03/06/qotw-result-youre-pulling-for/
Week of 02/24 – One State to Golf In – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/02/26/qotw-one-state-to-golf-in/
Week of 02/18 – Most Intimidating Current Pro – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/02/19/qotw-most-intimidating-current-pro/
Week of 02/11 – Who Will Make a Jump in OWGR – https://amateurhourgolfpod.com/2019/02/12/qotw-who-will-make-a-jump-in-the-owgr/