WGC World Match Play Tips: One player to back from each bracket

Jason Day is tipped to add a second world title in four months
Jason Day is tipped to add a second world title in four months

Using the pre-determined draw, Paul Krishnamurty lays out his trading plan for this week's World Matchplay, picking four players with a view to bagging all four semi-finalists...

"Jason Day reached the semis 12 months ago, despite not playing his best, demonstrating the ideal skills-set for the Ritz-Carlton. Driving distance always offers a potentially significant advantage in matchplay and a hot short game is essential around this track."


Back Jason Day 3u @ 20.019/1

There is a growing consensus that Jason Day is one of the men to follow throughout 2014 and, having already proven his liking for the nuanced format of matchplay, this looks a great opportunity to reaffirm his credentials early in the season. He reached the semis 12 months ago, despite not playing his best, demonstrating the ideal skills-set for the Ritz-Carlton. Driving distance always offers a potentially significant advantage in matchplay and a hot short game is essential around this track. Last year's effort merely confirmed the extreme promise shown on his tournament debut in 2011, when blitzing matchplay specialist Paul Casey.

This would be Day's second world title in four months, after claiming both individual and team honours at the World Cup. The draw has been pretty kind. The likes of Henrik Stenson and Brandt Snedeker represent stiff opposition on paper in the Bobby Jones Bracket, but neither of those stars has shown anything like their best this season, while Steve Stricker is making a late seasonal debut. Despite failing to show much prowess in this format yet, Webb Simpson could prove the main danger.


Back Harris English 1u @ 70.069/1

The Ben Hogan Bracket includes a wealth of world-class talent, including tournament favourite Rory McIlroy, matchplay master Ian Poulter, resurgent Sergio Garcia, bang-in-form Jimmy Walker, Lee Westwood plus major winners Charl Schwartzel and Jim Furyk. An argument could be made against any of those big names, however, and given that all have the potential to cut one another's throat early on, the value call is a small bet on an outsider. 

Kevin Stadler is recommended elsewhere in my Find Me a 100 Winner column and, for this main plan, emerging prospect Harris English gets the nod. The 24 year-old, twice a winner in less than three years on the PGA Tour, rarely has a bad week, making every cut since last August and finishing top-11 on six of his last eight starts. He's long off the tee, is a brilliant putter and has shown good form in the Arizona desert. The downside is a lack of matchplay experience but youth is a big advantage in this marathon tournament and he is certainly good enough to beat those bigger names.


Back Matt Kuchar 2u @ 32.031/1

Drawn in the easiest bracket, Kuchar is my headline each-way selection and a confident trading pick. The only two players in this section at shorter odds are Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth, yet both have serious question marks hanging over them. Rose did nothing on last week's seasonal debut, while Spieth has no matchplay pedigree to date, whatever his strokeplay numbers.

In contrast, it is impossible to pick holes in Kuchar's case. This tournament has been repeatedly dominated by players with proven matchplay and tournament form. Kuchar has won 14 of his last 16 matches on this course, including some significant scalps. Last year he successfully conceded huge driving distance to Sergio Garcia, Nicolas Colsaerts, Robert Garrigus and Jason Day, before ending Hunter Mahan's prolific run of winning matches at the Ritz-Carlton. Nobody even gave him a close match in one of the finest matchplay performances in living memory.

Take out the top-three in this section and the rest look vulnerable. Luke Donald has the matchplay pedigree, but no recent form. PGA champion Jason Dufner lost in the first round on both previous tries and has struggled so far in 2014. Ryan Moore is the only other candidate at less than 100.099/1.


Back Keegan Bradley 1.5u @ 50.049/1

The Sam Snead Bracket could be the 'Group of Death', including a plethora of frontline candidates and capable outsiders. Last week's 1-2, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, are bound to be popular picks, especially the former who played very well in both the 2011 and 2013 renewals. Hunter Mahan has won 11 of his last 12 matches on the course. Zach Johnson, though woeful at this venue, has been in scintillating form on the PGA Tour. Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell is a matchplay specialist, while the likes of Gary Woodland and Victor Dubuisson are future major winners.

Instead of any of those, I'm backing Keegan Bradley to confirm the extreme promise shown in this format at the 2012 Ryder Cup. He seems to possess all the key attributes for head-to-head matchplay - power off the tee, a hot putter and a feisty, competitive nature. Bradley has shown promising form just off the pace in recent weeks, making three out of four top-20s this season, and caught the eye with a closing 68 at Riviera on Sunday.


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