Phil Mickelson ($9,300): I love Mickelson at this price. He’s been a great match play player his whole career including last year where he absolutely wiped out his group, winning every match by at least 5 holes. He’s in great form this season with a WGC win already in Mexico and ranks third on the PGA Tour in birdies per round, averaging nearly five per 18 holes. To me, his only real threat in the group is Rafa-Cabrera Bello. Anyone can lose to anyone in these events, but with Charles Howell III and Satoshi Kodaira as two of his opponents, my money is on Mickelson to win out this group.
Jason Day ($9,200): Day is a two-time WGC Matchplay champion and he’s been on the up and up this season. He’s keeping the ball in play nicely, ranking 34th in strokes gained off-the-tee and is fourth in birdies per round this season. Day is in a pretty solid group with Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Dufner, and James Hahn, but I think his distance advantage and amazing wedge play will prove too much for this group.
Paul Casey ($8,800): Coming off of his first win in nine years on the PGA Tour, Casey has had a lot of success in match play in his career. He’s a two-time runner up in WGC Match Play and he swept his group in this event last year. I like Casey’s group a lot this year as well. Matthew Fitzpatrick hasn’t been playing well lately, Kyle Stanley hasn’t played in this event since 2012, and Russell Henley has been very mediocre this season.
Bubba Watson ($8,300): Although Bubba is from pool three, no one else really scares me. Julian Suri is the lowest-ranked golfer in the event, Marc Leishman has been so-so this season considering he’s a pool one player, and Branden Grace is not known to be a great match play player. In recent years, Grace has lost to Brandt Snedeker, William McGirt, and Russel Knox while only making it out of the first round once in the last five years, and that includes two years where it was a 64-man knockout bracket. Bubba is destroying it off the tee this year and with accuracy. He’s ranked sixth this year in strokes gained off-the-tee, and he’ll be cracking it 20-30 yards past his group opponents on driver holes this week. An accurate Bubba off-the-tee is a dangerous Bubba.
Patrick Reed ($7,700): This group will give us the epic Ryder Cup intra-squad match of Reed vs. Jordan Spieth. The two have been known as a deadly combination in Ryder Cup team matches but now we get to see them battle it out against each other. Reed has what it takes mentally to get fired up and win this group. You may recall Reed beating Rory McIlroy in the 2016 Ryder Cup when Rory was ranked third in the world. Reed is playing great golf lately (seventh and second his last two events) and really enjoys going head to head in match play.
Zach Johnson ($6,800): I thought about the match play wizard Ian Poulter, but Johnson is the safer pick right now. He’s simply playing better golf than Poulter, and he’s in one of the easiest groups. Matt Kuchar is the lowest-ranked pool one player, Yuta Ikeda is 1-5-1 in his match play career, and while Ross Fisher is a solid player, he is by no means unbeatable. I know I said pick guys who can make birdies in bunches, but this is my one steady pick. Johnson is playing well this year playing his game. He’s experienced and patient and pretty dangerous. He’s 20th on Tour this year in birdies per round, so he’ll do more than just par you to death.
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