Justin Rose has had plenty of success in match play in recent years, and he's a solid bet to make it through the Ben Hogan bracket at the WGC Match Play this week in Arizona.
The Ben Hogan bracket does not have the headlining stars of the other quadrants at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, but it might be the most competitive from top to bottom. Louis Oosthuizen, the pick of many to win the green jacket in April, sits at the top of the bracket as the No. 5 player in the world. Thanks to Brandt Snedeker's vacation, the sweet swinging South African slots into the top spot, where he'll face Richie Ramsay on Day 1. Oosthuizen is unrelentingly steady and should have the advantage in a match play format.
But Oosthuizen's trip to the final four is likely the most difficult of all the No. 1 seeds, with Justin Rose at the bottom of the bracket, and both Ernie Els and Keegan Bradley at the top. Bradley and Matt Kuchar appear to be the best hopes for an American coming out of a bracket filled with international superstars. The complete Ben Hogan bracket, with some predictions following:
Hogan Bracket -- Best 1st Round Match
No. 7 Bill Haas vs. No. 10 Nicolas Colsaerts (10:55 a.m. ET Weds.) -- This is a first round match between two of the best young players on either side of the Atlantic. Colsaerts proved himself a worthy captain's choice last fall in the Ryder Cup, as the Belgian bomber pulled his weight at the end of the European bench. He's a 10 seed but definitely a dangerous opponent in match play, and this week he'll have another shot to boost his bona fides in that format.
Colsaerts runs into Haas, who appears to have his game in order at the start of the 2013 season. He appeared well on his way to a repeat at Riviera last week before things went off the rails on Sunday. But the way he's played through the first month of the season make this the most competitive first round match, on paper.
Hogan Bracket Underdog -- Fredrik Jacobson
As I noted in my Player Bracket preview, it's hard to call anyone an underdog in this loaded field, but for purposes of this pick I am defining that as a 9-seed or higher. Freddy Jacobson stormed onto the leaderboard last week at Riviera with a hot Sunday round that looked like it would put him in a playoff with John Merrick and Charlie Beljan. Jacobson missed a short putt on No. 18 to fall out of the playoff, but it was still a vintage round for the streaky Swede. He's one of those Tour regulars who can make birdies in bunches and that's a huge advantage in match play. With his recent form, he should win at least one match this week.
Hogan Bracket Darkhorse -- Matt Kuchar
The lanky Kuchar is another player who can get hot and go on a birdie streak, wiping out match play competition. He debuted at Riviera last week with a low first round after spending a few weeks away on vacation. Kuchar is in contention on almost a weekly basis, and he's the most likely darkhorse (5-seed or lower) to play his way out of the Hogan bracket and into the final four.
1st Round Hogan Bracket Predictions
Oosthuizen def. Ramsay
Garrigus def. Grace
Bradley def. Fraser
Jacobson def. Els
Rose def. Choi
Haas def. Colsaerts
Garcia def. Jaidee
Kuchar def. Fujita
2nd Round Hogan Bracket Predictions
Oosthuizen def. Garrigus
Jacobson def. Bradley
Rose def. Haas
Kuchar def. Garcia
3rd Round Hogan Bracket Predictions
Jacobson def. Oosthuizen
Rose def. Kuchar
Hogan Bracket Winner
Justin Rose def. Fredrik Jacobson
Overall Bracket Final 4
Tiger Woods (Gary Player Bracket)
Charl Schwartzel (Bobby Jones Bracket)
Justin Rose (Ben Hogan Bracket)
Ian Poulter (Sam Snead Bracket)
2013 WGC Match Play winner
(From my Player Bracket preview) Justin Rose -- The Englishman continued his impressive play this season with two strong showings in the Middle East to start 2013. Rose picked up his fourth career PGA Tour win at a WGC event last year, and I think he'll be the toughest out in the bracket this year. It's hard to compare the Ryder Cup stakes to the match play format of this event, but Rose has repeatedly proven he can win any game against any opponent. He's a trendy pick to win his first career major this year, and I think that potentially big season starts with a win in Arizona on Sunday.