WGC Match Play picks and predictions: Henrik Stenson headlines a weaker Jones bracket

Stuart Franklin

With no Tiger, Adam, or Phil, the top seed at the WGC-Match Play goes to Henrik Stenson. Can he shake off a recent fatigued stretch to win his second Match Play title? Some picks and predictions for the Jones Bracket he headlines.

The Bobby Jones Bracket at the WGC-Accenture Match Play features the No. 1 overall seed, Henrik Stenson. But after Stenson and No. 2 Jason Day, it's the weakest of the four brackets. Stenson is obviously the headliner, the Swede who rocketed back up the world rankings last fall by winning both the PGA Tour and European Tour playoffs.

Stenson has made a ton of cash over the last calendar year, and another WGC title would be a significant addition to the coffers. Only the Players Championship and PGA Championship ($10 million) have larger purses than the WGC events ($9 million). It looked like Stenson would make a charge at Tiger's perch atop the world rankings, but he cooled off during the Middle East stretch at the start of the Euro Tour's season. After some rest, Stenson returns to the States and to a Match Play event he's won before, back in 2007 before he lost his swing and disappeared from meaningful competitive golf.

He is the favorite to come out of this bracket and perhaps to win it all, but there are definitely some good options peppered in at some of the lower seeds. Here are some picks and predictions for the Bobby Jones Bracket:

Jones_bracket

Best 1st Round Match

No. 6 Graham DeLaet vs. No. 11 Patrick Reed -- 10: 15 a.m. ET

DeLaet has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but that doesn't mean he's not one of the best bets out there every week. After working his way up through the Sunshine and Canadian Tours, DeLaet broke out in 2013 with one of the most consistent seasons in the big leagues. He really first popped up with contention at Torrey and the Honda Classic, and then cemented his status as a world class player with back-to-back top five finishes in the first two FedExCup events. The second half run secured his spot on the Presidents Cup International team, and he held up well playing with Jason Day and getting his match play feet wet.

DeLaet is already back to cashing huge checks this year, with four top 10s in six events and back-to-back second place finishes at Farmers and Phoenix. Given his form, and last fall's match play experience, he's a favorite to come out of the Jones Bracket.

Much like DeLaet, Reed is a lesser-known player who has emerged as one of the best week-to-week bets. In January, he joined Rory McIlroy and Harris English as the only players under 25 with multiple wins. The victory at Humana in Palm Springs backed up his playoff win at the Wyndham last fall, and while he doesn't get as much play as some of the other up-and-comers, he's just as talented and now more decorated. The Jones bracket has some of the weaker first round matchups, but this certainly isn't one of them.

Underdog Pick

It's hard calling anyone in the top 70 in the Official World Golf Rankings an underdog, but for this purpose, I'll define that as a No. 9 seed or higher. I'll take Billy Horschel for my Jones Bracket underdog pick. The aforementioned Reed is an equally good option, but Horschel has played well with all the top players in the world over the past year so it's easy to seem him being unmoved by the seeds ahead of him. He's also got the talent to hang with anyone and is coming off two weeks rest for his opening round match against Welshman Jamie Donaldson. Horschel is also a little bit nuts, and his emoting has been known to get under the skin of a match play opponent.

Darkhorse Pick

Again, for this exercise trying to sort the top players in the world, we'll define a darkhorse as a five seed or higher. I have to stick with No. 6 seed DeLaet, who's right there with No. 2 Jason Day as the favorite to come out of the bottom half of the bracket. DeLaet will make some noise this week, and could get all the way to Sunday's final four.

1st Round Jones Bracket Predictions

Stenson def. Aphibarnrat
Oosthuizen def. Watney
Lynn def. Snedeker
Simpson def. Jaidee
Day def. Olesen
Horschel def. Donaldson
Coetzee def. Stricker
DeLaet def. Reed

2nd Round Jones Bracket Predictions

Stenson def. Oosthuizen
Simpson def. Lynn
Day def. Horschel
DeLaet def. Coetzee

3rd Round Jones Bracket Predictions

Stenson def. Simpson
DeLaet def. Day

Jones Bracket Winner

DeLaet def. Stenson

I'm sticking with the Canadian to come out of this weaker bracket and knock off the No. 1 overall seed.

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