The fourth and final quadrant of the Accenture Match Play bracket takes the name of Sam Snead, and Zach Johnson sits on the No. 1 line. Johnson is the beneficiary of Tiger, Phil, and Adam Scott passing on the Tucson stop, with the steady Iowan jumping up to claim the fourth and final No. 1 seed. Johnson has arguably been the most consistent player in the world since last August, but relatively few casual fans are aware of his week-to-week success. Even as the No. 1 seed, he's flying under the radar and has longer odds than No. 8 seed Hunter Mahan.
The bottom half of the bracket is loaded with next generation American stars. Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, and Keegan Bradley are three go-to names in any discussion of the depth of American golf, and all three are good bets to make the Ryder Cup team. A strong showing in a match play format could make an impression on captain Tom Watson if they're unable to qualify on points alone. While Bubba and Dustin have each placed inside the top two twice in the last month, I'm taking Bradley to make it out of the Snead bracket.
Best 1st Round Match
No. 4 Graeme McDowell vs. No. 13 Gary Woodland -- 12:25 p.m. ET
This is the sixth straight year McDowell will play in this event, and his record isn't exactly impressive. He's been tough for the Euro Ryder Cup team, however, and he's looked solid since the fall series. The 2013 season was a wild year of fluctuations from contention one week to missed cut the next, but he remains one of the toughest players in the world, particularly in the one-on-one format.
Woodland is one of the best athletes on the PGA Tour, and has the talent to become Ryder Cup regular on the American side. The Kansan crushes the ball and this is a course he could overpower with those bombs off the tee. He was in it at Torrey Pines until the driver went completely wild on Sunday, opening the door for Scott Stallings to edge him out. But the Butch Harmon pupil is at the point where he's regularly contending and could finally break out this year to land that first Ryder Cup spot.
This is just Woodland's second Accenture Match Play appearance, so McDowell has the edge but it's the most intriguing first round matchup in the Snead section.
We're defining "underdog" as a No. 9 seed or higher for this exercise, and while Jonas Blixt and Kevin Streelman are a couple intriguing options, I have to stick with the aforementioned Woodland. He's got the best form, and given McDowell's recent track record here, his opening round match against the high seed is definitely a toss-up. In addition to that aforementioned close-call at the Farmers, Woodland's been on or near the first page of the leaderboard since the second half of last year. He seems ready to make the leap, improving the short game and putting to match that natural talent off the tee. A deep run at the WGC would hasten that breakout year.
There's no real darkhorse when you're picking from the top 60 or so players in the world, but we're defining this one as a No. 5 seed or higher who could make noise. For the Snead bracket, it's a no-brainer. Hunter Mahan is the most dangerous No. 8 seed this event has ever seen. He won it two years ago, and got all the way to the finals last year before falling to Matt Kuchar. There's no player in the field, save for Ian Poulter, who should feel more confident than Mahan in this format and on this course. It's why, even on the eight line, he has the third lowest odds, ahead of the No. 1 seed.
1st Round Snead Bracket Predictions
Z. Johnson def. Sterne
Mahan def. Fernandez-Castano
Woodland def. McDowell
Kaymer def. Matsuyama
D. Johnson def. Hanson
Dubuisson def. Streelman
Watson def. Ilonen
Bradley def. Blixt
2nd Round Snead Bracket Predictions
Mahan def. Z. johnson
Woodland def. Kaymer
D. Johnson def. Dubuisson
Bradley def. Watson
3rd Round Snead Bracket Predictions
Mahan def. Woodland
Bradley def. D. Johnson
Snead Bracket Winner
Bradley def. Mahan
We've seen the anchored-putting Bradley win a WGC event already, and he's under seeded here at No. 6. I except him to make a deep run and get to the weekend.