ROAD TO THE FINAL FOUR:
Phil Mickelson: Setting Brendan Jones to the PGA Tour average, I have Mickelson with the easiest pod of the all the No. 1 seeds. Is Brendan Jones that good? Honestly, I find it hard to believe. At the PGA Tour average he could make a lot of money in the US or on the European Tour, so why play on those tours. My hunch is he probably falls around .1 to .15 in my rankings. There are usually around 150-200 players in the world with a ranking better than average. After that, you have the spectacularly hyped Rickie Fowler, who still hasn’t done much to earn the amount hype he receives and the underrated but not great Peter Hanson. That makes Mickelson the second most likely No. 1 to move onto the third round. Mickelson earns a bit of bad luck in that in the third round Kuchar is probably the best 4-seed and arguably better than Mickelson, but the two and threes in this bracket are also below average should Phil advance that far.
Graeme McDowell: Slocum is your run of the mill solid player with enough good weeks (wins) to get into the top-64 of the world. He is about what you can expect out of the 15 slot. After that Graeme has the poor fortune of running into the winner of Ross Fisher and Robert Allenby. Both of those players are way better than comparative seeds. Allenby is the fifth best player in this draw so that’s tough for Graeme. At the top, McDowell couldn’t have drawn a better bracket with both Phil and Ian Poulter well below average for their seeds in this field. Kuchar as the four in this bracket could really do some damage (I have him as the best player) but the odds of McDowell facing him are slim.
Ian Poulter: Poulter is fractions of a point better than Allenby for the fourth-best player in this bracket. So, I don’t feel too bad that he has a tough first round match-up with Stewart Cink, who should fall closer to the 5-9 range based on skill relative to this field. Alvaro Quiros and Y.E. Yang are pretty run of the mill for the second round, but with the combination of Cink in the first and Poulter’s low ranking for a three, Poulter is the least likely No. 3 to make it to the third round.
Matt Kuchar: The Kuch really could not have drawn a better bracket as a four. He’s better than G-Mac and Poulter and arguably better than Phil. This is a great draw for a really good player. In the first round, Anders Hansen is a strong underrated 13, but Kuchar is still a lot better. That would almost be a tougher match than if wonderfully over-ranked Louis Oosthuizen made it to the second round to face Kuchar. The Bracket would really open up for Kuchar if that is the case with potentially Mickelson being the only player he wouldn’t be favored over. Bo Van Pelt is actually a better player, though, and with a similar 2010 to Kuchar, but he is about average compared to a strong batch of 12 seeds.
FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Brendan Jones (+225) vs. Phil Mickelson (-260): I honestly don’t think Brendan Jones is that good. The Japanese Tour or whatever tour he is playing on now, has some kind of racket to boost their players up in the OWGR. But, the proof when they come over to play a lot (Ryo Ishikawa) is they really aren’t that good. I usually like big number underdogs, but I’m not sure Jones is it at this price.
Peter Hanson (+115) vs. Rickie Fowler (-135): This was called a while ago in the comments. My rankings have Hanson as the better player and I don’t see any reason to disagree.
Bo Van Pelt (+110) vs. Louis Oosthuizen (-130): Aside from one week last July, there is zero doubt in my mind that Bo Van Pelt is the better player. Aside from a slow start this season, BVP has posted better seasons than Uzi in every year where I have good data for both (since 2004).
Heath Slocum (+175) vs. Graeme McDowell (-210): This one is close, but I think I like Slocum here. He’s been off to a slow start in 2011, but there is very little chance that Graeme McDowell is as good as he played last year. Maybe a little better than my rankings indicate if anything, but I think that leaves some room for Slocum value.
FAVORITE: The chance of
facing Bo Van Pelt in the second round could put a damper on things, and is the reason he’s slightly behind Phil Mickelson in the odds above to win this bracket, but I’m going out on a limb and making Kuchar the favorite here. If anything goes his way he is set up for a relatively easy run to the final four and is arguably the best player in this bracket.
SLEEPER: Drawing Kuchar in the second round would be a downer, but how about Bo Van Pelt? In reality he wouldn’t be as big an underdog as expected against any of the top four in this region. However, there is clearly an easier draw on the bottom for Robert Allenby, who could avoid most of the trouble of Kuchar and Mickelson and could give the two and three in this region a run for their money. So, I’ll go with Allenby: