For all the talk of fifth majors and what tournaments play as tough if not tougher than the big four, one event in particular stands out each PGA Tour Season.
The World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play is the most unique stop on Tour.
With a head-to-head bracket format, it delivers drama and excitement that stroke-play events just can’t match. Last year’s tournament delivered a new celebrity in Victor Dubuisson, who emerged from anonymity to finish second despite his ridiculous short game. What will 2015 hold?
For one, a new format. Players will now face three matches in hopes of escaping four-golfer pools. It’s now more like the World Cup than the NCAA Basketball tournament.
At any rate, first round matches won’t carry the same significance as in year’s past. That’s okay. We’ll list the five most intriguing ones here anyway.
1. Justin Rose v. Marc Leishman
Next to Jordan Spieth, no golfer on the PGA Tour is hotter than Justin Rose. Coming off a T2 at Augusta earlier this month, Rose won the Zurich Classic last weekend. However, few will be cheering for the popular Englishman come Wednesday.
Rose’s opponent Marc Leishman is returning to the big crowds mere weeks after his wife nearly died from Toxic Shock Syndrome. Leishman’s presence alone will be inspiring. To add to the drama, these two will kick off the tournament at 9:50 AM.
2. Bubba Watson v. Miguel Angel Jimenez
Talk about a clash of characters. Watson’s popularity wavers on tour (See the ESPN poll that came out right before the Masters), whereas Jimenez’s remains ever growing.
El Mecanico delights the masses with his wine, cigars, warm-up routine, and yes, golf game. Watson seems like a poor impersonator who tries too hard. But he is fun. There’s no denying that.
3. Graeme McDowell v. Shane Lowry
Regardless of the current history, it’s sobering to see these two Irishmen side by side. McDowell is from the UK ruled Northern Ireland, Lowry from the autonomous country that takes up the rest of the island.
With the Olympics coming in 2016, the golfing Irish have caused a bit of a stir with announcements of where their loyalties might lie in Rio. Then again, the Ryder Cup is always on their mind too. McDowell is a veteran. Lowry would like to be someday.
4. Victor Dubuisson v. Charl Schwartzel
As stated in the intro, Dubuisson was the breakout star of the 2014 match play. Aside from a solid debut at the Ryder Cup, he hasn’t done much since. But that doesn’t matter. Last year’s final match against Jason Day saw the Frenchman force extra holes with shots from behind cacti and off rocks. What does he have in store this year?
5. Rory McIlroy v. Jason Dufner
Dufner is a new man, a single man too L, with a leaner look and a shorter hairdo. As of late, he’s left his game with all the pounds he dropped. As a reward he gets World No. 1 Rory McIlroy in his opening match.
McIlroy produced a sterling final round at Augusta. He’ll now look for the victory that can truly jumpstart his follow-up to a dominant 2014.