Golf

Ranking the Best Match Play Golfers on the PGA Tour

Mike DudurichContributor IFebruary 18, 2014

Ranking the Best Match Play Golfers on the PGA Tour

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    Dove Mountain provides an interesting venue for the Accenture Match Play Championship.
    Dove Mountain provides an interesting venue for the Accenture Match Play Championship.Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

    Because most professional golfers play only a couple of match play events each year, it's hard to build up much of a resume.

    Those who do have been around awhile and have established themselves as premier players.

    You won't find many youngsters on a list of the top 10 match play golfers on the PGA Tour. It takes a solid game, a bulldog-like mentality and the ability to make big shots when the pressure is on.

    Here's a list of  the best match play golfers on tour as the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship begins Wednesday.

10. Martin Kaymer

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    Martin Kaymer has one of the best swings on the PGA Tour.
    Martin Kaymer has one of the best swings on the PGA Tour.Eileen Blass-USA TODAY

    Martin Kaymer is experienced, and that might be his best asset these days.

    He's not been a force in regular PGA Tour events, but he brings definite talent in the match play arena to Dove Mountain.

    Since 2009, his worst finish in this event is a T17 (twice). He was a runner-up in 2011 and has a pair of T9s the last two years.

    The native of Germany also has a 3-2 record in the Ryder Cup for Team Europe.

    He's not seeded very highly at 12th, but don't be surprised if his experience helps him win a couple of matches early—something he's done in each of the last three years in this event.

9. Jason Day

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    Jason Day seems to be everybody's favorite to have a big year in 2014.
    Jason Day seems to be everybody's favorite to have a big year in 2014.Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Jason Day doesn't have a great deal of professional match play experience (he's 4-4-2 in the Presidents Cup), but hey, the 26-year-old Australian is just getting his career cranked up.

    He almost won The Masters last year and has all the talent in the world.

    He's played three times in the Match Play Championship, finishing third, T17 and T9. His third-place finish a year ago happened when he lost to Matt Kuchar in the semifinals and then beat Ian Poulter in the consolation match.

    Keep an eye on him this week.

8. Keegan Bradley

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    Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson forged a great friendship and partnership in the 2013 Presidents Cup.
    Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson forged a great friendship and partnership in the 2013 Presidents Cup.Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

    Keegan Bradley is a major champion, having won the 2011 PGA Championship.

    He has also proved to be a very good player throughout the season. He's won three times, earned over $12 million and has all the game and mental toughness necessary to be a good match play player.

    He hasn't done much in this event, but that could change this year. Remember when he and Phil Mickelson formed a strong team in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah? Mickelson's guidance seemed to bring out the best in his younger partner, and Bradley finished 3-1 in that event.

    That could have been the start of something very big for Bradley.

7. Sergio Garcia

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    Sergio Garcia, even with the canary yellow shirt, is a force in the Ryder Cup.
    Sergio Garcia, even with the canary yellow shirt, is a force in the Ryder Cup.Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Sergio Garcia has played in six Ryder Cups, starring in just about all of them.

    He has amassed a 16-8-4 record, and in 2006, Garcia had a chance to win all of his matches but was beaten by Stewart Cink, 4 and 3, in the final round.

    He's not been great in this event (his best finish was fourth in 2010), but a guy with his experience and who is playing a little better than in the last few years could be dangerous.

    Garcia has only played in two events thus far on the PGA Tour but has a T11 and fourth-place finish.

6. Zach Johnson

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    Zach Johnson is a very determined and highly talented golfer.
    Zach Johnson is a very determined and highly talented golfer.Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    OK, so Zach Johnson hasn't been on fire in the Accenture Match Play Championship recently. As a matter of fact, he hasn't advanced to the second day of the event since 2010.

    Things got bad for him last year when Jason Day hammered him, 6 and 5, a year ago.

    But the man has a 6-4-1 Ryder Cup record and a 7-6-0 Presidents Cup record and has been playing well since the start of the wraparound PGA Tour season. He's been in the top 10 in his last four starts.

    He hits the ball too well and with way too much accuracy not to be a factor in match play events.

5. Graeme McDowell

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    Graeme McDowell seems to finding his game again after his win in the 2010 U.S. Open.
    Graeme McDowell seems to finding his game again after his win in the 2010 U.S. Open.Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

    It seems as though anytime you watch a match play event, Graeme McDowell is always in the mix. He's a possessor of that bulldog mentality that's very helpful in these man-to-man events.

    On his resume is a win in the 2013 Volvo World Match Play, and he has finished T5 and T9 in the Accenture Match Play.

    He's a veteran of Ryder Cup competition and has compiled a 5-5-2 mark for Team Europe.

    McDowell played his best golf in winning the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which indicates he can handle the pressure of big events.

4. Luke Donald

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    There's not been a lot of sunshine for Luke Donald in the last few years, but he's still strong in match play events.
    There's not been a lot of sunshine for Luke Donald in the last few years, but he's still strong in match play events.Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

    While he might seem like light-years removed from the guy who was No. 1 in the world, a conversation about the best match play players in the world can't be had without Luke Donald's name being mentioned.

    Why? How about a 17-8 record in this event, including winning it in 2011? Combine that with a sparkling 10-3-1 Ryder Cup record, and you can see why he's always considered a contender.

    He doesn't hit it long off the tee, but he keeps the ball in play.

    Look for him to rebound after losing in the first round in 2012 and falling the second round last year.

    One of his victims on the way to his title in 2011? Matt Kuchar, who absorbed a 6 and 5 thrashing from Donald in the semifinals.

3. Ian Poulter

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    Ian Poulter hasn't won a major but is a dominant match play golfer.
    Ian Poulter hasn't won a major but is a dominant match play golfer.Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Ian Poulter won the Accenture Match Play event in 2010, solidifying the feeling that he was the best match play golfer in the world. But then he shockingly lost in the first round in 2011 and 2012.

    He has come back, however, getting to the semifinals last year. His record in the event is 22-11, and when you combine that with his 12-3 mark in the Ryder Cup, you come up with 34-14 match play beast.

    He has made it to the semifinals three times and has more wins than anyone else, 22, in this event.

2. Hunter Mahan

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    Hunter Mahan is one of the big favorites this week.
    Hunter Mahan is one of the big favorites this week.Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Hunter Mahan would be the top guy on this list if it weren't for Matt Kuchar.

    But he is a force in match play competition. He lost to Kuchar last year, beat him the year before defeating Rory McIlroy to win this event and registered a T9 in 2011.

    It's almost hard to imagine, but Mahan has been 11-1 the last two years and is 15-5 overall. He also has excelled for the most part in team match play competitions. He is 13-9-3 in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup competition.

    Mahan wants to get onto the United States Ryder Cup team this fall, and a good performance here would help him achieve that.

1. Matt Kuchar

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    Matt Kuchar excels in the match play format.
    Matt Kuchar excels in the match play format.Reed Saxon/Associated Press

    Consider Matt Kuchar's record in this event: first last year, T5 in 2012, third in 2011 and T17 in 2010. He's the obvious choice as the best match play player on the PGA Tour.

    There's something in his mental makeup that makes him difficult to beat in this tournament. His record in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play is a sparkling 15-3.

    He also has a 7-7-3 record in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup combined.

    This is a tough week for the players, and don't be surprised if Kuchar is around all week.

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