Ian Poulter is a solid choice to win this week's WGC-Accenture Match Play. (Redington/Getty Images)
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
John Merrick used plenty of local knowledge to tame Riviera Country Club en route to his first career PGA TOUR victory at the Northern Trust Open on Sunday. But the UCLA product also played beautifully, ranking inside the top 30 in six major statistical categories. One of those categories really stood out. We'll take a look at that and this week's World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship -- specifically match play guru Ian Poulter and World No. 1 Rory McIlroy -- by going inside the nunbers ...
3 The number of times a No. 64 seed has defeated the No. 1 overall seed in the 14-year history of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, which kicks off Wednesday at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. … Golf’s version of bracketology is a bit more fickle than the NCAA basketball version. Why? Well, it’s golf. Last season, No. 64 Ernie Els dusted No. 1 Luke Donald, 5 and 4. Donald, who was the defending champ, was going along nicely through seven holes, but proceeded to drop four of the next five. A few bad swings often lead to a quick exit -- especially considering the talent of the No. 64 seed. This year's No. 64 is Ireland's Shane Lowry (he faces No. 1 McIlroy), who won the 2012 Portugal Masters, beating the likes of top-50 players such as Matteo Manassero, Francesco Molinari, Jamie Donaldson and Padraig Harrington.
5 Number of times match play stalwart Poulter has advanced to the Sweet 16 (third round) or better in nine Accenture appearances. … After winning the event in 2010, Poulter has been bounced in Round 1 each of the past two seasons. He enters this week on a roll, having turned his Ryder Cup success into a victory at the HSBC Champions. He also was T9 in his only appearance on U.S. soil this season in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He draws No. 14 seed Stephen Gallacher in Round 1 and with a win would see the winner of Bo Van Pelt and John Senden.
7 Number of top-five finishes in seven straight worldwide events for Charl Schwartzel. … How well is the former Masters champ from South Africa playing right now? Just look at his statistics at the Northern Trust Open, where he finished T3. Get this: Schwartzel was 5th in driving distance, T6 in greens in regulation, 6th in strokes gained-putting, 1st in total putting and 5th in scrambling. Incredible. Look for him to make some noise this week.
10 Number of top-10 finishes in WGC events for McIlroy, who has only competed in 15. … At the WGC-Accenture Match Play, McIlroy is 10-4 and has advanced past the first round in all four attempts. He was runner-up to Hunter Mahan last season. This year his path to the Final Four looks pretty challenging with No. 2 Bubba Watson, No. 3 Schwartzel, No. 4 Dustin Johnson, No. 5 Graeme McDowell, No. 6 Zach Johnson and No. 7 Jim Furyk all lurking in the Bobby Jones bracket.
62.35 percent That’s the scrambling percentage in 2013 for Merrick, the Northern Trust Open champ. It ranks 59th on the PGA TOUR. So what’s the big deal, you ask? … Well, consider Merrick ranked 146th in this category in 2012 at 54.90 percent. Not much has changed when breaking down the keys stats on Merrick from the past few seasons. He’s pretty much the same off the tee, on approaches and in putting. But scrambling is where he’s improved big time so far -- and he even made par or better after missing the green in regulation on 17 of 26 attempts at tricky Riviera. That’s impressive.
79.66 percent Greens in regulation percentage from outside of the fairway through three events for Peter Tomasulo. … The Web.com Tour grad has hit 47 of 59 greens from outside of the fairway to lead the TOUR this season. For comparison, Bubba Watson led this category the past two years at around 60 percent. Tomasulo has made all three cuts.
168 The number of first-round upsets in the 14-year history of the WGC-Accenture Match Play. … That’s an average of a dozen upsets (a higher seed winning) each year in 32 first-round matches, with a high of 18 occurring the first year in 1999. That comes out to upsets occurring, on average, a ridiculous 37.5 percent of the time in Round 1. Let the madness begin ...
INSIDE THE NUMBERS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open/Humana Challenge