The Paul Lawrie Match Play has a new sponsor, a new course and an even worse field than last year. Only three of the OWGR’s Top 100 are making their way to the Fidra Links at Archerfield Links Golf Club. Less than thirty miles east of Edinburgh, the Par 72 measures a measly 6,978 yards.
Match Play is an incredibly fair format. There is not any chance of a draw bias as your opponent is always playing in the same conditions. It looks like the wind will kick up a bit over the four days, especially on Sunday.
I’ll be backing one player from each quarter of the draw. On Sunday, hopefully, they’ll be the only four remaining. Chris Wood, Alex Noren, Matt Fitzpatrick and Richard Bland are the top seeds in each quarter but I don’t believe any will reach the semi-finals.
The first section holds the bulk of the talent. It also has some of the riff-raff. In the first round, Mikko Ilonen (25/1) only has to beat a completely lost Jin Jeong. This matches two former Amateur Champions but only one of them is still playing solid golf.
Ilonen has an excellent Match Play record. On top of his amateur win at Royal Liverpool in 2000, the Finn has won the Volvo World Match Play Championship. To win that he had to beat Henrik Stenson in the final and that is no easy task. The wind shouldn’t pose him any problem and although he’ll have some tough matches after the 1st Round, I fancy he’ll reach at least the semi-finals.
In the second quarter, things are a little tougher to predict. That said, if Jorge Campillo (50/1) can knock out a struggling Marc Warren on Thursday then he could have a good run to the final four. A potential match-up with Haydn Porteous could await in the 3rd Round and even though I like the South African, I fancy the Spaniard to come out on top in his sector.
Coming off a Top 10 in Scotland, the 30-year old will be raring to go. Still in search of his first European Tour win, this represents a great chance for Campillo. There isn’t anybody terribly threatening in his quarter and Richard Bland would likely be his quarter-final opponent. A win against Marc Warren would give him a huge confidence boost and I think he can turn that positivity into a Top 4 finish, at least.
The third section has one obvious name. If Alex Noren brings his A-Game then he may well win this tournament easily. There is only one man that can stop him. Step forward, Prom Meesawat (66/1). Coming in off a Top 15 in Scotland and a Top 20 in Thailand, Meesawat shouldn’t face much trouble on his way to the quarter-finals.
Anyone can beat anyone else in match play (and stroke play for that matter. You know match play sort of gets a bad rap for this reason but Rich Beem beat Dustin Johnson by like seven shots in the first round of the PGA Championship last week so, you know, match play isn’t a lottery. Golf in general isn’t a lottery. If it is, it’s a very predictable one.). What I’m saying is, Meesawat could definitely knock out Noren if given the chance. I think he’s a good bet.
In the final sector, I could have taken any one of four or five players. Bjorn, Canizares, Drysdale and Storm all jumped out at me before the draw was even made but it’s David Drysdale’s 1st Round opponent that I’ll be backing. Michael Hoey (90/1) is, like Mikko Ilonen, an Amateur Champion and a 5-Time European Tour winner.
The 37-year-old knocked out Kieffer (2&1), Broberg (5&4) and Havret (7&6) last year before losing in the quarter-finals. Kiradech Aphibarnrat went on to win the event after beating Hoey so it’s a very respectable result. An 8th place finish in Northern Ireland last week should make for good preparation. The more wind the better for Hoey so should he make it to Sunday, his chances look very good.