World Golf Championships
Accenture Match Play
Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bentgrass (5,000 square feet on average)
Rough: Bermudagrass at 3”
Water Hazards: one
Course Architect: Jack Nicklaus (2008)
Winner’s Share: $1,500,000
FexExCup Points: 550 to the winner
Defending Champion: Hunter Mahan defeated Rory McIlroy (2&1) to win his second WGC event (2010 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational). Mark Wilson defeated Lee Westwood (1-up) for third place.
Dates: February 20-24
Notes: The top 64 players according to the OWGR after the conclusion of play at the NTO will be seeded 1-16 in four brackets. Players will play match play and contrary to the television talking heads, no matches will ever be “dormie” because there must be a winner to advance to the second round. If the match is all square after 18 holes, the competitors will play sudden death starting at one tee and moving forward until there is a winner. Gamers, this event starts bright and early on WEDNESDAY morning so make sure to set your line-ups, drafts and weekly games accordingly.
Even though WGC-Accenture Match Play began in 1999, the Ritz-Carlton Course at Dove Mountain has only been the host since 2009 so please remember this when looking at course form.
The winners at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain have been Geoff Ogilvy (2009), Ian Poulter (2010), Luke Donald (2011) and Hunter Mahan (2012).
Only Tiger Woods (2003-2004) has won this event in consecutive years.
Only Woods (2003-04; 2008) and Geoff Ogilvy (2006; 2009) have won this event multiple times.
Of the 14 winners, only six have been major champions (Woods, Ogilvy, Toms, Clarke).
Tiger Woods has the largest victory in this event, famously defeating Stephen Ames “nine and eight”.
Strangely enough, Ben Crane beat Rory McIlroy here in 2011 8 and 7. That will win you a bar bet.
Of the 10 players with the most match wins in history in this event, only Tiger Woods, Ian Poulter and Luke Donald are in this week's field.
The highest seeds to win the whole enchilada are No. 62 Kevin Sutherland (2002), No. 55 Steve Stricker (2001) and Geoff Ogilvy No. 52 (2006).
The best finish by a left-hander in this event was fourth place by Bubba Watson in 2011. Weird.
The defending champion has been eliminated in the first round four times in 14 years as Jeff Maggert (2001), Steve Stricker (2002), Ian Poulter (2011) and Luke Donald (2012). Yikes.
Rank and File
Of the top 64 players in the world, only No. 4 Brandt Snedeker (rib injury), No. 9 Phil Mickelson (vacation) are not in the field this week. They were replaced by Shane Lowry and Fredrik Jacobson. If any player WD’s before their tee time on Wednesday, they will be replaced REGARDLESS of seed by the first alternate.
In the high Sonoran desert of Arizona sits the Ritz-Carlton Golf Course at Dove Mountain. Designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened for play in 2009, the course has nice and wide fairways plus large, undulating Bentgrass greens. There are four par-fives and a drivable par-four as well but don’t let that distort your view that only long hitters do well here. Ask the last three winners (Poulter, Donald and Mahan) where they rank in driving distance!
Match play is quite different from stroke play in many facets. One, you are playing against your opponent AND the course. One bad hole in stroke play can ruin a great round; one bad hole in match play and you can only lose ONE hole. Two, the best player doesn’t always win. You can shoot five under par on your card and LOSE one down. Conversely, you can be even par and playing poorly and still find a win to beat your opponent even though the course has beaten you!
In match play, I’m looking for guys who are GIR specialists or short-game masters. Players can put the pressure on their opponents by hitting green after green or by getting up and down from everywhere, forcing their opponents to hole putts. The closely mown areas around the greens will test the player’s short game with the wedge and the utility club. The wide fairways here are not an advantage to accurate drivers so don’t be dissuaded by those wild off the tee. The greens will be running at 11 on the Stimpmeter so plenty of guys will be aggressive as they try and hole putts. You’ll hear plenty of “pick it up, that’s good” this week as well.
Very few will argue that this is the most difficult tournament of the season to forecast and project. Match play involves great golf AND great luck throughout the week. Making five straight pars can win you a match or see you get blown out of a match and that’s what makes this event fascinating.
When filling out your bracket, don’t forget that there are upsets every year in this event. All four No. 1 seeds have NEVER played in the semi-finals so think outside the box if you want to compete this week. I’d take a look at guys who make plenty of birdies if you are torn between two players. I would also look at Jeff Sagarin’s ratings if you need to break a tie. Also, I haven’t mentioned anything about the Ryder Cup or President’s Cup singles records because, in my mind, those circumstances don’t translate to an individual event like this. Apples and kumquats that.
So what? So let’s dance! Good luck!