We have the best players in the world all congregating in Marana, Arizona to compete in a Match Play formatted tournament. This week the golf starts on Wednesday and will continue all the way to Sunday afternoon. The Accenture Match Play Championship is one of my favourite tournaments of the year and this week looks like it will have no shortage of excitement and drama for its viewers.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain
The PGA professionals will be attempting to conquer a course designed by one of the all time greats of their game, Jack Nicklaus. Jack designed this golf course not only as one that could hold a PGA event, but as an experience for any avid golfer to attend. The course is set up so fans are very close to the action with exciting shots to be witnessed and enjoyed.
The Golf Club is a 27 Hole design, but they have two Championship nines the players will be playing. At a combined 7849 yards the players will be hitting the ball a long, long way, to score well on this Par 72 beast.
With a legend like Nicklaus designing the course you know he took every detail into consideration to challenge the Pro’s of today. The course has length as previously mentioned, but it also has interesting elevation changes, various styles of bunkers and carefully shaped greens. As this course is in the desert you will see some players this week having to deal with shots from the natural sand and around some interesting vegetation.
My favourite hole on this gorgeous course is Number 15. This is a driveable Par 4 stretching out 343 yards in length but is a hole that tends to be near the end of many matches. The average length of a match is 16.2 holes which makes the 15th even more exciting. We will see eagles, we will see birdies and we will see matches end on this great hole.
We will see 63 out of the best 64 in the world this week so there will be no shortage of talent. The lone exception who is outside of the top 64 in the world will be J.B. Holmes, as he is filling in for an injured Tim Clark. Nevertheless the excitement always increases when all of the best golfers come together to play.
On American soil this year we have had the opportunity to witness the talents of Bill Haas, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and even a little bit of Tiger Woods. Now add the likes of Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, and Ian Poulter to the mix and we are in for some serious shot making this week.
With the format being Match Play the players are forced to accelerate their game plans as they are in an 18 Hole battle, as opposed to the usual 72 hole tournament. Fitness comes into play as players have the potential of playing 6 matches if they are good enough to make it to the finals.
In 2009 Paul Casey was in the finals against Geoff Ogilvy and could not find a way to beat the excellent Aussie golfer. In 2010 Casey managed to make it to the finals again, only to fall to fellow countryman Ian Poulter. Possibly with the final match changed from 36 Holes to 18 Holes this year, Casey will find a way into the winners circle.
Steves Six Pack Picks
After breaking down the bracket and researching a couple of the new players I did not have much information on (Hiroyuki Fujita, Yuta Ikeda and Matteo Manassero) there will be some interesting match ups. The players I decided to go with are based upon past success in the tournament, recent hot play and match ups in the bracket. Also I relied less on statistical information as these 18 hole matches are much different than a regular 72 hole tournament.
Paul Casey 14/1 – Cannot overlook his success at this tournament. With 2 runner-up finishes in the past 2 years it is completely understandable why he is in this weeks 6 pack. Is in the Sam Snead bracket that has the likes of Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson (though they are all on the other half of the bracket). Has a fairly easy road to the Elite 8, then look for him to rely on past success and a Ryder Cup snub to help him to the finals.
Martin Kaymer 14/1 – In my opinion Kaymer will be the world number 1 very soon. He is such a solid golfer and showed off his talents earlier this year with a victory in Abu Dhabi. He only holds a record of 2-3 in World Match Play Championships but his golf game has improved drastically from when those losses occurred. Is playing in the Gary Player Bracket this week as the number 1 seed. Look for an excellent 2nd round matchup with Englishman Justin Rose to occur, with the winner taking control of the bracket.
Steve Stricker 28/1 – One of the best putters on Tour is a Number 2 seed this week in the Bobby Jones Bracket. He will be matched up against youngster Matteo Manassero in the first round and should continue on to face some more experienced competition this week. Stricker won this tournament 10 years ago but has not fared as well of late (just a 10-7 record lifetime). Look for Stricker to utilize his solid all around game and great putting to grind out victories against some of the World’s best.
Matt Kuchar 33/1 – Kuchar will be in the Ben Hogan bracket this week. This is a tough bracket with Mickelson, Fowler, McDowell, Cink, Poulter and Fisher (All played in the Ryder Cup last year). But Kuchar has been solid this year with 3 Top 10 finishes, so he knows he can play well against these players. It was a long time ago but Kuchar did win the USA Amateur in 1997 (a match play event) so he has won on the big stage in this format.
Alvaro Quiros 40/1 – Once again a player playing in the difficult Ben Hogan Bracket but I can’t overlook that he is coming of a win at the Dubai Desert Classic. Alvaro has played very well on the European Tour but has yet to bring the same results over to the United States. This is purely a feel pick as I know he is playing well, he hits the ball an absolute mile and we are getting him at 40/1.
Justin Rose 60/1 – We are going with Rosey as our long shot of the week. He does have a tough first round matchup with Zach Johnson (though he is the better player) with the winner in all likelihood facing Martin Kaymer. I feel the winner of what I predict to be great Kaymer vs. Rose 2nd round match to win the Gary Player Bracket. Rose has played well so far this year and he is an excellent 60/1 shot this week.
As always good luck to the guys in the six pack and feel free to leave your comments below.
Paul Casey – Tied for 16th
Martin Kaymer – 2nd
Steve Stricker – Tied for 32nd
Matt Kuchar – 3rd
Alvaro Quiros – Tied for 32nd
Justin Rose- Tied for 16th
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