This week sees the first of this year’s WGC Tournament with the Accenture Match Play Championship pitching up at the Jack Nicklaus designed The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain. Nicklaus has said of the layout: “It’s absolutely gorgeous high desert, with a great forest of Saguaro, an abundance of cactus and beautiful vistas”. “It has been a very pretty piece of property to work with in designing these uniquely special high desert courses.”
The 7,833 yard monster is one of the longest courses on the PGA Tour but with the altitude being taking into account, it doesn’t really play to its true length, ranging from 2,300 to 3,200 feet above sea level. Nicklaus stated before last year’s Match Play event, “At this altitude, though, you’re taking about 4 percent off that so you’re basically at a 7,500-yard golf course, which is fine for professionals”.
It’s one of the ultimate risk and reward courses which is ideal for match play golf. There are few blind spots along the cactus-lined canyons, its large fairway bunkers and other hazards are almost all plainly visible.
Large undulating greens have plenty of movement in them to make matters interesting, so the emphasis will be on a great short game, rather than power. Nicklaus has also incorporated into his design mostly-dry steam beds along and across the fairways and in front of the greens.
This week its match play and so we will be going with two players from each group. There are some good prices on some great players this week and with the unpredictability of Match-play look out for a few upsets.
Bobby Jones Group
Webb Simpson 25/1
I did tip Webb last week but he finally broke his run of not finishing outside the Top 25. Simpson had a dramatic improvement last year on his first appearance in this event, when he didn’t make it out of the first round to making the Quarter Finals last year. The lad from North Carolina’s game has improved dramatically since then and he should be a real contender this year.
George Coetzee 80/1
I was stuck between Coetzee and Jason Day 16/1 who has a great record in this event, but the form George has been in lately and the odds he is being offered at this week swung it for me. Coetzee comes into this week on the back of a win and two other Top 5 finishes. He has played in this event twice and has not made it past the first round yet but I think that will change this week.
Gary Player Group
Justin Rose 20/1
Who could forget Justin’s epic battle in the 2012 Ryder Cup with Phil Mickelson on the final singles day, and with his recent major win at the last year’s US Open on Fathers day. Rose is another player who hasn’t played his best golf in this event, but I think Justin will have a great year this year and after knocking off the rust at the Northern Open last week, will be looking to do well here this week.
Joost Luiten 100/1
For those who follow this guide regularly will know we have done well on the lad from Holland and I think Joost will not only make the Ryder Cup team this year but also challenge in some of the major championships. Luiten makes lots of birdies and is a very aggressive player. I think Joost could be the surprise package this week and these are great odds.
Sam Snead Group
Hunter Mahan 25/1
This is a very tough group and one player who seems to love this event is the 2012 champion who defended his title last year by making the final. Hunter has made it past the first round every year he has played in this tournament apart from once back in 2010 and he followed that up by making the last 16 the year after.
Dustin Johnson 16/1
As I said this is a tough group and an in-form Dustin is at the other end of this draw so don’t be surprised if you find him and Hunter battling it out to go through to the semi-finals. Dustin has not been outside the Top 10 this year with two runners-up finishes in his last two events firing 66s in both his final rounds and still missing out!! Expect to see him in the hunt again this week.
Ben Hogan Group
Ian Poulter 28/1
Another tough group but I think Ryder Cup stalwart and the 2010 champion of this event will see the lad from Hertfordshire battling match-play skills come to the fore again. Poulter made the semi final last year and although he hasn’t started this year well he just loves head-to-head golf.
Rory McIlroy 14/1
We hardly tipped Rory last year, and with his well-documented struggle with the new Nike equipment it has taken the Irishmen a while to settle down and get to grips so to speak. But two Top 10 finishes on the Desert swing of the European tour and a win at the back end of last year at the Australian Open are signs that his form is coming back. One thing he hasn’t lost is how to make a birdie or seven!
For updated betting odds during the tournament goto planetgolfreview.com