Arizona betting guide
Mark Kendall previews the WGC-Accenture Match Play and casts an eye over this week's best bets in Arizona.
By Mark Kendall - Twitter: @SkySportsMK
Last Updated: 19/02/13 5:09pm
This week sees the cream of the world's golfing crop assemble for the first World Golf Championships event of the season - the Accenture Match Play Championship.
The competition sees the top 64 players in the world rankings go head-to-head in a straight 18-hole knock-out format, with the players divided into four brackets; Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Gary Player. Only two of the original 64-man field will not be present this week with Phil Mickelson opting to skip the event and Brandt Snedeker ruled out through injury.
Since 2009, the tournament has taken place at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Tucson, Arizona over the 'Saguaro' and 'Tortolita' nines of the 27-hole complex.
Following its inception in 1999, an American has won eight of the 14 renewals with world number two Tiger Woods having collected the title three times - the last in 2008.
However, in recent times foreign players have dominated with five of the last seven champions coming from overseas, including Englishmen Ian Poulter (2010) and Luke Donald (2011).
Sky Sports will have live coverage of all five days of the tournament.
Designed by Jack Nicklaus and finished in 2008, the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain is situated in the heart of the Arizona desert. The complex has three nine-hole courses; the Saguaro, the Tortolita and the Wild Burro. It is the Saguaro (3,894 yards) and Tortolita (3,897 yards) lay-outs that are used for this event, forming a par-72 track measuring a total of 7,791 yards that wanders through the Tortolita mountain range. With generous wide fairways, long hitters are certainly at an advantage, although things tend to get more difficult as you play into the greens with a number of elevation changes. While the putting surfaces themselves are fairly sizeable, they are undulating which means finding the right part with your approach can be crucial.
Last year - Hunter Mahan
Hunter Mahan snapped a run of three successive foreign winners as he beat Rory McIlroy in the final with a 2&1 victory, denying McIlroy the chance to become world number one in the process. Mahan beat Zach Johnson, YE Yang, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar and Mark Wilson to set up the showdown with McIlroy. The American was always in control of the final after moving three up before the turn and at one stage moved four clear. McIlroy responded on the back nine to halve the lead, but Mahan eventually closed out victory on the 17th green to claim his second WGC title.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Tiger Woods (11/1): A three-time winner of the event, Tiger Woods has obvious claims to the title this week, although he has not won the tournament at its current venue. Woods looked rusty as he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi on his seasonal debut, but came roaring back at one of his favourite venues, Torrey Pines, to claim a four-shot victory at the Farmers Insurance Open. Narrowly beaten by Nick Watney in the second round last year, Woods faces compatriot Charles Howell III in his opening contest this time around.
2013 form: MC/1
Tournament form: 17-33-DNP-17-1
World ranking: 2
Rory McIlroy (12/1): Plenty of question marks hang over McIlroy ahead of this week's event following his woeful display in Abu Dhabi. After all the fanfare of his multi-million dollar switch to Nike, the world number one was a pale imitation of his former self on his first outing with the new clubs as he shot consecutive 75s to miss the cut by a distance. McIlroy has spent the past month away from the spotlight working on his game and it will be interesting to see if some of the flaws - notably with his new driver - have been ironed out. The beaten finalist last year, the Northern Irishman has already demonstrated he likes both the format and course, it remains to be seen whether his game is in good enough shape to go deep again.
2013 form: MC
Tournament form: 2-17-17-5-DNP
World ranking: 1
Luke Donald (16/1): Donald is another previous winner of this event and has the match play pedigree to merit consideration once again. While he may not have the length others will enjoy over this vast track, he certainly has the accuracy with his irons and the short-game skills, while his prowess with the putter makes him dangerous in any match play situation. The Englishman warmed up with an encouraging display at Riviera last week as he finished tied 16th, although he will have been disappointed to fall away with a final round of 75.
2013 form: MC
Tournament form: 33-1-9-9-17
World ranking: 3
Charl Schwartzel (16/1): Arguably the world's most in-form golfer, Schwartzel has finished in the top three or better in his last six events, winning two of them. The South African is oozing confidence and, such is the consistency of his play at present, looks capable of contending wherever he turns up. His record in the Arizona desert is modest at best, but he has never arrived in such good shape before. He takes on American Russell Henley in the first round and, grouped in what looks a fairly open Bobby Jones bracket, will fancy his chances of breaking new ground by getting past the third round at the very least.
2013 form: 3-2-1
Tournament form: 17-17-9-17-DNP
World ranking: 11
Ian Poulter (18/1): Poulter is widely regarded as 'Mr Match Play'. His exploits in the Ryder Cup are already the stuff of legend, especially his remarkable display at Medinah last September. The Englishman relishes the competitive nature of the format and the opportunity to test himself against a single opponent. With a superb short-game and rock-solid putting stroke, Poulter has the tools required for this event, as he proved in 2010 when he went all the way. The 37-year-old is bound to have many backers this week.
2013 form: 9
Tournament form: 33-33-1-9-17
World ranking: 13
Hunter Mahan (18/1): The defending champion, Mahan looks to be coming back into form at just the right time to make a real fist of defending his title in Arizona. The 30-year-old endured a disappointing end to his 2012 season, culminating in being overlooked for the Ryder Cup, but has hit the ground running this term and has finished in the top 16 or better in his last four starts - including a tie for eighth at Riviera last week. Mahan has been drawn in the competitive looking Gary Player bracket, starting with a tricky-looking engagement with Matteo Manassero, but has already proved he knows what it takes around this place.
2013 form: 8-16-16-15-26
Tournament form: 1-9-33-17-17
World ranking: 15
Justin Rose (22/1): Whilst Rose's record at this event is poor, in eight appearances he has got past the second round only once, he heads into this year's renewal perhaps more confident that at any stage in his career. He is also riding the crest of a match play wave having followed that remarkable come-from-behind Ryder Cup singles win over Phil Mickelson with victory at Turkish Airlines World Golf Final just two weeks later, beating Lee Westwood in the final. Speaking of his chances this week, Rose said: "I definitely would like to ride that wave of momentum and confidence. The experience I've gained the last six months match play wise will help me this week."
2013 form: 2-16
Tournament form: 33-17-DNP-33-33
World ranking: 6
Adam Scott (25/1): Scott is another player with a modest record at this tournament, especially in recent years. His detractors would argue that the Australian perhaps lacks the killer instinct and mental fortitude required in this format, although there is no doubting he has the length and ball-striking ability to go well at Dove Mountain. Coming off a solid seasonal debut at Riviera (T10), Scott should be confident, but finds himself in the ultra-competitive Sam Snead bracket with the likes of Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Steve Stricker and Nick Watney.
2013 form: 10
Tournament form: 33-33-17-33-17
World ranking: 7
Best of the restLee Westwood (28/1): Having rather lost his way towards the end of last season with his well-documented short-game problems seemingly getting on top of him, Westwood opted to shake things up and looks the better for it. Having moved his family Stateside to focus on having a proper crack at the PGA Tour there appears to be a determination about the Englishman this year. Results thus far may been solid rather than spectacular, but he will have good memories heading back to Arizona having reached the last four 12 months ago and demonstrated his liking for the format by reaching the final in Turkey back in October.
2013 form: 21-46-5
Tournament form: 4-17-17-17-17
World ranking: 8
Martin Kaymer (33/1): Having reached the top of the world rankings 2011, Kaymer spent the next 18 months heading backwards and cut a rather lost and forlorn figure for large spells of 2012. But his starring role in that win in Medinah seems to prove the catalyst for a long overdue revival from the German. A player of undoubted quality, he got back to winning ways at the Nedbank Challenge and now looks something like his old self. A losing finalist to Luke Donald in 2010, his record at this event has been solid in recent times and he clearly has a liking for desert golf given his unbelievable record in Abu Dhabi and a couple more top-10s in the Gulf Swing already this year. Add in the fact that the German has a base in Scottsdale just down the road and you feel this is event in which he feels comfortable and which he has the pedigree in which to excel.
2013 form: MC-6-9
Tournament form: 9-2-17-17-33
World ranking: 28
Nicolas Colsaerts (55/1): The Belgian bomber is always going to be an intimidating match play opponent because of effortless and quite monstrous length. That will certainly give him an advantage at this sizeable track, although it counted for little as he was bundled out in the first round by Lee Westwood last year on his debut. But Colsaerts will be better for that experience and his match play record is a fine one having reached the semi-finals of the Volvo Match Play Championship in 2011 and then won the title in Spain the following year. Add in his Ryder Cup experience from Medinah when he demonstrated exactly what he is capable of with that incredible display alongside Westwood in the memorable win over Stricker and Woods and he could be worth a wager this week.
2013 form: 44
Tournament form: 33-DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP
World ranking: 39
As is abundantly clear with the match play format, picking a winner is reliant on a good deal of fortune given that your man could find himself packing his bags after day one despite shooting a low number.
That said there are some pointers from recent years which maybe provide a path to follow. Length looks to be a help, recent examples being Bubba Watson reaching the last four in 2011 and Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood doing the same 12 months ago. But it is by no means a pre-requisite with Ian Poulter's success in 2010 and Luke Donald's the following year showing the value of a razor-sharp short-game and reliable putting stroke.
Unsurprisingly, those with a noted match play pedigree have made an impact, Poulter's win the best example of this, with those players who have featured in either Ryder Cups or Presidents Cup looking to have a notable advantage.
With that in mind, and overseas players having fared so well in recent years, we will overlook the very top end of the market and hunt for a spot of value with three Ryder Cup players who will hopefully be inspired by the return to the match play format this week.
As mentioned previously, Justin Rose's record at this event is far from stellar, but he is a player at the very peak of his powers and arrives in Arizona exuding confidence and belief. You get the impression he feels he now belongs amongst the game's elite and has the weapons, attitude and match play form to go well.
Martin Kaymer is a class act who is undoubtedly on the upgrade at present and knows what it takes to go deep in this event. A fan of desert golf, he possesses both the long-game and short-game skills to tackle this lay-out and will surely be inspired by his Ryder Cup heroics this week.
Nicolas Colsaerts is a man few will relish tackling this week. The Belgian has the intimidation factor given his well-documented power and has proved his pedigree in this format with his displays in Europe's match play showpiece over the last couple of years. His first-round exit last year may count against him, but that was against an inspired Lee Westwood and we'll back him to grow from that experience this time around.
2pts e.w. Justin Rose at 22/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4)
2pts e.w. Martin Kaymer at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4)
1pts e.w. Nicolas Colsaerts at 55/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4)