Dustin Johnson can thrive in the desert at the Accenture Match Play, says Rob Lee
Rob Lee thinks big-hitting 'cowboy' Dustin Johnson can power his way to Accenture Match Play glory.
By Rob Lee
Last Updated: 19/02/13 11:31am
But I'm going to go for an American who already has a trophy to his name this term after winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January: Dustin Johnson.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Arizona, suits people who smack the ball a long way and Johnson - who begins his campaign against Sweden's Alexander Noren - slugs it miles.
I also can't think of a golfer who suits the desert more; if you put a six-shooter on his hip and gave him a Stetson and a pair of boots, he would be a magnificent cowboy!
No-one walks more John Wayne-like than Dustin, either, so for all those reasons - but mainly because he is a very fine golfer and in a solid vein of form - I think he is going to win.
McIlroy - who opens up against Shane Lowry - and Woods, who faces countryman Charles Howell III in his opening contest, could go well, though, and I wouldn't rule out their chances of making it all the way to the last two and booking most people's dream final.
Both players struggled in Abu Dhabi earlier this season as they missed the cut, but Woods has since won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, while McIlroy has been spending the last few weeks getting used to his new Nike clubs - and will be desperate to win his maiden WGC event having gone so close in 2012.
I'd have to say that Hunter Mahan's chances of defending the Accenture title - which he won last year after beating McIlroy 2&1 - are slim.
The American is a wonderful tee-to-green player, knows how to win a tournament, and played pretty well in spells last week at the Northern Trust Open in California, in which he tied for eighth with Korean star Sang-Moon Bae - but his résumé of late doesn't suggest he will go to Arizona and be a massive factor.
Mahan hit a career-high of world number four in 2012 but he has slipped to the mid-20s now; I don't think he is in horrendous shape but you have to be playing excellently week in, week out to stay in those upper echelons of the rankings.
Whether his confidence has been bit dented, his short game is not as sharp as it was, or he is missing one more drive a round, Hunter is not quite on the money, but with the good vibes he will have around Dove Mountain, he will be hopeful of getting back in the groove.
If Mahan can get past Matteo Manassero in round one - that match will be no pushover but he may have too much power for the young Italian - he could get on a roll and be a tough proposition for some of the other guys in his section, which includes Jason Dufner, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods.
I don't see Hunter picking up the trophy but he is not a forlorn hope.
Luke Donald won this event in 2011 and he looked very good at Riviera last week, until things went a little pear-shaped on the Sunday and he finished with a four-over-par 75, due in large part to a triple-bogey at the 12th hole.
However, the Englishman hasn't played much in 2013 so I think he will be pretty happy with his week's work ahead of his first match at the Accenture against Germany's Marcel Siem.
Donald has not had a run of tournaments, though, and while one good round of Matchplay can see your form and finesse come flooding back, I cannot see him winning in Arizona.
I expect Ian Poulter, who you can never back against in this format, to lead the European charge, while I think Chris Wood, who won the Qatar Open in January, has a chance of making it to at least the quarter-finals.
The Bristolian faces Bubba Watson in the first round, but the American looks a little out of sorts and Wood is an extremely good player, while I think South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, who played some breathtaking shots to tie for third at the Northern Trust Open, will fly the flag for the rest of the world.
The winner, though, will be the player who best gets to grips with playing the golf course and not the man; you need to plot your way around the course using the skills you've got and not get away from that to try and affect your opponent.
Doing that makes any player dangerous - but I just think Johnson will have the edge.
ROB'S SKY BET TIP
Dustin Johnson (33/1) at the WGC-Accenture Match Play