Lowdown:
The top 64 players available from the Official World Golf Ranking will fight to make it through six rounds of knockout match play to become the WGC Accenture Match Play champion. It’s one of the richest tournaments of the year with $8,500,000 up for grabs. Even those who lose out in the first round pick up $45,000.
Players are put in four brackets (Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Bobby Jones) and are seeded according to their World Ranking. So, in the first round World Number 1 Luke Donald will take on the 64th seed Ernie Els. The South African sneaked into the tournament with the withdrawals of Paul Casey and Phil Mickelson. He’ll have his work cut out as his recent record in the Match Play is not too hot – he was eliminated in the second round in each of the last two years and went out in the first round three of the four years before that.
The other top seeds are Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer. Once again there’s an extremely strong European Tour contingent in action in this event. In fact, 31 of the 64 competitors are European Tour members.
There will be some interesting first-round matches when the tournament kicks off on Wednesday. Abu Dhabi champion Robert Rock will take on Australian superstar Adam Scott while Rory McIlroy will face the talented South African George Coetzee.
Three-time champion Tiger Woods is up against Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and the Spaniard is confident of causing an upset.
“Playing against one of the best players in history is a good experience, and of course I think I have nothing to lose. So I just need to go out there and try my best,” he said. “Maybe I can beat him, that would certainly be a great feeling.”
The course at Dove Mountain is a Jack Nicklaus signature layout, a stunning track carved through the desert. At nearly 8,000 yards, it’s one of the longest courses the pros visit each year but, the altitude negates the extra length to a certain extent as will the high temperatures predicted this week. In recent years it has been those with the killer short game that have fared best at Dove Mountain. In last year’s event, Luke Donald was on imperious form as he cruised through the rounds then dispatched Martin Kaymer in the final.

Venue:
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, Arizona
Date: Feb 22-26
Course stats: par 72, 7,833 yards
Purse: $8,500,000 Winner: $1,400,000
Defending Champion: Luke Donald

TV Coverage:
Wednesday 22 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 5pm
Thursday 23- Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm
Friday 24 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm
Saturday 25 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 5pm
Sunday 26 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 3pm

Player Watch:

Bobby Jones bracket: Luke Donald – The defending champion and World Number 1 has to be favourite to come through this bracket, despite his recent form being slightly poorer than we’ve come to expect from the Englishman recently. He has a fine record in this event – he’s won 16 of the 22 matches he’s played in seven appearances.

Gary Player bracket: Sergio Garcia – Rory McIlroy is the top-seed in this bracket but the Spaniard could be the surprise package. He’s knocking on the door of a return to the very top of the game – 12th in Abu Dhabi, 5th in Qatar then tied 4th in last week’s Northern Trust Open with a superb closing round of 64.  

Ben Hogan bracket: Matt Kuchar – He’s an extremely consistent player and he has a good record in this event. He was third last year, beating Bubba Watson in the consolation match.

Sam Snead bracket: Tiger Woods – Lee Westwood is top seed in this one but Tiger could well strike in this event. He has a superb record, even though he’s won only one match here since 2008. He’s three times a winner and has won 32 of 40 matches in the tournament.

Skills required:
Although Dove Mountain is one of the very longest courses in world golf, it’s not just the ability to hit monster drives that will lead to success here. The last two winners – Luke Donald and Ian Poulter are not long hitters. It was their skills at scrambling and avoiding mistakes that saw them lift the trophy.

Where next?
PGA Tour –
Mayakoba Golf Classic preview