The first World Golf Championship of the season, the WGC-Accenture Matchplay, gets underway this week at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Arizona.
The top-64 available players in the Official World Golf Ranking are in action, including world number one Rory McIlroy and his fellow Nike athlete Tiger Woods.
McIlroy lost out 2&1 in the final to Hunter Mahan last year, and the defending champion is in good form after a top-10 finish at Riviera last week.
The 64 players are split into four brackets of 16 – Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, Gary Player and Ben Hogan – and ranked according to their world ranking.
Rory McIlroy is seeded one in the Jones bracket, and Woods, Louis Oosthuizen and Luke Donald are first in the Player, Hogan and Sneak brackets respectively.
The course, at more than 7,800 yards, is the longest of the PGA Tour roster, but as Luke Donald proved in 2011, distance isn’t necessarily a pre-requisite for success.
Indeed, Donald and McIlroy are 10/1 favourites with Ladbrokes this year, but in this format, anything can happen.
The Hogan and Jones brackets are arguably the toughest, but Justin Rose looks well priced at 25/1 with Ladbrokes. Granted, this bracket also contains Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia, Keegan Bradley and Bill Haas, but Rose is huge favourite in his first match against K.J. Choi. His impeccable tee-to-green game should wear his competitors down, and the Englishman is in fine form, finishing second in two of his last three starts.
Sam Snead bracket:
Donald is favourite in the Snead bracket, but I like the look of Nick Watney, who is 40/1 with Ladbrokes. Watney has already posted two top 13s in four starts this season, and has made it past the first two rounds every year since 2009, including a second-round defeat of Woods last season.
Gary Player Bracket:
Woods headlines the Player bracket this year, and faces the in-form Charles Howell III in round one. I think we’ll see a good performance from Woods this year, but the player I’ve got my eye on in Martin Kaymer, who is 40/1 with Ladbrokes. The German looks almost back to his best, having recorded top tens in Abu Dhabi and Qatar in January. Kaymer was also a beaten finalist in 2011.
Bobby Jones bracket:
With a potentially rusty McIlroy and Bubba Watson missing the cut last week, Charl Schwartzel, at 20/1 with Ladbrokes, is arguably the strongest bet in the Jones bracket. The South African is the form player in world golf, with two wins, a second place and two thirds in his last five worldwide starts. He faces rookie Russell Henley in the first round and his path to the quarters isn’t as tough as it might have been.
Nicolas Colsaerts is a good outside bet this week at 66/1 with Ladbrokes. He is the longest hitter on the European and PGA Tours and in a fine matchplay golfer, winning the Volvo Matchplay in 2012 and making a great Ryder Cup debut at Medinah.
WGC-Accenture Matchplay advised bets:
2pts each way on Justin Rose at 25/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Nick Watney at 40/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Martin Kaymer at 40/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Charl Schwartzel at 20/1 with Ladbrokes
2pts each way on Nicolas Colsaerts at 66/1 with Ladbrokes