Match Play guide
Dave Tindall casts his eye over the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and looks for the best bets
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 18/02/14 11:10am
The first WGC event of the season - the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona - is open to the top 64 players in the world rankings.
The format is simple and cut-throat - head-to-head battle over 18 holes; the winner progresses to the next round, the loser goes home.
They're divided into four brackets - Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Gary Player - with the first-round matches starting on Wednesday.
Thursday stages the last 32, Friday the last 16 and Saturday the quarter-finals. The semis and final both take place on Sunday.
This year, three of the top four seeds - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott - are skipping the event for scheduling reasons so in come the next highest rated players in the world rankings. They are American Scott Piercy, South African Richard Sterne and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
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 15 renewals with world number one Woods having collected the title three times - the last in 2008.
At Dove Mountain, there has been a much more even split with Aussie Geoff Ogilvy winning in 2009, English pair Ian Poulter and Luke Donald coming out on top in 2010 and 2011 and Americans Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar winning in 2012 and 2013.
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.
All 10 finalists at Dove Mountain had either played in the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup so the cream does tend to rise to the top despite the seemingly unpredictable nature of the tournament.
That's certainly a starting point when trying to pick the winner except it only really eliminates half of the 64-man field.
Looking at those two recent match play showdowns and the top points scorers were as follows:
2012 Ryder Cup - US: 3pts Bradley, Dufner, Z Johnson, D Johnson, Mickelson. Europe: 4pts Poulter; 3pts Rose, McIlroy.
2013 Presidents Cup - US: 4pts Woods; 3pts Kuchar, Stricker, Z Johnson, Dufner, Simpson. Internationals: 3.5pts Day, DeLaet; 3 Els.
For the Americans the names that pop up twice are Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner so both must be worth a look.
The downside is that Johnson has lost in the first round here for the last three years while Dufner crashed out at the first hurdle on both his visits in 2012 and 2013.
That's probably enough to put me off.
Preference, therefore, is for Simpson who also racked up three points out of five in the 2011 Presidents Cup.
The American made the last eight here 12 months ago and he's finished in the top 10 in his last three starts in the nearby Phoenix Open.
Simpson hasn't missed a cut on the PGA Tour in 17 starts and in 12 of those he's finished in the top 25. It's that kind of consistency which ensures that he won't give any opponent a cheap win.
As for the Internationals who played well at the Presidents Cup, Graham DeLaet is certainly an interesting proposition and well worth a bet at 50/1.
As well as showing his matchplay prowess at Muirfield Village four months ago, the Canadian also displayed a liking for desert golf when joint runner-up in the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the start of the month.
He's fearless, in form and looks ready to win. So why not this event at what could prove a belter of a price?
Yes, it's a high-class field but to win you'll only encounter six opponents. It's irrelevant how the other 57 players perform.
Jason Day has had trouble getting over the line in strokeplay events despite a string of classy finishes in majors.
So maybe the change of format will help him.
The Aussie made it to the semi-finals here last year, eventually beating Ian Poulter in the third/fourth place play-off, and also reached the last 16 in 2011.
He said in interview on Monday: "I've always enjoyed big moments and big tournaments. My game feels really good to me right now and when it is a big event all I want to do is play great shots and show everyone around the world that I can play.
"This is one of those events where you have to hit clutch shots, you have to be mentally strong, that's why I love the format.
"Every match feels like a final round Sunday and it is mentally and physically grinding on the body. You just have to be tougher than the other guy and that's why I think I do well."
Ryan Moore had a stellar amateur career which meant displaying a prowess for matchplay and he's finished fourth and sixth in two of the last three Phoenix Opens so likes desert golf too.
In this tournament he made the quarter-finals in 2011 so has a bit of course form too.
A winner of the CIMB Classic in late October, Moore has a 10th and a sixth in two of his three starts in 2014 so he's in good shape and worth a punt at 40s.
In terms of brackets, Day, Simpson and DeLaet are all in the Bobby Jones. You can look at that two ways. On the downside only one of the three can make the semi-finals; on the upside, if they do play each other at any point (the last 16 would be the first opportunity) we're guaranteed to get one through to the next round.
1pt e.w. Graham DeLaet at 50/1
2pts e.w. Jason Day at 20/1
1.5pts e.w. Webb Simpson at 28/1
1pt e.w. Ryan Moore at 40/1