2014 WGC-Accenture Match Play Betting Preview

Dove Mountain (Courtesy: bill85704)

Dove Mountain (Courtesy: bill85704)

Sixty-four of the world’s best players are in attendance this week at Dove Mountain in Arizona for golf’s yearly match play event, and the first WGC of 2014, the WGC-Accenture Match Play.

2014 WGC-Accenture Match Play Fact Sheet

  • Course: Dove Mountain
  • Location: Marana, Arizona
  • Yardage: 7,791 yards, par 72
  • Defending Champion: Matt Kuchar
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Hunter Mahan

TV Schedule:

  • Wednesday – 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Thursday – 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 2:00 to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)
  • Sunday – 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 2:00 to 6:00 PM ET (CBS)

Key Storyline This Week

There’s a lot to get to here, so we’ll do it in point form notes.

  • I mentioned that sixty-four of the world’s best are here this week, and that’s true but unfortunately three of the top four in the Official World Golf Rankings have decided to take this week off. Tiger Woods pulled out citing that he was planning on being in Sochi for the Olympics with Lindsey Vonn, and even though Vonn is injured, Tiger decided to stay at home and work on his game by himself. Phil Mickelson has only played here twice since the event moved here in 2009, and Adam Scott decided to take an extended vacation after making his 2014 debut in Hawaii.
  • Of course, the other part of all three of those players deciding to skip this week is related to the fact that Dove Mountain is considered one of the worst courses on both the PGA and European Tour schedules. I’ll get to that in just a second, but with Accenture moving on as the title sponsor, the PGA Tour is looking for a new host course and the rumours are suggesting that Harding Park in San Francisco is the favourite at the moment. The last big event that Harding Park hosted was the 2009 Presidents Cup, but it has also hosted the season ending event on the Champions Tour in recent years. The move will be a welcome one.
  • With the withdrawals of the big three, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose are the only players inside the top five of the OWGR who are teeing it up this week. Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson are the other number one seeds in the bracket format.
  • You can find a printable bracket here, and while I’m aware that this is a betting preview, I do caution you on this point: This week is usually a giant crapshoot. Remember last year when Tiger fell to Charles Howell III and Shane Lowry took out Rory? The point is that when you get the best players in the world together, in one-on-one matches, they are all good enough to beat each other over 18 holes. Don’t be surprised when a big name player goes down to someone from the European Tour that you’ve probably never heard of. These guys are all good.
  • Lastly, if you missed my post on individual match play records, you can click here to take a look at each player and how they’ve done. It might not tell you a whole lot about what to expect, but it’s always fun to look at this sort of thing.

Dove Mountain

Okay, so let’s get to the course and examine a little bit of what we can expect, and why exactly the players find this place so loathsome. First off, it’s snowed there in two of the last three years, which led to this bit of embarrassing footage last year that I’m sure Steve Sands and Roger Maltbie wishes didn’t exist:

Maltbie and Steve Sands have a battle in the snow.

Maltbie and Steve Sands have a battle in the snow.

And another one. Live TV can be embarrassing sometimes.

And another one. Live TV can be embarrassing sometimes.

Fortunately, it’s not supposed to snow this year, so hopefully the venue can avoid that in the last year that they host. So, why do the players hate the course so much? It’s appealing to the eye from afar without question, but it was rated as the second worst PGA Tour venue when Golf Digest polled the players. The Nicklaus design is considered a good match play course thanks to the many risk/reward holes, with reachable par-5’s and drivable par-4’s, but the massive greens are usually where the issue is. Nicklaus tricked them out to the point of being ridiculous, with so many undulations that even the pros have difficulty reading them. Of course, the awful weather that has hit the course over the years hasn’t made it any more likeable.

When asked about why he wasn’t playing, Scott admitted that a venue change would likely have him reconsider his appearance and that probably goes for other players as well.

Suggested Plays

I know I said above that the match play is a crapshoot, and it generally is. However, I do have a few suggestions for what you can play going into tomorrow’s first day of action.

Overall Winner: Rory McIlroy (14-1)

Ignoring last year’s first round loss to Lowry completely, as it was only his second start with new gear. He’s been solid in every start since October and I think it’s time for him to grab another win. The only thing that makes me a little wary is that the Ben Hogan Bracket is the proverbial bracket of death. He’s going to have to dodge some big bullets, but I think he gets it done this week.

First Round Matchup: George Coetzee (+125) vs. Steve Stricker

I love Stricker, but he hasn’t played since the Tour Championship and he’s been very preoccupied with some family matters. Coetzee hasn’t finished outside the top-5 in his last three starts, and he finally got that first European Tour win in his last event, winning the Joburg Open.

First Round Matchup: Miguel Angel Jimenez (+150) vs. Bill Haas

I know it’s a small sample size, but Haas has never won a singles match in his career, plus Jimenez has gone deep here in his last two starts. I know Jimenez has missed his last two cuts, but I like the Mechanic to pull the first round upset before losing to fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia in the second round.

First Round Matchup: Chris Kirk (+120) vs. Jim Furyk

The only thing that’s making me pause here is that Kirk has never played the course, and Furyk has seen it plenty. I just think that Kirk is a better player at this point in their careers, so I’ll take the shot on him as an underdog against Furyk.

Top-Four Finish: Hideki Matsuyama (12-1)

The Sam Snead Bracket might be the second most difficult next to the Hogan Bracket, so Matsuyama will have to do some work against some tough competition, but he’s playing well and there’s an argument to be made that he’s the most talented guy in his bracket. He hasn’t played the course before, but that hasn’t been an issue with him in his PGA Tour career to date. I don’t think he wins the whole thing, but I think he gets out of his bracket.

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