2012 WGC Matchplay preview
There’s a brilliant feast of golf to look forward to over five days this week with the 14th WGC Accenture Matchplay. 64 of the world’s top 66 golfers will line up at the Ritz-Carlton golf club – Paul Casey and Phil Mickelson miss out – in a tournament which demands mental strength and fighting spirit as well as great strokeplay.
World number one Luke Donald triumphed in 2011 and is 16/1 third favourite to retain his crown. Can the Englishman carry on his great form, or will there be a new winner in 2012?
With nine top five finishes in his last ten worldwide starts, it’s no surprise to see Rory McIlroy installed as the 12/1 favourite for this year’s tournament. McIlory also looks to be in a kind quarter of the draw with his main competitors in the Player bracket being the in-form Keegan Bradley, Sergio Garcia and Jason Day.
Luke Donald beat Martin Kaymer 3&2 in last year’s final to kick-start a record-breaking year and the Englishman can be backed at 16/1 to retain his title. It’s not been the best start to the year for the 34 year old, although it should be remembered that he missed the cut in the event before the WGC Matchplay this time last year.
Donald faces Ernie Els in round one – Els only qualified thanks to Phil Mickelson’s absence – and could face the likes of Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson and Thomas Bjorn before the semi-finals.
I tipped Martin Kaymer to prevail last year and the German gave me a great run for my money before losing to Donald in the final. Again, it’s not been a great start to the year for the former world number one, but he is a tough competitor and the 22/1 could look good value by the weekend.
Tiger Woods is a three time winner of this event and has shown glimpses of good form in 2012. It’s still early in his ‘return’, though, and remember that his Ryder Cup record in this type of scenario is pretty poor. The 12/1 looks pretty skinny and Woods could also face Lee Westwood as early as round three. Indeed, the 20/1 available on Westwood looks to represent better value.
Matt Kuchar was third in this event last year, losing to Donald in the semi-finals. The fourth seed in the Hogan bracket looks to have a kind draw and ranks in the top 15 on the PGA tour for three-putt avoidance – a key weapon in matchplay golf. Kuchar is available at 40/1.
Ian Poulter is arguably the most formidable matchplay opponent in world golf and often reserves his best form for this type of event. The Englishman is 30/1 to regain the title he won on this course in 2012. You can also back two time winner Geoff Ogilvy at an attractive 50/1.
If you’re looking for a real outsider then Italian teenager Matteo Manassero could be one to watch at 125/1. Manassero defeated both Steve Stricker and Charl Schwartzl in this event last year and features in the wide open Snead bracket. He faces a tough opponent in Webb Simpson in round one, but get through that and he could easily have a run to the semi-finals at least.
While the 64 players may be facing the longest course on the PGA Tour at 7,791 yards, the Jack Nicklaus design doesn’t necessarily embrace the long ball. Recent winners include Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvy and Ian Poulter, none of whom are particularly renowned for their big hitting.
I’m not sure that Luke Donald’s form is quite good enough to retain his title – although many people were saying that this time last year. I prefer the chances of Rory McIlroy who has shown over recent months what a talented player and tough competitor he is.
In addition, with no overwhelming favourite value can be found in some of the less fancied competitors. Matteo Manassero (125/1), Thomas Bjorn (66/1), Keegan Bradley (40/1) and Freddie Jacobsen (70/1) could also be worth a small investment.