First Look: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championshiptext sizeHunter Mahan defeated Rory McIlroy 2 and 1 to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship last season.February 15, 2013
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
• COURSE: Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain, 7,791 yards, par 72. Built into lush, hillside terrain just northwest of Tucson, Ariz., the Jack Nicklaus design already had been awarded the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship before it opened in 2009. With wide fairways and the occasional forced carry over a desert wash, the course’s primary challenge lies in its fast, undulating putting surfaces. The greens actually had more movement in their original state, but were flattened after the 2009 event when players judged the surfaces too slow.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 550 points.
• CHARITY: The First Tee is the primary beneficiary of World Golf Championships events. Proceeds also go to Tucson Conquistadores Charities, which has donated more than $24 million to youth organizations since 1962.
• FIELD WATCH: World No.1 Rory McIlroy, who lost last year’s final to Hunter Mahan, makes his first start on U.S. shores this year as 64 of the world’s top 66 players fill the brackets. Top seeds also will go to No. 2 Tiger Woods and No. 3 Luke Donald, with No. 5 Justin Rose on the inside track to head the final bracket. … Reigning FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, ranked No. 4 after winning at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, was set for a top seed but took his name out of the lineup to let a rib injury heal. … Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson claimed the final berths after the withdrawals of Snedeker and Phil Mickelson (family vacation).
• LARGEST MARGIN OF VICTORY: 9 & 8, Tiger Woods def. Stephen Ames (1st round, 2006).
• LONGEST MATCH: 26 holes, Mike Weir def. Loren Roberts (1st round, 2003), and Scott Verplank def. Lee Westwood (1st round, 2006).
• LAST YEAR: Mahan jumped out early on a fatigued McIlroy in the final, putting the youngster’s ascent to the top of the rankings on temporary hold with a 2 & 1 victory. Mahan led 3-up after winning Nos. 6, 7 and 8, then withstood McIlroy’s closing flurry in which he played the first six holes of Dove Mountain’s back nine in 5 under. With McIlroy staring at a 30-foot eagle try at No. 15, Mahan putted from in front of the green to kick-in distance that kept the lead at 2-up when McIlroy missed his putt. McIlroy came out flat after winning a semifinal showdown against Lee Westwood, where he overcame an early deficit with seven birdies in a 10-hole stretch.
• STORYLINES: It’s the first PGA TOUR appearance for McIlroy since ending his 2012 season with three wins in a six-week stretch, starting with the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. McIlroy also won twice in the FedExCup Playoffs, though he finished second behind Snedeker in the final points tally. … European Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter, the 2010 champion at Dove Mountain, seeks to continue his match-play supremacy. The English pro won the Volvo World Match Play two years ago, and followed up his Ryder Cup last fall by winning the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and finishing second to Adam Scott at the Australian Masters. … Woods, a three-time Accenture Match Play winner, hasn’t lasted past the second round since the event moved to the Ritz-Carlton layout in 2009.
• SHORT CHIPS: Mickelson is absent for the third time in the past four editions, as the Accenture Match Play falls the same week as his children’s spring break. He has reached the quarterfinals just once in 11 appearances. … Not only did Mahan’s victory end a three-year title run by international players, he’s the only American to make the final in the past four years. … Russell Henley, winner of the Sony Open in his first PGA TOUR start, is one of 11 men making their first Accenture Match Play appearance. … Tommy Gainey takes a week off for the first time since the season began. He had teed it up at each of 2013’s first seven stops.
• TELEVISION: Wednesday, noon-6 p.m. EST (Golf Channel). Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. (GC). Saturday, noon-2 p.m. (GC), 2-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. (GC), 2-6 p.m. (NBC).
• SIRIUSXM PGA TOUR RADIO: Wednesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. EST. Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.