The World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship is anything but a shootout, yet its backdrop is apropos. The desert, what with its Wild West vibe, is fitting for a tournament in which anything can happen. And has.
The Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz. hosts for the fifth consecutive year. Last May, an agreement was announced that this event (now in its 15th season) will remain in the Tucson area through 2014. The likelihood of remaining alive in the tournament as a competitor, however, isn't as concrete.
As of Monday afternoon, 64 of the top 66 in the Official World Golf Ranking (on Feb. 10) are scheduled to compete. (Phil Mickelson is spending time with family and Brandt Snedeker is resting a rib injury.) With that kind of talent wedged into a daily, 18-hole, survive-and-advance format, the term "upset" is always relative. However, some of the top seeds will lose early, others will run into buzz saws, and one or two unknowns -- at least to casual fans -- will play deep into the week.
Dove Mountain is a modern-day Jack Nicklaus design. At 7,791 yards, it's the longest course on the PGA TOUR. Fairways are expansive but not without their unending uneven lies. Greens average 6,000 square feet although the undulations will tighten the targets. In true Nicklaus fashion, the challenge increases nearer each hole.
In a vacuum, greens in regulation, aggressive putting, scrambling and bogey avoidance are worthy factors to project success in match play, but the format counters with vagaries like momentum and unknown future matchups. Weather will also play a prominent role early. Downright miserable conditions are forecast for Wednesday. This includes heavy rain, gusty winds and a high temperature that may not reach 50 degrees. The good news is that the system should clear out by Thursday after which sunshine and temperatures in the 60s and low 70s will take hold. Wind will serve as the primary challenge throughout, but it is not anticipated to blow as hard as during the scheduled opening round.
NOTE: The overall order below is a logical determination based on the top four. For example, because Ernie Els is slotted fourth (or lowest among the semifinalists), Sergio Garcia is ranked fifth (or highest among the quarterfinalists) because Els and Garcia would meet in the quarterfinals. Similarly, No. 8 Jamie Donaldson (lowest among the quarterfinalists) would meet No. 9 Ian Poulter (highest of the eight that wouldn't advance from the third round to the quarterfinals) in the third round.
Power Rankings: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Snead bracket. The 2011 champ keeps motoring along. Holed out five times from off the green last week at Riviera; finished T16. Bracket wins: Marcel Siem, Scott Piercy, Nick Watney, Jamie Donaldson, Tiger Woods, Jason Day.
Jones bracket. Third appearance. With two top 10s in three starts this year, he's quickly illustrating that the distractions of 2012 are, indeed, history. Bracket wins: Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel, Ryan Moore, Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els.
Player bracket. Three-time winner (none at Dove Mountain) began fulfilling latest expectations the week after last year's second-round loss. Bracket wins: Charles Howell III, Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson, Lee Westwood, Ernie Els (consolation).
Hogan bracket. Coming off a T13 at Riviera in 2013 PGA TOUR debut. Went bogey-free 68 in the second round and carded just seven bogeys all week. Bracket wins: Fredrik Jacobson, Keegan Bradley, Louis Oosthuizen, Sergio Garcia.
Hogan bracket. Top 20s in each of his last seven starts worldwide, including a win. Last six post-corrective eye surgery. Placed T13 at Riviera in wake of a shoulder injury. Bracket wins: Thongchai Jaidee, Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas.
Player bracket. Lost in last year's consolation match. Average putter and greenside game. Would likely need to outnumber each opponent in greens in regulation. Bracket wins: Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Martin Kaymer, Jason Dufner.
Jones bracket. Last year's runner-up is this week's top seed. Making 2013 PGA TOUR debut. Missed cut in Abu Dhabi five weeks ago; only start since changing equipment. Bracket wins: Shane Lowry, Carl Pettersson, Dustin Johnson.
Snead bracket. Of the 12 first-timer, he's the highest-rated in this feature. Late-blooming 37-year-old sits fourth in the Race to Dubai. Won in Abu Dhabi last month. Bracket wins: Thorbjorn Olesen, Adam Scott, Ian Poulter.
Snead bracket. Cemented his unrivaled success in match play at the Ryder Cup, but since winning at the Ritz-Carlton in 2010, he's 0-2. Didn't compete during the last six weeks. Bracket wins: Stephen Gallacher, John Senden.
Player bracket. Lost in first round in his debut last year, but it's been quite a run since. Sharpshooter with his irons and aggressive putting works well in this format. Bracket wins: Richard Sterne, Hunter Mahan.
Hogan bracket. Led the Northern Trust after 54 holes. Didn't win but closed birdie-birdie on Sunday for a T3, his third straight top 10. Tenth on TOUR in GIR; ninth in bogey avoidance. Bracket wins: Nicolas Colsaerts, Justin Rose.
Hogan bracket. Won in South Africa in early January, his seventh top five in an eight-event stretch. Will be unbeatable if his fine-tuned putting stroke connects with Dove Mountain. Bracket wins: Richie Ramsay, Robert Garrigus.
Player bracket. Led the European Tour in putting in 2012. Length off the tee and proficiency with his irons are handy assets at Dove Mountain. Went 3-1 here last year. Bracket wins: Thomas Bjorn, Webb Simpson.
Jones bracket. The once-upon-a-time match-play maven (2004) is in the midst of rising to a new level on the world stage. Inward 5-over 41 on Sunday at Riviera cost him a top 10. Bracket wins: Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson.
Snead bracket. Finally cooled after a run of six straight top 20s worldwide, including a victory. Second on TOUR in GIR. Lost in the third round in each of his three appearances here. Bracket wins: David Toms, Steve Stricker.
Here's the remainder of the 64-man field as ranked via the above system by our Fantasy Insider.
17. Steve Stricker ... Snead bracket. Bracket win: Henrik Stenson.
18. Bubba Watson ... Jones bracket. Bracket win: Chris Wood.
19. Webb Simpson ... Player bracket. Bracket win: David Lynn.
20. Robert Garrigus ... Hogan bracket. Bracket win: Branden Grace.
21. Justin Rose ... Hogan bracket. Bracket win: K.J. Choi.
22. Hunter Mahan ... Player bracket. Bracket win: Matteo Manassero.
23. Graeme McDowell ... Jones bracket. Bracket win: Padraig Harrington.
24. John Senden ... Snead bracket. Bracket win: Bo Van Pelt.
25. Adam Scott ... Snead bracket. Bracket win: Tim Clark.
26. Carl Pettersson ... Jones bracket. Bracket win: Rickie Fowler.
27. Martin Kaymer ... Player bracket. Bracket win: George Coetzee.
28. Matt Kuchar ... Hogan bracket. Bracket win: Hiroyuki Fujita.
29. Keegan Bradley ... Hogan bracket. Bracket win: Marcus Fraser.
30. Francesco Molinari ... Player bracket. Bracket win: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
31. Charl Schwartzel ... Jones bracket. Bracket win: Russell Henley.
32. Scott Piercy ... Snead bracket. Bracket win: Paul Lawrie.