The WGC Accenture Match Play was first played in 1999, when Jeff Maggert beat Andrew Magee. It's exclusively for the top 64 in the Official World Rankings, as of last week, although Shane Lowry and Fredrick Jacobson get in despite being just outside the top-64, courtesy of a Phil Mickelson family holiday and a Brandt Snedeker rib injury
The event is a straight knockout tournament starting on Wednesday. Thursday is the round of 32, Friday the round of 16, and the quarter-finals are on Saturday. Then on Sunday the final four play out the two semi-finals before competing in either the Championship Final or the Consolation Match.
The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, Marana, Arizona
Par 72, 7,791 yards.
Designed by Jack Nicklaus in 2008, the Ritz-Carlton is a long desert track enjoying the spectacular backdrop of the Tortolita Mountain Range. There's plenty of room off the tee but if you stray into the desert you'll almost certainly lose the hole. Many a tie will be decided on the exciting drivable par four 15th. This will be the fifth year in-a-row that the Ritz-Carlton has hosted the event.
Live on Sky Sports all five days - 5.00pm Wednesday, 6.00pm Thursday, 7.30pm Friday, 5.00pm Saturday and 2.00pm Sunday.
Last Five Winners
2012 - Hunter Mahan beat Rory McIlroy 2 & 1
2011 - Luke Donald beat Martin Kaymer 3 & 2
2010 - Ian Poulter beat Paul Casey 4 & 2 (36 holes)
2009 - Geoff Ogilvy beat Paul Casey 4 & 3 (36 holes)
2008 - Tiger Woods beat Stewart Cink 8 & 7 (36 holes)
Is there an identikit winner?
Although a long course, all four Ritz-Club champs could hardly be described as monster hitters off the tee. An accurate and solid game has so far paid dividends.
Match play is a very different format to stroke play - some take to it and some don't. The last four winners are all seen at their very best in this format and all four have exceptional match play CVs.
Past winners have had plenty of event form and Ryder Cup and/or Presidents Cup form in the book and although it may look a bit of a lottery at first glance, the winners at this venue have all been plausible candidates before the off. In fact, at odds of [60.0], last year's winner, Hunter Mahan, is the biggest priced winner in the last six years.
Players with a good record in the desert fare well. For example, Mahan, and the man he beat in the semi-finals last year, Mark Wilson, have both won the WM Phoenix Open and those that reside at least partly, in the desert, like Martin Kaymer, Paul Casey and Geoff Ogilvy have all felt at home here.
There were a number of turnarounds in the first round last year but after that very few managed to get back and win if they were down at halfway, and getting past someone finding fairways and greens with regularity was just about impossible.
Tiger Woods has won this event three times in his last nine appearances and he was in fine form last time out - winning the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines but he hasn't managed to get past the second round here yet. I suspect that might change this year but I just wonder if he can remain accurate enough off the tee for five days straight.
He may well be a fine match play exponent and the world's number one player but anyone backing Rory McIlroy after his missed cut with new gear last time out in Abu Dhabi and a lengthy break since is braver than me. In fact, he may even be worth opposing in his first round match against compatriot Shane Lowry.
Charl Schwartzel is in the form of his life but from four attempts here he's only ever gotten as far as round three once and he looks too short at just [21.0].
Former winner and world number one, Luke Donald, will have his followers at the same price as Charl but I'm not one of them. He made plenty of mistakes last week at Riviera after a lengthy break and he too looks plenty short enough.
Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen all trade at below [30.0] and all look a bit skinny to me.
If you don't want to mess about in-running, my idea of the best strategy would be to try to spread your bets across the four brackets, maybe pick out 8 picks, two from each section, with the ultimate goal of getting all four semi-finalists. Of course, that's nigh on impossible but if you can get somewhere close, you can then start backing your selections next opponents and try and build a book that way. The first two days are key with that strategy though and if they all fall by the wayside early on you have to decide on a boring bet free weekend or a potentially expensive tournament.
Flushed with success, having picked out Luke Donald here and Ian Poulter at the Volvo Match Play in 2011, I was a bit too cavalier twelve months ago and I decided then that I'd be very cautious before the off this time around so I've picked out just four from the get-go, spread out across the four brackets.
This time around I'm going to try and back a few in-running and in-between rounds and see how that works.
Martin Kaymer, Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood, Nick Watney and Matt Kuchar all look reasonably priced but in the end I've plumped for just four outsiders, one from each bracket.
Bobby Jones Bracket -Ryan Moore @ [80.0]
Nevada resident, Ryan Moore, missed the event 12 months ago but he reached the last eight in 2011 before going out to eventual winner Donald. He won the JT Shriners in Las Vegas at the end of last year and played well in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago too -so he clearly enjoys desert golf. He hasn't played in a Ryder Cup and that's the only negative but I'm prepared to overlook that as he had a brilliant match play record as an amateur. I've had him in mind for this for a few moths and [80.0] is more than fair.
Gary Player Bracket - Peter Hanson @ [91.0] Fixed Odds Market
Peter Hanson ticks lots of the right boxes this week and if someone could dispense of Tiger Woods early on, he looks to have a very nice draw. Round three was the furthest he'd reached up until last year when he dispensed of Jason Dufner, Ernie Els and Brandt Snedeker before losing to Mark Wilson in the quarter-finals. With another successful Ryder Cup under his belt and a couple more European Tour titles, including the BMW Masters in China - an event that developed into a duel between him and McIlroy, he should have the confidence to put up another bold bid this year.
Sam Snead Bracket - Paul Lawrie @ [140.0]
On his first visit to Dove Mountain last year, Paul Lawrie took out a noticeable scalp in Justin Rose before beating Ryo Ishikawa and going out to compatriot Martin Laird in round three. The experienced Ryder Cupper was putting poorly when last seen and that's a big negative but if he's worked on that since, and I'd certainly like to think he has, he could go well at a huge price. Scott Piercy is a tough opponent in round one and he could face Luke Donald in round two so he certainly hasn't got it easy but then that's why he's such a big price.
Ben Hogan Bracket - Thongchai Jaidee @ [190.0]
Thongchai Jaidee has the neat and tidy game required and has a fine record in the desert. He's played this event just once, back in 2010, and he fared well. I backed him at [280.0] before the off then and was getting quite excited when he looked on the verge of knocking out Ian Poulter in the quarter finals but it wasn't to be. Despite leading four times during the match, Jaidee was hauled back right at the death by the gritty Englishman who went on to lift the trophy. I fancy Jaidee can sneak past Sergio Garcia on day one and if he does his odds will tumble.
So that's it from the start, a modest outlay on just the four. I'll be back each day with an update on proceedings with the In-Play Blog and I'll post any bets struck whilst the matches are in progress on Twitter.