Kaymer the Match Play King
Martin Kaymer looks the best value ahead of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship according to our Ben Coley.
- Related Content
This week's WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, it's fair to say, isn't everyone's cup of tea.
Sixty-four of the world's best players go head-to-head in a straightforward knockout tournament and while a full draw has been made, mapping routes to the final is far from easy.
Indeed, you'll doubtless hear this event labelled a lottery and while I disagree with that particular description, there is no doubt that it has an unpredictable nature.
The biggest issue most punters have with the event is that their man could shoot 65 on day one and go home, whereas were it a strokeplay tournament he'd have got off to a fine start.
No doubt, that's not ideal but the simple fact is that you have to win four matches to reach the semi-finals - and an each-way place - and whether your player is eliminated in round one or round four makes no difference in terms of ultimate profit and loss.
So, we need to approach the event knowing that all selections could easily go on Wednesday, but with hope that at least one reaches the final stages.
In terms of finding those who are likely to go further than their odds imply, it's not exactly easy to pin down a profile of winners.
It stands to reason that bar victories for Kevin Sutherland (2002) and Jeff Maggert (1998), with all due respect, winners have been right out of the top drawer. Geoff Ogilvy is a US Open champion, Luke Donald a world number one, Mahan a previous WGC winner, and so on.
Those with obvious match play pedigrees have fared well - Ian Poulter's 2010 victory over Paul Casey is perhaps the best example of that - and in more recent years American players have struggled, with just one finalist in the last four years.
In terms of what skills winners have relied upon, it really has been as simple as holing a heck of a lot of putts. Donald was incredible around the greens in 2011, as was Poulter a year before, and even noted ball-striker Hunter Mahan spent last year's event waxing lyrical about a new putter.
That being said, a glance at 2012's final four shows arguably the three best ball-strikers on the planet when on-song, and that's no surprise given the layout.
Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Tucson, Arizona is a lengthy par 72, but with plenty of run and the fact that we're at altitude this week length shouldn't be much of an issue.
Instead, in what's a common trait of Jack Nicklaus-designed courses, the job gets tougher the closer to the hole you get. Fairways are wide, but although the greens are sizeable they're very much undulating so hitting the right spots on them is important.
So in short I'm going to lean towards players with excellent short games and match play pedigree, and with both in mind top of my list is Martin Kaymer at 40/1.
Last year's Ryder Cup hero will surely be desperate to get back to playing this format after a missed cut in Phoenix, prior to which he'd bagged a pair of top 10s to start his season in the Middle East.
Having won the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the back-end of last year, Kaymer looks close to his very best once more and this major and WGC winner has the pedigree to go all the way.
Two years ago, Kaymer reached the final, beating the likes of Justin Rose and Mahan in the process, and he played well enough to reach the third round last year before losing to Matt Kuchar.
He also finished third in the 2011 Volvo World Match Play and although George Coetzee will be no pushover in round one, I can't really see why Kaymer should be a bigger price than anyone bar the first four in the market.
Desert golf clearly suits Kaymer, who has a home in Scottsdale and practices at Whisper Rock throughout winter, and I like his chances at the price.
Speaking of Kuchar, he is next at 40s.
As a winner of the 1997 US Amateur at Cog Hill, Kuchar is a player with an excellent match play pedigree and that's shown in his record here.
Back in 2011, he beat the likes of Rickie Fowler and Bo Van Pelt to reach the semi-finals, where an inspired Donald beat him 6&5.
Still, Kuchar went on to win the third-place play-off and returned a year later to reach the quarter-finals, where he again suffered at the hands of the man who went on to win the title in Mahan.
Clearly, he likes coming to Dove Mountain and it's no surprise to hear that he enjoys the format.
"I enjoy it. It's fun. I try to treat it the same as stroke play. I try to play smart golf. I try to hit fairways, center of greens, you know, have birdie opportunities," he said in 2011.
Kuchar's laid-back approach is certainly one which works well here and at 20th in strokes gained punting and fourth in sand saves, his short game suggests another big performance is on the cards.
Five of Kuchar's last 11 competitive rounds have been 65 or better, and it's that type of scoring which I believe can see him beat Hiroyuki Fujita before a potential clash with Sergio Garcia.
Another former US Amateur champion makes the shortlist too with Ryan Moore worth a bet at 80/1.
He had an uncharacteristically poor week on the greens in the Northern Trust Open but Moore has complained about poa annua surfaces before, so while not ideal preparation I'm prepared to bank on a return to bentgrass prompting an improved display.
Prior to his share of 27th at Riviera, Moore carded four rounds of 66 or better to finish fourth in Phoenix and he'd been putting superbly, as well as finding plenty of greens.
Moore beat KJ Choi, Nick Watney and Francesco Molinari before, like Kuchar, he fell to Donald here in 2010, when again he confirmed this format suits, saying: "I think it's more fun. I really do enjoy match play. I enjoy just the different aspect of it."
I really like his draw as I expect Moore to beat Jim Furyk before a potential clash with Chris Wood or Bubba Watson, the latter having played extremely poorly at Riviera and the former new to this and not at his best around the greens.
Indeed, with doubts around Rory McIlroy the Bobby Jones bracket may be the weakest of the four and at 80/1 Moore, who lives in Nevada, can make a run to the semi-finals.
My final selection is Peter Hanson, who is consistently underrated and probably shouldn't be 80/1.
The Swede didn't pull up any trees at Riviera last week but that was his first US start of the year, and earlier finishes of ninth and 22nd in the Middle East suggest his game remains in good shape.
Hanson enjoyed a fantastic 2012, winning twice and finishing third at Augusta, and the next step in his career has to be winning a World Golf Championship event having also featured on two winning Ryder Cup teams.
He ranked fourth on the European Tour in putts per round last year and the big, undulating surfaces of Ritz-Carlton are not totally dissimilar to Augusta, where he impressed across all four days.
Hanson did have a poor record in this event before beating Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker and Ernie Els to reach the quarter-finals last year, and the fact that he was never behind in any of those matches speaks to how well he played.
He actually attributed the improvement to taking note of Lee Westwood's view that a fast start is essential, pumping himself up with some loud dance music before teeing off, and it worked.
Asked if he thought he could win when he arrived, Hanson was emphatic, saying: "Absolutely. I mean, I love match play. I think it's the best format ever. You only have to play one guy at a time."
Providing he adopts that mindset again I see no reason he shouldn't get the better of Thomas Bjorn and I'd be quite confident he can take care of either Webb Simpson or David Lynn, too.
After that things of course get tougher but Hanson held of McIlroy to win in China last season and should have the belief to progress granted some fortune.
Of course, he could meet Kaymer in the quarter-finals but I'd take that scenario right now if offered.