Hunter Mahan will try to defend his Accenture Match Play Championship title following a late Sunday collapse from the lead of the Northern Trust Open.
He is definitely among the favorites, but this field is so deep, he doesn't even crack our top three.
Of course, there is no guarantee anyone will be in contention. As if the PGA was not already hard enough to predict, we have to deal with this unpredictable format, where just one string of bad holes is enough to send even the world's top golfers packing.
So, while the following three golfers should be considered heavy favorites when this tournament begins on Wednesday, Feb. 18 at The Golf Club at Dove Mountain Marana, Ariz., they certainly aren't locks.
No. 3: Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods, you might have heard of him, has to be considered a favorite here, and I'm probably in the minority by putting him as low as third.
After all, Woods is a three-time winner of this event, and his last time out he won the Farmers Insurance Open.
However, I put him below the following two, for two reasons. The first is that while Woods has brought his game a long way back to his dominant form, he still suffers from bouts of inconsistency, and there is little room for that in the match-play setting.
The other thing working against Woods is he has a tough bracket. Defending champion Mahan, reigning U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson and Martin Kaymer, who was runner up here in 2011 all reside in Woods' bracket.
No. 2: Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy is insanely hard to place on this list. On the one hand, he is the best player in golf, and has no problem excelling in match play. He was the runner up here last year.
On the other hand, McIlroy is adjusting to his new Nike clubs, and it's apparently quite an adjustment. A month ago, McIlroy missed the cut at Abu Dhabi, and he hasn't been on the course since.
However, I find it hard to believe that after a month of tuning his sweet swing to his new clubs that he hasn't got things ironed out.
Still, this presents the same kind of consistency issue that Tiger is dealing with, and that's why these two legends are behind the next golfer.
No. 1: Luke Donald
Luke Donald has been as consistent as any golfer on the planet the past few years. Every part of his game is tuned enough that he suffers very few bad rounds.
This is a great foundation for match-play success. So, it should be no surprise that Donald won this event in 2011.
Donald is just getting his 2013 rolling, as last week's Northern Trust Open was his first PGA event of the year.
He tailed off in that event as he fired a 75 in the final round and wound up tied for 16th. However, the greens at the Riviera are small and they got increasingly harder as the tournament wore on.
That does not play to Donald's strength where he compensates for a lack of elite driving distance with superb iron play.
He won't face the same challenges this week, and he used that last event to knock the rust off. He is the safest bet in this tournament.
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