The 2014 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship kicks off on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at Dove Mountain, The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, and the tournament always features a huge contingency of the world's finest golfers.
Matt Kuchar won the event last year, beating out Hunter Mahan, who won the tournament in 2012.
Match-play tournaments are rare on the PGA Tour, but they're always highly anticipated events, as the format rewards golfers who are aggressive and sharp.
This year's tournament will be missing a few of the sport's biggest stars, however. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott have made decisions to pass on the match-play event, which could potentially impact ratings.
Despite the dynamic trio's absence, however, there are many formidable golfers in the field. With that in mind, here's a look at the players with the best chance of winning.
Mahan has reached the final two years running, and his career record is 15-5 at WGC match-play events.
Though not one of the longest hitters on tour, he's highly effective with his approach shots, and his putter can get red-hot at times. Even better, he seems to have the perfect mentality to win in this format.
"It's somewhat refreshing a little bit to play in match play because you can kind of just lay it all out there every single match," Mahan said last year, via Brian Wacker of WorldGolfChampionships.com. "It's not like another tournament where it's one day after the next. You're just kind of in the moment so much."
Mahan's ability to stay in the moment has allowed him to become one of the world's top match-play competitors, and he'll be a tough out this weekend.
Last year's champ has an amazing track record posting a career mark of 15-3 in WGC match-play events.
This is the best winning percentage in the field at this year's tournament, per Ryan Lavner of GolfChannel.com, who adds, "The cold-blooded competitor lost in semifinals in 2011, reached quarterfinals in 2012 and won the event in 2013."
Kuchar's best quality is his remarkable consistency, which was recently highlighted when he finally failed to make a cut after 30 consecutive made cuts, as noted by ESPN's Justin Ray:
Matt Kuchar (+7) had made 30 straight cuts before this week, longest active streak on @PGATOUR— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) February 15, 2014
It's always difficult to repeat as champ in any event, but it's even harder in a match-play format. However, if anyone's up to the task, then it's Kuchar.
Who will win?
Bubba Watson isn't a match-play heavyweight like Kuchar or Mahan, with a career WGC record of 7-4, but he comes into this weekend's tourney as one of the hottest golfers on tour.
He's logged three top-three finishes in his last four starts (including the unofficial Northwestern Mutual World Challenge), finished in second place in Phoenix at the start of February and finally won his first tournament in over four years at the Northern Trust Open.
Randall Mell of GolfChannel.com was stunned by Watson's surgical approach to the daunting course at Riviera:
Watson’s victory Sunday at the Northern Trust Open was impressive in how he dissected historic Riviera. He didn’t just overpower this classic layout, which was set up firmer and faster than long-time observers have ever seen it.
If Watson's hot play continues this weekend at Dove Mountain, then he'll be a force to be reckoned with. He's always capable of lighting up any course, and when his game is on, the left-hander is as good as anyone on the planet.
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