Thoughts from the MatchplayMarch, 2012
A PGA pro reflects on what he saw at Dove Mountain, Arizona
THE World No 1 ranking is up for grabs again this year. After this year’s first WGC event it looks like we are going to have an exciting season.
The Accenture World Matchplay event brought together the top 64 players in the official world rankings and they competed for $8,500,000. The winner, Hunter Mahan, took home a cool $1,400,000! Also, valuable FedEx Cup, Ryder Cup points and of course those extra world ranking points were all on offer.
It’s a massive week for these players and just behind the Majors in importance.
The Dove Mountain course designed by Jack Nicklaus is very testing. It measures a lengthy 7,800 yards off the back tees. The course sits at 2,600ft above sea level so the ball does go about 10 per cent further than normal, a little bit of help towards that massive distance.
All the talk in the build-up of the event was about the defending champion and then World No 1 Luke Donald. Could he win again?
My observations of Luke on the practice ground were that he was working hard on adjustments to his swing and this event had come too early to see him play well this week. He was so consistent last season and I feel he is thinking that to win a Major this year he has to make some changes in his swing. This is a surprise to many people as he had such an incredible year last season, winning both money titles and player of the year and many other awards.
On the range Fernando Gonzalez-Castano was working hard and his coach told me what a big match he had coming with Tiger Woods. What a close match that turned out to be, the European player had several chances to win, but in the end Tiger squeezed through.
Tiger looked good on the range and Sean Foley was there looking on and working his way through his famous stable of players, Woods, Rose, and Mahan.
He chatted to them and filmed a few swings and then showed the players, it was more of a tune-up than anything else.
Tiger is hitting the ball much better, it’s not quite there yet and the putter which has always been so reliable is letting him down, he was on the practice green with Steve Stricker and asked his advice, I watched him putting and he was missing putts right and left, but I am sure he will win once his technique and confidence return. Maybe the Masters in April seems about right!
Lee Westwood was hitting the ball so well, he was looking very confident and he knew he was playing really well. It’s just if the putter works well enough for Lee, but I think he will have a really good year, maybe a Major?
McIlroy and Westwood was the match we wanted to see and Lee was up early on but credit to McIlroy he came storming back from three down, holing putts, it was a great match.
Rory is bringing much more consistency to his game. Although he was not on top form tee to green, his short game looks much sharper and can score better when not quite on his A game. I think it’s a big year for Rory coming up.
A big surprise was the play of Sang Moon Bae. To many he is an unknown, but has had great success on the Asian tour. He has a great swing is very hard working and is climbing the world rankings. Look out for him this year.
Rory is bringing much more consistency to his game. I think it’s a big year for him coming up.
Matt Kuchar again was looking very consistent; it was a surprise how he lost to birdie machine Mahan, losing 6&5 in the quarterfinal.
Mark Wilson was a surprise as well, but he is steady and a good putter. He reminds me of a Luke Donald-type player – not the longest but consistent and a fighter.
So we come to Hunter Mahan, everything came together for him this week, he had a new putter which worked amazingly well all week, he does get on putting streaks and can make a lot of birdies.
He was confident with his swing and he has got much more feel into his short game, he did look too mechanical in the past.
He has made swing changes under the guidance of Foley for the last three years and know those changes are becoming much more natural and he can just play and has much more confidence in his whole game.
So we come full circle, who is going to get to number one and more importantly will they be there at the end of the year?
It is obvious that there is no golfer at the moment that will dominate as Tiger has done in the past. Tiger has gone backwards and is building up his game, he is getting more competitive no doubt, but will he reach the highs of the past? I do not think so.
Donald had a career year last year and if he wins a Major this year he has achieved his dream, but I don’t think he will be World No 1 come Christmas.
Martin Kaymer has a good chance, but the hot favourite is McIlroy.
What a talent – the length he hits the ball for his size is incredible, his putting is getting better, if he gets more consistency, which is certainly coming, he has all the qualities to stay at the top of the mountain as World No 1. And he is European!
• David Bown is a PGA AA professional. Visit wwww.bowngolf.com