This week the PGA Tour travels to Marana, Ariz., for the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain. We caught up with PGA Head Professional Jeff McCormick for some Local Knowledge.
McCormick provided some great insight into the course, explaining why it's such a great fit for match play and also told us about a darkhorse to keep our eyes on this week.
PGA.com: Thanks for joining us, Jeff. First off, what makes the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club course so good for match play?
McCormick: Thanks for the opportunity, T.J.
The landing areas and fairways are generous at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, which allows the opportunity to hit driver on almost every par 4 and par 5. The design of the greens forces players to make some dicey 3 and 4-foot putts, which will not be conceded too often over the next few days. Match play lends itself to a bit more risk-taking than stroke play, and this course sets up perfectly for this format.
PGA.com: There’s been quite a shift in the World Rankings these past 12 months with loads of Europeans cracking the top 10. Is there a particular European in the current top 10 who impresses you more than any of the others? Not to sway your opinion, but I think of Rory McIlroy, currently No. 7, who made his PGA Tour debut at your tournament two years ago. Look how far he’s come along in that short period of time. Or Martin Kaymer, or Paul Casey, who nearly won last year, or Graeme McDowell... the list goes on!
McCormick: I agree with the McIlroy pick as he is one of the most exciting players right now. The fluidity of his golf swing is certainly fun to watch.
It’s hard to discount Paul Casey, who has been in the finals the last two years and makes his home here in the desert. He is obviously comfortable on this golf course and should do very well again this year.
My personal favorite is Charl Schwartzel. He burst onto the scene last year and played pretty well in the match play event. He has one of the most fundamentally sound golf swings and possesses that stoic South African demeanor. I think he is a good fit for this format and could do very well this week.
PGA.com: What’s the single most important part of a player’s game that needs to be spot on in order to have success at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club?
McCormick: If you look at the last two champions, it's the short game. The ability to get the ball up and down from some of these green surrounds will be the determining factor this week. Ian Poulter was masterful last year at being creative around the greens and made nearly every one of those 5 to 6-foot putts that you need to stay ahead or put away the match.
PGA.com: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were both missing from the field last year. This year, they’re back. You always possess an amazing field as it is, but is there an added level of excitement knowing Tiger and Phil are both there this time around?
McCormick: Of course. This is such a strong International field, but it’s hosted in the United States where Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been crowd favorites for nearly 15 years. Two of the largest galleries on Wednesday will be following both of those matches.
PGA.com: Can you talk a little about your defending champion, Ian Poulter? He might be overlooked at times because of his style of clothing, but man, that guy can play.
McCormick: Agreed. Ian Poulter’s performance in a losing effort at Valhalla in 2008 was nothing short of spectacular. Under the pressure of the Ryder Cup and on foreign soil, Ian continued to hit shot after shot and made birdie after birdie. We are very proud to have him as our defending champion. He has a flare that the gallery can get behind and really support which I think will help him this week.
PGA.com: Last thing, Jeff. Last year, you told us that the thing you most look forward to when hosting a World Golf Championship event is the feedback you get from the players. What has that feedback been like?
McCormick: It has been tremendous so far this year. Match play is such a unique format, and there are players that are here for the third year and may have only played two competitive rounds at the Club. I believe that the more the players are able to compete on this golf course, the more they will appreciate the nuances and intricacy of the design by Jack Nicklaus. Aaron Thomas, Director of Golf Grounds, and his team have the golf course in magnificent condition and the forecast looks great for the week.