Dove Mountain has match play and travel golf appeal
No. 9 on the Tortolita nine acts as a demanding 18th hole for the Accenture Match Play.
MARANA, Ariz. – This week Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain hosts its third WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.
I thought I knew plenty about Dove Mountain, the 7,489-yard behemoth north of Tucson that was designed by Jack Nicklaus specifically for match play. Thousands of mature cacti litter the landscape here and the greens are devilishly tricky.
It wasn’t until I played the course, however, that I realized something significant: The very characteristics that make this a great professional match play venue also serve the traveling golfer well.
It starts with the conditions, which are among the finest on the PGA Tour. After marveling at them through my TV the past couple years, they were even more stunning in person, from the cross-cut fairway mow lines to the island tee boxes and big bunkers. It’s one of the best-conditioned courses I can recall playing.
As for the greens, they aren’t just fast and smooth, they’re also undulating. It’s hard to believe they’re actually flatter than they were in 2009 when players complained they were too slow. When Tour officials countered by saying the greens were too undulating to make any faster, it was determined that the best option was to flatten the greens.
Lion tamed, sort of.
Though the greens are flatter than they once were, they’re still lightning quick by traveling golfer standards. Adding to the intrigue, most of these behemoths feature run-off areas, which make for some interesting short game shots for pros and amateurs alike.
Though most of us amateurs will mindlessly reach for our trusty chipping club, around these greens you’ll see pros use anything from lob wedge to 3-wood.
Of the 27 holes at Dove Mountain the Saguaro and Tortolita nines make up the tournament 18. The third nine, Wild Burro, is played mostly by the resort’s 50ish members, but is available for public play. Wild Burro’s greens weren’t part of the green-flattening renovation, so they feature the same severe undulation with which they were born. For this reason, many of the members consider Wild Burro the most entertaining of the three nines.
Though the greens and surrounding areas are tricky, Nicklaus stuck to his standard design M.O. by including wide driving corridors. In general this characteristic is frowned upon by pros who respect courses that favor accuracy over length, but medium-length drivers Geoff Ogilvy and Ian Poulter have won here, and short-knocker Tim Clark also has a solid record. It’s a pretty strong indication that at Dove Mountain shot making is just as important as long hitting.
As for amateurs, arguably the most satisfying shot to hit well is the tee shot, so you’ll take pleasure in Dove Mountain’s forgiving fairways.
Even for the big hitters, however, some of these holes are just plain long. For the Accenture Match Play there are five par 4s measuring at least 480 yards and it’s the longest course on the PGA Tour. Even the 3rd-longest set of tees measure more than 6,800 yards.
But while length is indeed a factor, there’s plenty of variety, which gives the course great intrigue whether the format is professional match play or amateur resort play. The closing stretch is particularly interesting.
Although there are several scenic holes at Dove Mountain, I argue No. 15 is the signature hole because of what it is – a short par 4 – coupled with its placement at a defining juncture in the round. Nicklaus designed Dove Mountain specifically for match play and No. 15 fits the bill perfectly with its risk/reward opportunity.
If you’re feeling bold you can try to clear a hazard that crosses the fairway, leaving an uphill shot of fewer than 80 yards, but accuracy is paramount – a wayward tee shot will end up in the nasty desert. Though the hole is barely 300 yards and there’s no water, birdie is just as likely as bogey or worse.
The final three holes feature the course’s longest par 3 (No. 16) and two dogleg right par 4s. All three are strong holes that require a carry over desert waste areas.
Whether you’re playing against your buddy or Tiger Woods, you’ll enjoy the challenge, scenery and conditions at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain.
But the golf course isn't the only thing that caters to the Match Play and resort guests simultaneously – the nearby Ritz-Carlton hotel is also on point.
With fewer than 300 rooms its one of the smallest Ritz-Carlton’s in the world, giving it a quaint, private feel. After your round unwind in the outdoor seating area that backs up to a mountain range and overlooks a pool. Add delicious food and service only the Ritz can provide, and you have desert serenity in its purest form.
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.