By Steve Elling
MARANA, Ariz. -- According to the host venue's website, certain points of the Dove Mountain course are located at 3,200 feet above sea level. For those who watched the Accenture Match Play Championship's final pairing last year, when it snowed and hailed, that's certainly no news flash.
For a PGA Tour player, the territorial elements can create unique environmental issues. Or, in the case of this particular track, three of them.
Players teeing off early face the very real prospect that the ball will feel like a piece of desert rock. Temperatures overnight routinely dive down close to freezing. The first matches Wednesday started at 7:25 a.m. local time.
"It's so cold, the ball might even go shorter," Charl Schwartzel said.
So players have to plan around the environmental issues more than usual. Rory McIlroy intentionally waited to play his practice round Tuesday to that it was conducted during the same time frame as his first-round match, for instance. Because, as the weather warms up, the ball can really start to fly. The desert air is notoriously dry, which means the ball takes off like a rocket, especially at this altitude.
"I mean, all the par-5s are reachable," Schwartzel said.
They are listed on the card Wednesday at 573, 579, 599 and 583 yards. The course overall is listed at around 7,800 yards but can play 5-10 percent shorter, morning coldness and occasional winds notwithstanding.
Or even shorter than that, for some.
"It actually depends on how far you hit it in the air," McIlroy said.
Or how hot it gets. The forecast calls for a zero-percent chance of rain and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 70s.
"I think when it gets warmer, which it's meant to, and the adrenalin kicks in, it's close to 10 percent," defending champion and world No. 1 Luke Donald said of the flighting disparity versus sea level tracks like, say, Pebble Beach or Riviera.
"You take the sum of the elevations and the 10 percent difference, suddenly at 250 yards you're hitting a 4 iron, when usually that's a pretty good 3-wood for me. It takes a little bit of getting used to. [Caddie] John [McLaren] and I have done a pretty good job in the last couple of years."