Strong European Tour Challenge for WGC-Accenture Match Play
A total of 23 European Tour Members will tee up in the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa Resort and Spa hoping to emulate Darren Clarke as a winner of the first WGC event of the calendar year.
World Number Two, Vijay Singh of Fiji, and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez, the current leader of the Volvo Order of Merit, are two of the form horses coming into the event which brings the leading 64 available players in the world together in match play competition.
Singh is seeded second behind World Number One and defending champion, Tiger Woods, following the decision of South Africa’s Ernie Els to stay at home on the Wentworth Estate in England in order to be with his family when his daughter starts school this week.
In the absence of the 2003 Volvo Order of Merit winner, as Number Two seed, faced Japan’s Shingo Katayama in the first round with either Spain’s Sergio Garcia or Jerry Kelly awaiting the winner in round two.
Meanwhile Woods, who beat fellow American Ryder Cup team mate, David Toms, in last year’s final at the same venue, tackles John Rollins as Number One meets Number 64 in the seeded format.
There are, however, no fewer than seven European Tour Members in Woods’s quarter of the draw aiming to lower his colours. South African Trevor Immelman could get first crack in the second round if he can dispose of Japan’s Shigeki Maruyama.
There is Japanese opposition also for Padraig Harrington of Ireland, the ninth seed, who faces Toshimitsu Izawa while Paul Casey of England seeks the scalp of US PGA Champion, Shaun Micheel, Niclas Fasth of Sweden tries to get the better of last year’s runner-up, Toms, and Thomas Björn of Denmark meets Ryder Cup rival, Scott Hoch.
There is an all-European match-up in that top quarter, with Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson coming face to face with Welsh Ryder Cup player, Phillip Price with the winner to meet either Björn of Hoch.
In Singh’s quarter, Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, the champion in 2000 and a quarter-finalist last year, begins with a tie against 49 year old Eduardo Romero of Argentina while Germany’s Alex Cejka takes on former Open Champion, Justin Leonard.
David Love III of the USA is seeded third in a quarter that includes seven European Tour Members including Jiménez, who launches his title bid against Australian Adam Scott. Lee Westwood of England has a tough opener against American Phil Mickelson.
In the fourth quarter, Masters Champion Mike Weir of Canada is ranked Number Four seed, with Retief Goosen of South Africa, Australian Peter Lonard and Ian Poulter of England all facing American opponents while Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie meets Zimbabwe’s Nick Price.
The event began in 1999 with American Jeff Maggert winning the title before Ulsterman Clarke became the first European Tour Member to triumph, beating Woods in the 36 hole final. Clarke subsequently won the WGC – NEC Invitational last year to become only the second player after Woods to win more than one WGC event.
Clarke’s match play victory was followed by that of another American in the form of Steve Stricker, who held off the challenge of Swedish Ryder Cup player Pierre Fulke in Melbourne in the first, and so far only, WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship to be played outside the United States.
An all American final in 2002 saw Kevin Sutherland edge out Scott McCarron on the events return to La Costa while last year Woods completed the full set of WGC titles when he defeated his Ryder Cup team mate Toms 2 and 1 in the final.
Third place went to European Tour Member Scott 12 months ago after he got the better of Lonard in the Consolation Match.
Courtesy of www.europeantour.com