No fewer than 19 European Tour Members will tee up at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia tomorrow for the first World Golf Championships event of 2001 - the Accenture Match Play Championship.
World Number Two Ernie Els leads the European Tour challenge as the top seed in the field of 64 players and he faces American Greg Kraft in the first round. There are also a number of mouth-watering ties including the match between Welshman Phillip Price and Scotland’s Andrew Coltart.
Price finished second in the WGC – NEC Invitational and arrives in Australia just two weeks after the birth of his son John. With a total prize fund of $5million on offer this week, Price will be looking for another good week to earn valuable Ryder Cup points in a bid to make his debut in the team next September.
Theirs is only one of three clashes between European Tour Members. New Zealander Michael Campbell, three times a winner on the European Tour International Schedule last season and the number five seed this week, faces Swede Mathias Grönberg while Scotland’s Gary Orr, another multiple winner last year, takes on Ireland’s Pail McGinley.
1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie, who was knocked out of last year’s event by Tiger Woods on the last hole in the Quarter Finals, faces American Chris DiMarco.
Australian left-hander Nick O’Hern meets the number two seed Hal Sutton, who is battling an inflamed disk in his back.
Padraig Harrington, the highest ranked European in the field, plays American Steve Stricker and Volvo Masters champion Pierre Fulke faces another American in Fred Funk.
US PGA runner-up Bob May will play compatriot Tom Scherrer and Sweden’s Patrick Sjoland has a tough draw against the 1997 Open Champion Justin Leonard. Also in action is 1999 Open runner-up Jean Van de Velde against Duffy Waldorf and 17th seed Reteif Goosen, who plays Steve Lowery.
Jose Coceres, Per-Ulrik Johansson, Bernhard Langer and Mark McNulty complete the list of European Tour Members in the field.
Last year Darren Clarke became the first European Tour Member to win a World Golf Championships event after an outstanding 4 and 3 victory over Tiger Woods in the final. Clarke also defeated World Number Two David Duval, Hal Sutton, Thomas Björn, Mark O’Meara and Paul Azinger during the week. Unfortunately Clarke is unable to defend his title this week.
The Metropolitan Golf Club opened in 1908 and was originally designed by J.B. MacKenzie. Dr. Alister MacKenzie and Dick Wilson also did some work on Metropolitan in 1926 and 1960, respectively.
The par-72 course plays to a length of 7,066 yards. The 18-hole, competitive course record is a 63 shot by Peter Lonard while Greg Norman and Lee Westwood share the 72-hole mark of 14-under-par 274.WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship Round One Draw