World Number One Vijay Singh will line up as the top seed alongside 22 fellow European Tour Members in the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa Resort and Spa, California, this week.
Singh, Player of the Year on both The European Tour and US PGA Tour in 2004, will face Japan’s Shingo Katayama in the first round of the event which brings the leading 64 players in the world together for the first of the season’s four WGC events.
One of the most intriguing ties of the first round will see the two Portrush players, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell, come face to face. The two Northern Irishmen grew up playing the same course, play out of the same management stable and are good friends.
Clarke won the title in 2000, beating Tiger Woods in the 36 hole final, and finished third last year to underline his match play prowess. His victory in 2000 was the first by a European in the WGC series and he followed that with a victory in the WGC – NEC Invitational in 2003 to become the second player after Woods to win more than one WGC event.
But he will face a tough opponent in McDowell, who will be making his debut in the event. McDowell, winner of two titles on The European Tour since turning professional in 2002, also has an impressive match play record as a prominent member of the victorious 2001 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup Team.
Two other great friends, Adam Scott of Australia and Trevor Immelman of South Africa, are also set to face each other in the first round in another all European Tour clash. Scott finished third in 2003 after he beat Peter Lonard in the Consolation Match.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Germany’s Alex Cejka square up in another European Tour match up as will Angel Cabrera, of Argentina, and England’s Paul Casey.
Defending champion Tiger Woods will be seeking a hat-trick of titles when he starts as second seed against Nick Price of Zimbabwe. Masters Champion Phil Mickelson is seeded three and US Open Champion Retief Goosen seeded four. Each will top one of the four brackets, named in honour of Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Sam Snead.
Mickelson faces fellow American Loren Roberts in the first round while Goosen will come face to face with Australian Stephen Leaney.
American Jeff Maggert won the title in the inaugural WGC – Accenture Match Play in 1999 before Clarke triumphed the following year. Another American, Steve Stricker, became the third winner, when he held off the challenge of Swedish Ryder Cup player Pierre Fulke at Royal Melbourne, Australia.
An all American final saw Kevin Sutherland defeat Scott McCarron in 2002 before Woods completed the full set of WGC titles when he defeated Ryder Cup team-mate David Toms in the final. Woods successfully defended the title last year when he beat Davis Love III by 3 and 2.