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Monday, 19 March 2007

After Henrik Stenson’s impressive victory in the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play last month, the 34 European Tour Members heading for Doral Golf Resort & Spa will be hoping the change of venue, sponsor and position in the calendar will herald a similar change in fortunes in the WGC – CA Championship this week.

With CA beginning its five-year sponsorship of the WGC event, having taken over from American Express, who had been title sponsors since the inaugural WGC – American Express Championship at Valderrama in 1999, the 74 strong field will face a new test this week on the move to Florida and move from its traditional autumn date.

Ernie Els is currently the only European Tour Member to have won the title, having triumphed in 2004 at Mount Juliet Conrad in Ireland, with Canadian Mike Weir the only other player to break Tiger Woods’s stranglehold on the trophy.

Woods will be hoping to pen another chapter in the record books by winning the same event six times, following his success at The Grove in Hertfordshire, England, last September. He has also plenty of form at Doral having won the Ford Championship there in 2005 and 2006.

The World Number One has also won the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational on five occasions  (1999, 00, 01, 05 and 06) joining Tom Watson (The Open Championship – 1975, 77, 80, 82 and 83) and Bernhard Langer (German Open – 1981, 82, 85, 86 and 93) as the only other players to have won the same event five times.

But with a record 34 strong European Tour representation lining up in the field - it would have been 35 but for Justin Rose's late withdrawal with back trouble - and following the success of Stenson and strong performances by a host of other European Tour Members in Arizona, there is cause for optimism about the second WGC event of the year.

When the WGC – Accenture Match Play moved to a new home in Tucson, Stenson joined Clarke and Els in the exclusive list of European Tour winners of WGC events. With the WGC – CA Championship setting up home at Doral, the Tour’s representatives will be aiming for another success.

Qualification is based firstly on the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Ten European Tour Members occupy positions in the World’s Top 15 led by Adam Scott in fourth, Stenson in fifth and Els in sixth, with 22 players earning a place in the field under this category. Another six players who were not already exempt qualified through the final 2006 European Tour Order of Merit and one through the 2007 Order of Merit with two more European Tour Members qualifying from the respective money lists of the Australasian, Asian and Sunshine Tours.

Australian Nathan Green, South Africa’s Anton Haig and Thailand’s Prom Meesawat will be playing in a World Golf Championship event for the first time, while India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and American Kevin Stadler will be making their debuts in the WGC – CA Championship.

No fewer than 18 countries will be represented, including 27 players from the United States, nine from South Africa, eight from both England and Australia and five from Sweden.

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