World Number Four, Lee Westwood of England, headlines an all-star cast in this week’s World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play, with European Tour Members filling eight of the top ten seedings as the unpredictability of match-play golf takes centre stage.
No fewer than 40 of the 64 players gathered at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club on Dove Mountain in Arizona’s Sonaran Desert are in European Tour Membership, and inevitably the draw has thrown up a number of exciting match-ups, with 12 European Tour head-to-heads in the first round.
Lee Westwood, top seed in the Gary Player bracket, against fellow Englishman and 2009 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year, Chris Wood, is one such mouth-watering tie, as the duo from the same management stable, who finished joint third in last year’s Open Championship, meet on the opening day.
The Gary Player bracket is brimming with international players , including defending champion Geoff Ogilvy in the same section of the draw as Westwood. The Australian is looking to become the first player to win the title three times, following his successes in 2006 and 2009. He was also runner-up in 2007 and has reached the final in three of the four times he has played. His impressive record of won 17 matches, lost two will make him a formidable opponent for in-form Swede Alexander Noren in the first round.
The same bracket also includes 2008 champion Henrik Stenson, who faces American Ben Crane, US PGA Champion YE Yang, South African Major winners Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, and dogged Danes Søren Hansen and Søren Kjeldsen. Whoever makes it through the Gary Player Division certainly deserves a place in the semi-final.
American World Number Two Steve Stricker, who won the title in 2001 when ranked 55th, is now the top seed and will face England’s Ross McGowan in the opening round. Masters Champion Angel Cabrera is also in the Bobby Jones bracket, taking on Adam Scott in the opening round, as is another Major Champion, Padraig Harrington, who faces India’s Jeev Milkha Singh on Wednesday morning. Cabrera and Harrington, who between them have won all four Majors, could meet in the third round.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer heads up the Ben Hogan bracket and has a tough opening match against Chad Campbell, who finished fourth in his last appearance in the WGC – Accenture Match Play in 2007. Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who so impressed on his US debut in this event last year, faces another of the game’s younger generation in Kevin Na. Indeed, 23 in the are under the age of 30, setting a new record, with Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa the youngest.
And there’s the possibility of brother versus brother in the Sam Snead bracket as the Molinari’s from Italy could meet in the quarter finals if they get through. Edoardo and Francesco are the first brothers to compete in the WGC – Accenture Match Play but safe passage will not be easy, with Edoardo facing the reigning Open Champion, Cink, and Francesco up against former Masters Champion Zach Johnson. Last year’s beaten finalist Paul Casey of England may also stand in their way as the tournament progresses.