Monday, 17 February 2014
Ritz-Carlton Golf Club  (Getty Images)
Ritz-Carlton Golf Club (Getty Images)
The first World Golf Championships event of the 2014 season takes place in Tucson, Arizona this week, with 64 of the world’s leading players battling for supremacy at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

There are 33 European Tour members who have made the trip to Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, in Dove Mountain, led by World Number Three and top seed, Henrik Stenson.

The Swede, who secured an unprecedented double either side of the Atlantic by winning both The Race to Dubai and FedEx Cup Series in 2013, won the title in 2007 and is one of five European Tour members to have triumphed in the event.

Stenson begins his campaign in the Bobby Jones bracket against the final player to make it into the field, 64th seed Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, in one of four ties pitting European Tour members against each other.

In the Gary Player bracket, South African Ernie Els faces Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, Englishman Luke Donald, the champion in 2011, takes on Italian Matteo Manassero, and Denmark’s Thomas Björn is drawn against Italian Francesco Molinari. World Number Four Justin Rose, who made his comeback from a shoulder injury last week, is the top seed in the group, and the Englishman will face the winner of the Els-Gallacher match if he can safely negotiate his opening tie with American Scott Piercy.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, the World Number Seven and a finalist two years ago, features in the Ben Hogan bracket where he is drawn against American Boo Weekley in the first round on Wednesday, with the potential for a second round clash with Englishman Lee Westwood, who is paired with American Harris English.

Also in the Hogan Division is 2010 champion Ian Poulter, who will be aiming to extend his impressive match play record when he takes on American Rickie Fowler.

Meanwhile, in the Sam Snead Division, reigning Volvo World Match Play champion Graeme McDowell opens his bid to hold both Match Play titles by taking on American Gary Woodland, while former World Number One Martin Kaymer, the runner-up to Donald in 2011, faces Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.

There are seven European Tour members making their debuts in the WGC- Accenture Match Play Championship, with Aphibarnrat joined by Jonas Blixt, Victor Dubuisson, Mikko Ilonen, Pablo Larrazábal, Joost Luiten and Bernd Wiesberger.

For Frenchman Dubuisson, the winner of the Turkish Airlines Open presented by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in November, it is also a maiden appearance in any of the four World Golf Championships event. The former World Amateur Number One will face American Kevin Streelman in the first round.

Defending champion Matt Kuchar starts his bid to become only the second player after Tiger Woods (2003/4) to retain the title with a first round tie against Austrian Wiesberger. The American defeated 2012 champion Hunter Mahan 2&1 in last year’s final to claim his first WGC crown.

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