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Wednesday, 19 February 2014
Early start for Ian Poulter as he warms up for his first round match  (Getty Images)
Early start for Ian Poulter as he warms up for his first round match (Getty Images)

The race to make Paul McGinley’s European team for The 2014 Ryder Cup hots up this week in the Arizona desert at the big-money WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

With a $9,000,000 prize fund on offer in the first World Golf Championships event of the year at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Dove Mountain, those players currently inside the automatic qualification spots will be looking to further consolidate their positions while those just outside can make a significant move into contention for a place at the biennial transatlantic contest.

This week will also be one of a few rare chances for Ryder Cup hopefuls to again prove their mettle in the popular head-to-head match play format as the top 64 players in the world attempt to wrest the crown from American Matt Kuchar, who triumphed in Arizona 12 months ago.

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who currently sits fourth in the European Points List on 1,427,687.33 and clear on top of the World Points with 244.68, is almost guaranteed a third appearance for Europe at The Gleneagles Hotel in just over seven months’ time after a golden period which saw him dominate on both sides of the Atlantic, and he takes on debutant Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the first round on Wednesday.

Victory this week in the United States for one of the experienced Thomas Björn, promising Frenchman Victor Dubuisson or Ryder Cup stalwart Ian Poulter would all-but secure a berth for the men currently placed first, second and third respectively in the European Points List with around the 2,000,000 point mark traditionally having been enough to make the European team.

Meanwhile, the likes of Jamie Donaldson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Joost Luiten, who is looking to become the first Dutchman to play in The Ryder Cup, can all also move ever closer towards their Ryder Cup debuts in Scotland come September with a strong showing in this week’s match play showpiece.

This week undoubtedly presents a major opportunity to stake a serious claim for one of the 12 places up for grabs at The Ryder Cup although the European team will certainly not be finalised at the culmination of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship by any means with 26 counting events to come before the points window closes at the Italian Open in August.

With 219 days to go until the first ball is struck in The 2014 Ryder Cup, the battle for Gleneagles continues…

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