European Tour's finest to tackle the Blue Monster

3/19/2010 3:02:38 PM
WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship - Final Round  (Getty Images)
WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship - Final Round (Getty Images)

After Ian Poulter’s magnificent victory at the last World Golf Championships event, The European Tour’s finest are primed for another attempt to conquer America at the WGC – CA Championship this week.

Poulter, who rose to Number Five on the Official World Golf Ranking following his win over fellow Englishman Paul Casey at the WGC – Accenture Match Play last month, will be among the favourites to contend for the CA Championship over the famous Blue Monster Course at the Doral Golf & Spa Resort in Miami, Florida, and he will be joined by a hugely talented pack of in-form European Tour Members looking to dethrone defending champion Phil Mickelson.

World Number Six Casey, who followed his runners-up finish in Arizona with a fourth place in last week’s PGA Tour event, has momentum on his side, as does the Honda Classic champion Camilo Villegas, a fan of the Blue Monster course having finished in a tie for fifth place last year. Villegas can also count on ‘home’ backing at Doral, with Miami’s huge Latin American community always offering the Colombian their partisan support.

Joining that in-form trio from the World’s top 20 are Lee Westwood, who also claimed a top ten berth at Palm Beach Gardens on Sunday, Martin Kaymer , Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson, Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, Robert Allenby, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els, all of whom will be eyeing the season’s second WGC title on American soil.

Only two players from the world’s top 50 will be missing at Doral: Tiger Woods and Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa, who will be graduating from his high school, Suginami Gakuin, in Japan next week. 

Other qualification categories in addition to the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking include the top 20 players from the final 2009 Race to Dubai standings, the top 30 from the final 2009 FedExCup standings, the top two from the Order of Merits of the Japan Tour, Asian Tour, Australasian Tour and Sunshine Tour, as well the top ten in the current Race to Dubai Standings.

While many players will have a long journey to Miami, The European Tour Members flying in from the Maybank Malaysian Open will surely be making the longest trips.

The two Sørens – Hansen and Kjeldsen – along with Thongchai Jaidee will circumnavigate the globe after four gruelling rounds in the punishing Malaysian heat.

All three players  will be full of confidence after performing well in Kuala Lumpur, with Hansen taking third spot behind the Korean duo of Noh Seung-yul and KJ Choi.

“It is a long trip to Miami from here,” smiled Hansen before embarking on a 14 hour flight to London, where he would have a four-hour stopover before boarding the eight hour flight to Miami.

“But it has been a great week in Malaysia and I am glad I came here because I got into contention and really enjoyed it. I can take a lot of confidence to Doral now and it is a venue that I have played well at in the past.”

Mickelson had 26 attempts at winning a World Golf Championships event before defeating Nick Watney by one stroke at last year's event. It didn't take long for Mickelson to win his next WGC title as he captured the WGC – HSBC Champions in Shanghai in November, the event's first year as part of the World Golf Championships series.

"It's very cool to win these events," said Mickelson. "I didn't know how cool it would be, because these events were fairly new. But now that they have been around for almost, I guess, ten years now, their status continues to grow in the game, and to finally win a couple is important to my career I believe."