The prestigious HSBC World Matchplay Championship begins at Wentworth in Surrey tomorrow, and New Zealand’s Michael Campbell (pictured with the trophy) will have to be at the very top of his game if he is to retain the title he won last year after beating Ireland’s Paul McGinley in the final.

A very strong field has been assembled for the event, whose list of past champions reads like a who’s who of champion golfers over the last four decades (see below). World number one Tiger Woods will be looking to win the event for the first time and is making his first appearance since losing the 1998 final to his fellow American Mark O’Meara, while the presence of Jim Furyk (USA), David Howell (Eng), Paul Casey (Eng), Luke Donald (Eng), Robert Karlsson (Swe) and Colin Montgomerie (Sco) in this matchplay event can only add to the gathering fervour ahead of next week’s Ryder Cup between Europe and the USA.

The tournament, which carries the largest first prize in golf, is not just about Woods’ quest for a sixth straight tournament victory or the potential Ryder Cup sub-plots that may develop. Also in the field are multiple winner Ernie Els, his South African compatriot Retief Goosen and Australia’s Adam Scott, all of whom will be well fancied for the title. The draw is completed by Simon Kahn (Eng), Tim Clark (RSA), Angel Cabrera (Arg), Shaun Micheel (USA) and Mike Weir (Can).

Woods, the second seed, plays Micheel in the first round but could then face Donald in the quarter-finals. Montgomerie has been quick to praise Woods for agreeing to play, but believes that if a European can beat him this week then the omens will be good for the Ryder Cup.

“It’s great that Tiger is here,” the 43 year-old Scot, who meets Ryder Cup colleague Howell in the pick of the opening matches, said on Tuesday.

“The draw has worked out well for me because I stay away from him as long as possible. It would be great if Luke could have a real go at him and if one of us can beat him then it would do Europe the power of good for next week.”

“It’s a shame I’ve been drawn against David [Howell],” he said of his first round clash.

“I’d rather not play a team-mate and I think both of us feel that way. It’s an awkward one but we have to put the fact that we are colleagues next week out of our minds. I will start to think properly about the Ryder Cup on Monday when I pack.”

HSBC WORLD MATCHPLAY CHAMPIONSHIP DRAW

Play begins tomorrow at Wentworth, Surrey

Each match played over 36 holes

(1) Michael Campbell (NZ) v (16) Simon Kahn (Eng)

(8) David Howell (Eng) v (9) Colin Montgomerie (Sco)

(5) Retief Goosen (RSA) v (12) Paul Casey (Eng)

(4) Adam Scott (Aus) v (13) Mike Weir (Can)

(3) Jim Furyk (USA) v (14) Robert Karlsson (Swe)

(6) Ernie Els (RSA) v (11) Angel Cabrera (Arg)

(7) Luke Donald (Eng) v (10) Tim Clark (RSA)

(2) Tiger Woods (USA) v (15) Shaun Micheel (USA)

FAMOUS FORMER CHAMPIONS

Arnold Palmer (USA) (1964, 1967)

Gary Player (RSA) (1965, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1973)

Jack Nicklaus (USA) (1970)

Hale Irwin (USA) (1974, 1975)

Greg Norman (Aus) (1980, 1983, 1986)

Seve Ballesteros (Spa) (1981, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1991)

Nick Faldo (Eng) (1989, 1992)

Ian Woosnam (Wal) (1990, 2001)

Ernie Els (RSA) (1994, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2003, 2004)