The top 64 players available from the Official World Golf Ranking will fight to make it through six rounds of knockout match play to become the WGC Accenture Match Play champion. It’s one of the richest tournaments of the year with $8,500,000 up for grabs. Even those who lose out in the first round pick up $45,000.
Players are put in four brackets (Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Bobby Jones) and are seeded according to their World Ranking. So, in the first round World Number 1 Lee Westwood takes on the 64th seed Henrik Stenson. The Swede was a winner of this event in 2007 but has suffered a significant dip in form since then. He has only made it into the field this week following the withdrawal of Toru Taniguchi through injury.
World Number 2 Martin Kaymer takes on Seung-yul Noh of Korea in the first round. He’s in the same bracket as Rory McIlroy and the pair could meet at the quarter-final stage.
Other interesting first round matches include Tiger Woods against Thomas Bjorn, Charl Schwartzel against Ryo Ishikawa and the experienced Steve Stricker versus teenage sensation Matteo Manassero.
Last season’s tournament kick-started an amazing year for European golf as Englishmen Ian Poulter and Paul Casey faced off in the final. It was Poulter who ran out as eventual winner while Casey had to be content with a second successive runner-up finish at Dove Mountain.
Poulter begins his defence with a difficult first round match against 2009 Open Champion Stewart Cink. Casey will take on Australian left-hander Richard Green.
Although both English players will be among the favourites this week, it’s not uncommon for lesser-known players to go all the way in this tournament – see the 1999 final between Jeff Maggert and Andrew Magee or the 2002 final contested by Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron.
Venue: Ritz-Carlton GC, Dove Mountain, Arizona
Date: Feb 23-27
Course stats: par 72, 7,849 yards
Purse: $8,500,000 Winner: $1,400,000
Defending Champion: Ian Poulter
Wednesday 23 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm
Thursday 24 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 7pm
Friday 25 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7pm
Saturday 26 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 5pm
Sunday 27 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 3pm
Jones Bracket: Charl Schwartzel – The South African hasn’t played since finishing tied for eighth in Abu Dhabi but showed excellent early season form with four straight top-five finishes in South Africa including a win in the Joburg Open.
Player Bracket: Martin Kaymer – The German is top seed in this bracket and he’ll have to get past some tough opponents, including possibly Rory McIlroy, to reach the semi-finals. His consistency and prowess at clutch-putting should see him through though.
Hogan Bracket: Graeme McDowell – A steely competitor who thrives under pressure, McDowell has been speaking confidently in the lead up to the event. Although every match is tough in this format, his path to the latter stages looks simpler than most.
Snead Bracket: Paul Casey – He’s been runner-up in the last two years and has been showing good form so far in 2011 with a win in Bahrain. Tiger Woods is top seed in the Sam Snead bracket but Casey will be confident of making it to the latter stages again this year.
Skills required: Despite the fact Dove Mountain is the longest course on the PGA Tour schedule, it’s not just the ability to hit monster drives that will lead to success here. Last year’s winner Ian Poulter is not one of the longest players on the circuit. It was his skills at scrambling and avoiding mistakes that saw him lift the trophy.
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