Accenture Match Play offers great match ups for golf nuts
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2004 Accenture Match Play Championship | Preview | 25 Feb 2004
With the draw for this year’s Accenture Match Play Championship now completed, the discussion now begins on not who will face who, but how each match and indeed the Championship will pan out.
Played once again at the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California, the event brings together the leading 64 golfers in the current world rankings, or at least those who are available. This year only three players are absent namely Ernie Els, who has decided to assist in the relocation of his family prior to his daughter Samantha attending school for the first time, Jim Furyk, who has an injury problem and Kirk Triplett, who is attending a wedding in Hawaii.
The La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California was designed by Dick Wilson and originally opened in 1965. The course was the venue for the Tournament of Champions for 28 years (1970-1998) before moving to Hawaii.
The course for the Accenture is essentially a composite course between the North and South course that make up the Resort. The greens are Bent grass with poa annua and the fairways Bermuda, overseeded with rye.
At $US7,000,000 the event carries the richest total purse in world golf with a first prize of some $US1.2 million.
The defending champion is Tiger Woods and with three solid finishes to his name already this season he will again be the man to beat although in this format anything can happen, and does. In 2002, Woods was beaten in the first round by the lowest ranked player that year in Peter O’Malley and there have be many similar upsets over the previous five stagings of the event. Last year Phil Tataurangi eliminated Ernie Els in the first round. Over just 18 holes and with such a fine line between the top 64 players there are always going to be upsets.
The draw is made up in such a way that the top four seeds will all play in different quarters. There are four divisions made up of 16 players in each and if such a scenario was possible, then the top four seeds are scheduled to meet in the semi-finals. We know however that things do not necessarily work that way.
In round one Woods will meet the 64th ranked player, but 16th ranked in his division, John Rollins. Rollins has missed his last three cuts this year but is an accomplished player having won the Bell Canadian Open in 2002. Vijay Singh takes on Shingo Katayama who has not played competitively this season. Mike Weir takes on 2002 US PGA Champion Rich Beem in their first round and in the other bracket Davis Love III takes on Briny Baird.
The first four seeds therefore should, theoretically at least, get through round one.
As for the Australasians, six will take their place in the field. Stuart Appleby takes on England’s Justin Rose who played his first USPGA event of the season last week in Los Angeles, making the cut. Rose had played three early season event on the European Tour without much success.
Robert Allenby is up against recent ANZ Championship winner Brian Davis whose win in Australia got him into the field. Allenby is coming off a solid start to the year including two top twenties in his first three starts.
Adam Scott, who did so well here last year finishing third after a taking Woods to the first extra hole in his semi-final match up, will tee it up against Miguel Angel Jiminez. Jiminez last month was victorious when winning the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand. Scott will know he has been in a match at the end of this, irrespective of which way it goes. Scott is coming off his fine second placing to Els at the Heineken Classic in Melbourne.
Peter Lonard, who lost to Scott in last year’s third and fourth playoff, will face Rocco Mediate. Mediate has had a slow start to the year making just one of four cuts. Lonard has only just returned to competitive play after injury and his effort to just miss the cut by a shot last week after a two month enforced layoff suggests he will quickly find form. Lonard is not all that match play experienced, but has the nagging type of game that should see him do well if he is tournament ready.
Stephen Leaney played well two weeks ago at Torrey Pines and he takes on the Fred Funk. Both have similar styles of games with accuracy and consistency a hall mark. Funk has made three of four cuts this season but nothing special has come of those finishes to date.
Michael Campbell returns to the only venue where he earnt a cheque in his disastrous early season start in the US last year. That was, however, only because everyone gets a cheque here, even the first round losers. He is coming off a third place at the Heineken and a 12th place at the ANZ. He will face Chris DiMarco in round one and with DiMarco finishing second at the recent FBR Open in Phoenix, this is a tough assignment for the New Zealander.
The event promises so much more especially the juicy prospect, should they last that long, of Woods and Singh going at it in the final over 36 holes.