Woods returns for Accenture Matchplay
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2009 Accenture Match Play Championship | Preview | 24 Feb 2009
Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated event in world golf in recent times, the return of Tiger Woods, takes place this week at the Jack Nicklaus designed Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Dove Mountain, Arizona where the Accenture Match Play Championship gets underway on Wednesday.
The defending champion will face Australian Brendan Jones in round one but as Woods has discovered in previous years being the world’s leading golfer does not always mean a great deal in what is effectively a sprint over 18 holes. There is no reason why any player in this field can’t beat another, irrespective of ranking, and this opening match offers a great deal of intrigue for many reasons.
Woods was beaten by Peter O’Malley and Nick O’Hern in first round encounters in earlier editions of this event and was forced to pull out all stops last year when J.B. Holmes appeared to have his measure. He will be wary, especially given his lack of tournament play in the past eight months, of another from down under in Jones who, although ranked 64th, has very good credentials in the game.
Jones has been a prolific winner of money and titles in Japan and in late 2007 held off Adam Scott and an international field to win the Visa Taiheiyo tournament in Japan. He was the Australian Amateur Champion in 1999, which suggests the volatility of match play is of no real concern. Jones also played the PGA Tour in 2005, won on the Nationwide Tour in 2004 and has several key events to his name on the Japan Golf Tour.
Jones has not played a tournament since the Australian Open in December so like Woods he might be a little underdone.
This event has certainly grown is stature since the first event in 1999 in Carlsbad when Jeff Maggert hardly gave the World Golf Championship events a flying start by beating Andrew Magee in the finals. Woods has however won three of the events since then and finished runner up in one other when beaten by Darren Clarke in the final in 2000. Most will be hoping of a Woods victory to keep the interest in the event alive although many Australians will see it differently.
The field is broken up into four brackets but essentially the leading ranked player plays the lowest ranked player (#64) the word number two plays the 63rd ranked player and so on.
Henrik Stenson is a previous winner of this event and is in fine form despite not having played a tournament for a month. He finished runner up in Qatar and was third in Dubai providing evidence that his game is not far from its peak.
Steve Stricker also has a good opportunity to repeat his win at the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne in 2001. The field then was depleted of stars but now he is a star in his own right and his current form indicates he could make this Accenture Match Play number two. He plays the much improved Dustin Johnson in round one.
Eight Australians have made the field and Geoff Ogilvy has such a good record in the event he must be a chance to win. He won in 2006 and finished runner up to Stenson in 2007 and while he might not be playing quite as well at present as he was then, he could still have a very good week.
The Victorian plays previous winner, Kevin Sutherland, who won this event in 2002 in round one and who is quietly going about his business at present. That might be a tougher match on the golf course than it appears on paper.
New father Aaron Baddeley plays Paul Casey who finished off last week’s Johnnie Walker Classic well, Robert Allenby played well in his first 2009 PGA Tour start last week and he will play Ross Fisher and Stuart Appleby is up against Germany’s Martin Kaymer.