Accenture begins season's key events
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2012 Accenture Match Play Championship | Preview | 21 Feb 2012
The first World Golf Championship of 2012, the Accenture Match Play Championship, begins Wednesday at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Dove Mountain in Marana near Tucson in Arizona when the leading 64 available players from the world ranking will take part in the US$8.5 million event.
The event is the first of two World Golf Championship events in the next three weeks, the other being the World Golf Championships Caddilac Championship beginning on March 8th.
Two players from the current leading 64 players in the world are missing from this week’s event, namely Phil Mickelson, because he chooses to be so, and Paul Casey, because of a snowboarding injury.
Mickelson is taking a family vacation after two outstanding weeks at Pebble Beach and Riviera while Casey is likely to be back for the World Golf Championship event at Doral in two weeks time.
The beneficiaries of Mickelson and Casey’s absence are Ernie Els and his fellow countryman George Coetzee. Funnily enough Els is now ranked lower than Coetzee in the world ranking and if the field had been finalized today Els would not have a start but, because the field and not the seedings was finalised a week ago, both players get a start.
Understandably Els was delighted. “Phil played quite a few events on the West Coast, and obviously this is maybe not one of his favorite events but whatever way you look at it, he’s not here and he’s given me a spot, so I’m grateful for that. I’ve got some good red wines I can give him. And I definitely will buy him a dinner whenever he wants it. So it’s really nice for myself to be in. And obviously he’s not here, so it gives me opportunity.”
The event is divided up into four brackets each named after some of the greats in the game.
Luke Donald will play Ernie Els in the lead match in the Bobby Jones bracket, Rory McIlory will take on George Coetzee in the Gary Player bracket, Lee Westwood plays Nicolas Colsaerts in the Sam Snead bracket and Martin Kaymer tackles Greg Chalmers in the Ben Hogan group of 16.
The defending champion is Luke Donald who defeated Martin Kaymer in last year’s final, moving him then to number three in the world and allowing Kaymer to take the number one position. It was Donald’s first PGA Tour victory in five years but set the tone for a season which led him to being number one in the world two months later, a position he still holds.
Donald has made it to the round of 16 in four of his other six starts in the event and has always progressed past the first round. Donald has played only twice in 2012, making the cut but finishing well back at the Abu Dhabi Championship and at last week’s Northern Trust Open. Important to note that Donald missed the cut at last year’s Northern Trust Open the week before winning this event so he could still do well.
In three starts in the event McIlory has not made it past the quarter finals but given he has been inside the top 5 in eight of his last nine starts worldwide he must be one of the major chances.
It is amazing that in ten starts in this event, Lee Westwood has not made it past the second round. Given his uncompromising nature on the golf course, that comes as somewhat of a surprise. Westwood has started the year well, his runner-up finish at the recent Qatar Masters suggesting he is ready to improve considerably on his average record in the event.
Matt Kuchar made it to the semi finals last year and then won the consolation over Bubba Watson. Kuchar appears to be warming to his task of late and might be one for slightly longer odds.
Bubba Watson finished 4th last year and given his great run of consistent efforts of late he must be a good chance to better his first up effort in the event last year. He takes on Ben Crane in round one, Crane in very good form in early season events.
It is a little surprising that Webb Simpson is playing his very first Accenture Match Play Championship, perhaps a reflection on just how he has come in the last twelve months. Simpson plays Italy’s Matteo Manassero in round one, Manassero having made it through to the third round on his debut last year. Manassero has not been at his best of late while Simpson has made a very good start to the season already.
Tiger Woods will no doubt attract most attention, the three time winner and once runner-up taking on Gonzalo Federz Castano who plays the event for the first time. The Spaniard has played well enough in recent weeks to be some sort of threat to Woods although just taking on the former one will be a task for him.
Australians in the field are Jason Day, Adam Scott, Aaron Baddeley, John Senden, Geoff Ogilvy and Greg Chalmers.
Day plays the event for second occasion having made it to the round of 16 last year. His results to date in 2012 have been mixed but at his best he could go a long way this week. Day will tackle Spain’s Rafael Cabrera Bello in round one.
Scott has not played this event well in recent years although earlier in his career he made it to the semi and quarter finals. I though Scott did well in his first event of the year last week in Los Angeles after surgery to remove tonsils a few weeks earlier. Scott will play Englishman and recent Abu Dhabi winner Robert Rock.
Aaron Baddeley played well at Pebble Beach and again last week in Los Angeles but in three starts in this event he has not made it past the third round. He is in such good form at present he could improve significantly on that. Baddeley will play Louis Oosthuizen.
John Senden has played this event just once for a first round loss four years ago. He has started the year well enough, a 6th place finish at the Humana Challenge an indication of how well he is playing. Senden will play Simon Dyson.
Geoff Ogilvy is a former two time winner and once a runner-up in this tournament – one of the victories being at this venue. Ogilvy has been average to date this season and will need all his match play qualities to improve this week. Ogilvy’s other problem is that he meets a man in good current form in Keegan Bradley.
Greg Chalmers gets his first start in the event in 11 years having been beaten in the first round in his only previous outing. Chalmers has been only average since his great finish to 2011 in events in Australia. Chalmers plays Martin Kaymer on day one.
After a shaky start in its early years the Accenture Match Play Championship has developed into a must-watch tournament and with the first real merging of the European and PGA Tours in 2012 it might just provide an insight into what can be expected for the remainder of the year.
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