Tiger returns to battle at WGC Accenture Championship
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 Accenture Match Play Championship | Preview | 20 Feb 2007
The US$8 million World Golf Championship Accenture Match Play Championship starts on Wednesday with a new venue replacing La Costa Resort and Spa where the event had been held since its inception in 1999, apart from one year in Melbourne, Australia.
The South Course at The Gallery at Dove Mountain near Tucson in Arizona is a John Fought and Tom Lehman designed facility opened in 2003 and provides a very much contrasting golf course layout to that at La Costa.
One of the reasons for the change from La Costa has been the regular interruptions caused by bad weather at that venue over the years and although early morning in Tucson can be cool, the comfortable day time temperatures and hopefully more settled weather will provide greater appeal to players and spectators alike.
The brackets and the first round matchups have been decided but picking the winner of each match is hard enough, never mind the outright winner. In an event where the leading 64 players in the world are present, anyone of them is capable of defeating another on any given day. Upsets are the very nature of match play over the sprint distance of 18 holes.
This year Woods goes up against the last man into the field once again, J.J. Henry, whose 22nd place finish and last round 68 at last week’s Nissan Open suggests that an upset, while a surprise, would not be beyond the realms of possibility against the two time winner of the event. This is Henry’s first time in the event.
The world number two, Jim Furyk, is up against the newcomer to this event, Brett Quigley, and while on paper it should be a win to Furyk, Quigley has made four of five cuts this season and has enough game to produce a surprise on his day.
Phil Mickelson is back close to his very best and he plays well in Arizona. Mickelson has yet to advance past the quarter finals in this event and his matchplay record generally is not good. He plays the Australian, Richard Green, who has played only three events this season, which included a fourth placed finish in Qatar behind Retief Goosen in those events. Green has yet to make it past the first round in the two times he has been to the event.
Adam Scott heads his bracket and will take on Shaun Micheel who is struggling at present. Scott has played well in this event, albeit at La Costa, and reached the semi finals in 2003 and the quarter finals in 2005. He has played every little this season and his ordinary week last week at Riviera was a surprise given his record there. He does, however, have what appears to be the luxury of an easy first round match, on paper at least.
Ernie Els has been in brilliant form of late and he has what would appear a straight forward first round encounter against Welshman, Bradley Dredge, who is playing the event for the first time. Surprisingly however, Els has been beaten in three of his six first round encounters in this event and the best he has done was 4th in 2001.
Retief Goosen played very well in the Middle East before a less than impressive week at Riviera last week. He can be forgiven for that one poor tournament and with a quarter and semi final appearance in his last two times here, he could do well provided he gets past his first round opponent, Scott Verplank, who has not made it past the second round in seven attempts.
Vijay Singh comes up against John Rollins and this is a very even match. Three years ago, when a much less credentialed player, Rollins nearly caused an upset when he led Tiger to the latter stages of his opening round encounter before Woods beat him at the last. Rollins is in great form at present and Vijay Singh will know he has been in a match by the time this one is over. On paper this promises to be one of the more absorbing encounters in round one, especially with Singh being a little inconsistent of late. Singh has never made it past the round of 16 while Rollin’s only visit to the event was in 2003 when narrowly beaten by Woods.
Geoff Ogilvy is the defending champion and comes up against another winner of the event in Steve Stricker, who won in Melbourne in 2001. Stricker started the season well when 4th in Hawaii but has played seldom since. Ogilvy has also played very little this season and has not played all that well when he has. He started the event last week at Riviera well before a poor last round.
Of the other Australians, the very much inform, Robert Allenby, takes on Tim Clark in round one. That is the good news. If he makes it through that match he will face either Tiger Woods or J.J. Henry in round two.
Nick O’Hern has done very well in the two times he has played here and he has the type of game that very much suits this format. Few mistakes can worry an even better opponent out of a win and O’Hern has shown just that when making round three and the quarter finals in his two previous appearances, one of those when beating Tiger Woods in round two. He will face the impressive Lucas Glover in round one but with the benefit of some good form of late, he has a chance to move through. Glover is not to be underestimated however, despite being a first round loser in his only time in this event last year.
Stuart Appleby will face the game’s hottest male golfer in 2007, Charles Howell and will need to be at his best to beat the money list leader. Howell has an ordinary Accenture record having made it past the first round in only one of his five attempts. Appleby has made a reasonable start to the season but like Howell has struggled to get very far in this event. On paper therefore the inform Howell looks the winner.
Aaron Baddeley plays Shingo Katayama and should have the edge on the Japanese star, who has played just the one event in 2007 when missing the cut last week at the Nissan. He did though make the round of 16 last year after a similar lack of play Baddeley has continued on from his great win in Scottsdale and although it is his first appearance in the event he should challenge Katayama.
Rod Pampling has not made it through the first round in either of his two times at the Accenture but he takes on Korean Y.E Yang who has yet to play in 2007. Yang still leads the European Tour money list however after a brilliant win at the HSBC Championship in China late last year.
Richard Green was discussed earlier in relation to his first round match up with Phil Mickelson.
Photo – Anthony Powter