Everyone in with a chance at Accenture
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 Accenture Match Play Championship | Preview | 19 Feb 2008
The World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship takes pride of place on a busy week for the PGA Tour and world golf this week when the event is staged for the 10th occasion and for the second time at the Gallery at Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona just outside of Tucson.
The John Fought and Tom Lehman designed South Course at Gallery Mountain took over as the venue for this event last year after the tournament had been held on all but one of its previous eight occasions at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California. The one exception was, of course, in Australia.
All but one of the leading 64 players in the world rankings are in the field in 2008, further indicating the growing status of the event despite a shaky start in 1999 when Jeff Maggert defeated Andrew Magee. The only exception this year is an injured Brett Wetterich but the participation of all others promises many exciting matches and the occasional David and Goliath battle.
To describe the number 64 player in the world, J.B. Holmes in his battle against the world number one as ‘a David’ is probably a little unfair especially given that Holmes is currently in second position on the FedEx Cup points race and has won twice in Arizona in the past three years.
The defending champion is Henrik Stenson, whose form sits roughly where it was when he defeated the defending champion at the time, Geoff Ogilvy, twelve months ago. Stenson has just finished a very productive run of events in a Desert on the other side of the world and might again do well in this particular desert.
Woods has had mixed results, winning on two occasions and a runner up on another but has also been bundled out early on occasions by Peter O’Malley, and Nick O’Hern (twice) amongst others. As is often the case in 18 hole matches at this level anything can happen and despite being the hot favourite, Woods is on shakier ground than would be the case in a 72 hole stroke-play event.
In eight previous attempts, Phil Mickelson has never made it past the quarter finals. With a game now more conducive to match-play than ever before, he stands a very good chance of producing his best ever finish in the event. Pat Perez, who he faces in round one, has not played this event previously but the fact he is in the field signals an elevation in status. He has a huge task to eliminate the in-form Mickelson however.
Steve Stricker has already shown that he is capable of winning here and he has also proven in the last two years he is in better form now than when he won in Australia. He was beaten by Geoff Ogilvy in the first round last year but has continued his comeback since and at number three in the world, he is a formidable opponent for anybody. Stricker plays Daniel Chopra in round one and on paper at least should have his measure.
The world number four Ernie Els has only managed to move beyond the second round on one occasion but he arrives in Arizona after two very good efforts in another Desert in the Middle East and despite blowing a final round lead in Dubai he is in good form.
Luke Donald is someone I feel could do well. He is the type of player that this format should suit with a game built around accuracy and eliminating mistakes. That can worry many golfers out of beating him and he is playing very well at present.
The chances to win, especially in this format, are too many to list here but suffice to say that any one of the players in this field are capable of getting to the quarter finals and if they have been able to do that then they can take their chances from there.
The Australians have ten in the field and are guaranteed of at least one advancing to round two with Brendan Jones up against Adam Scott in round one.
Jones arrives off the back of two reasonable finishes in Dubai and India and the last time the pair met on a golf course, Jones had the edge when winning the Visa Taiheiyo tournament with Scott in third place.
Scott has done well in this event previously while for Jones it is his first appearance, his early preparation disrupted by the late arrival of his golf clubs and luggage after a flight from Australia.
Aaron Baddeley plays Mark Calcavecchia, Robert Allenby plays Henrik Stenson, John Senden plays Sergio Garcia, Stuart Appleby plays Tim Clark, Geoff Ogilvy who has won all but one of his twelve matches in this event is up against Justin Leonard, Rod Pampling faces Justin Rose, Nick O’Hern has a tough first round encounter against the inform Scott Verplank and Richard Green takes on Niclas Fasth.
The tournament is worth US$8 million with the winner to receive US$1,350,000 and even the first round losers guaranteed US$40,000.