The glorius uncertainty of match play golf at Accenture
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2003 Accenture Match Play Championship | Preview | 25 Feb 2003
Sixty-three of the world’s top 64 golfers line up this week at the Accenture Match Play Championship in Carlsbad, California in what promises to be perhaps the most keenly awaited staging of the event.
With so many of the leading players in such good form there is much anticipation of a potential final clash of the world’s number one and two players, however, their first task is to make it through the first round. The current depth of world golf highlights just how volatile each and every match in this format can be, with any one of the eligible players capable of beating another over 18 holes on any given day. A perfect example was last year’s first round upset of Tiger Woods by the 64th ranked player in the event, Australian Peter O’Malley.
A look at the winners list since the inaugural staging of this event in 1999 indicates that the event often produces more of the dour type of golfer as winners rather than the more brilliant, as it is often the most consistent fairways and greens type player that does well in this type of format. The last four winners, Jeff Maggert, Darren Clarke, Steve Stricker and Kevin Sutherland would hardly have the sponsors licking their lips as potential winners but that is the nature of match play.
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. This will be the fourth staging of this event here; the only time it has been held elsewhere was in 2001 when taken to the Metropolitan Course in Melbourne, Australia where Steve Stricker took the title.
Tiger Woods faces PGA Tour rookie Carl Petteresen, who was runner up to the world’s number one at the recent Buick Invitational. Ernie Els faces New Zealander Phil Tataurangi and Phil Mickelson faces Robert Karlsson. On paper these matches appear to offer a way through to round two for the higher ranked players but we have seen that it does not always work out that way here.
Of the eight Australasians to line up this week, the leading ranked Robert Allenby lines up against the in-form South African Trevor Immelman, with the winner of that match going through to face either Michael Campbell or Jeff Sluman.
Stuart Appleby faces Chris Riley the winner to meet either Anders Hansen or world number eight David Toms. Peter Lonard is up against Kenny Perry in round one, and if successful will face either Tataurangi or Els in the second round.
Craig Parry is up against Brad Faxon in round one with the winner to meet Mickelson or Karlsson in the second round. Adam Scott faces Bernhard Langer with the winner to meet either Rocco Mediate or Shingo Katayama. Stephen Leaney meets Bob Estes, the winner faced with the prospect of either Justin Leonard or Jose Maria Olazabal in the next round.
No easy matches for anyone and consequently it is a difficult task to pick a winner. I think for the sake of the event and world golf it would be great to see Woods and Els going head-to-head over 36 holes in the final but, as mentioned earlier, there is much water to pass under the bridge before Sunday.
Els has shown himself to be a good matchplayer with four wins at Wentworth and reached the semis of the event in Melbourne in 2001. He is in the greatest of form at present so he represents a real danger to all. Woods was second here to Clarke in 2000 and has a great matchplay record as an amateur.
It’s all too hard for me to pick a winner. It’s hard enough picking a winner of each match let alone the overall winner so I might just sit back watch and enjoy.