With the latest Official World Golf Rankings released on Monday after the dust-up in Dubai and the comic theater at Pebble Beach, the top-64 players qualify to enter in the first WGC event of 2011, the Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Arizona. Those eligible have until Friday evening to officially enter, so the field won’t be finalized until then. However, No. 4 Phil Mickelson, who skipped the event last year to take his family on vacation, said he will be there after the final round at Pebble.
If all of the 64 decide to play, here are the provisional first-round matchups:
|1||Lee Westwood, England||vs||64||Toru Taniguchi, Japan|
|2||Martin Kaymer, Germany||vs||63||Noh Seung-yul, Korea|
|3||Tiger Woods, U.S.||vs||62||Thomas Bjorn, Denmark|
|4||Phil Mickelson, U.S.||vs||61||Brendan Jones, Australia|
|5||Graeme McDowell, N. Ireland||vs||60||Heath Slocum, U.S.|
|6||Paul Casey, England||vs||59||Richard Green, Australia|
|7||Rory McIlroy, N. Ireland||vs||58||Jonathan Byrd, U.S.|
|8||Steve Stricker, U.S.||vs||57||Matteo Manassero, Italy|
|9||Luke Donald, England||vs||56||Charley Hoffman, U.S.|
|10||Jim Furyk, U.S.||vs||55||Ryan Palmer, U.S.|
|11||Ernie Els, S. Africa||vs||54||Jeff Overton, U.S.|
|12||Ian Poulter, England||vs||53||Stewart Cink, U.S.|
|13||Matt Kuchar, U.S.||vs||52||Anders Hansen, Denmark|
|14||Dustin Johnson, U.S.||vs||51||Mark Wilson, U.S.|
|15||Robert Karlsson, Sweden||vs||50||Hiroyuki Fujita, Japan|
|16||Retief Goosen, S. Africa||vs||49||K.J. Choi, Korea|
|17||Francesco Molinari, Italy||vs||48||Ryan Moore, U.S.|
|18||Hunter Mahan, U.S.||vs||47||Sean O’Hair, U.S.|
|19||Bubba Watson, U.S.||vs||46||Bill Haas, U.S.|
|20||Louis Oosthuizen, S. Africa||vs||45||Bo Van Pelt, U.S.|
|21||Alvaro Quiros, Spain||vs||44||Y.E. Yang, Korea|
|22||Tim Clark, S.Africa||vs||43||Camilo Villegas, Colombia|
|23||Miguel Angel Jimenez, Spain||vs||42||Yuta Ikeda, Japan|
|24||Edoardo Molinari, Italy||vs||41||Martin Laird, Scotland|
|25||Charl Schwartzel, S.Africa||vs||40||Ryo Ishikawa, Japan|
|26||Adam Scott, Australia||vs||39||Ben Crane, U.S.|
|27||Kim Kyung-Tae, Korea||vs||38||Jason Day, Australia|
|28||Robert Allenby, Australia||vs||37||Ross Fisher, England|
|29||Rickie Fowler, U.S.||vs||36||Peter Hanson, Sweden|
|30||Geoff Ogilvy, Australia||vs||35||Padraig Harrington, Ireland|
|31||Zach Johnson, U.S.||vs||34||Justin Rose, England|
|32||Nick Watney, U.S.||vs||33||Anthony Kim, U.S.|
At first glance, none of the pairings jump out to me enough that I’d reroute my plane for Tucson instead of heading back to NYC after this week’s LA Open (although the good weather is tempting). If someone named Toru Taniguchi of Japan opts not to play, then No. 65 Henrik Stenson will take his spot (and if others in the top-64 don’t play, then they’ll continue to be replaced by the next highest ranking player). As of now, world’s No. 1 Lee Westwood will face Taniguchi in the first round…*yawn*…
No. 3 Tiger Woods is expected to show up, which could be awkward just because we all remember title sponsor Accenture’s ads pre-Thanksgiving night. Like this one:
Or this one:
For good measure, (one of) my personal favorite(s):
Sorry, too easy…but also too funny. Anyway, Woods will face Thomas Bjorn, who vaulted to the top 64 with his win in Qatar a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, swing coach Sean Foley can at least kill two of four birds with one stone if he wants to watch his players — No. 18 Hunter Mahan is matched against No. 47 Sean O’Hair.
The Dustin Johnson vs. Mark Wilson matchup is kinda intriguing because you’ve got the power-hitting freak and the smaller guy who has won twice already in 2011. DJ will be driving it 100 yards past Wilson! But as we all know, distance is always an advantage (especially with regard to intimidation in matchplay), but it’s not the be-all and end-all (and as Wilson has shown this year).
Veteran Steve Stricker is slated to play against young Italian rising star Matteo Manassero.
Otherwise, wake me when things get interesting. By the way — excuse my ignorance — but who is this Brendan Jones of Australia? Oh wait, isn’t he the guy that played Tiger Woods in the first round of Match Play in his first big comeback in 2009? Sounds familiar…
If the bracket stays as is, which pairings are you looking forward to watching? It’s a bit early for predictions, but let’s throw some out, anyway — go for it!