WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship Preview

An all-star cast gathers in Arizona this week for the first World Golf Championship event of 2010. Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy defends the Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain.

Geoff Ogilvy defends

Lowdown: The top 64 players available from the Official World Golf Ranking will fight to make it through six rounds of knockout match play to become the WGC Accenture Match Play champion. It's one of the richest tournaments of the year with $8,500,000 up for grabs. Even those who lose out in the first round pick up $45,000. Despite rumours that Tiger Woods might make his return to competitive action at Dove Mountain, the world number 1 will not tee it up this week. Also missing from the match list is world number 3 Phil Mickelson. That means Steve Stricker is the top seed and England's Lee Westwood is seeded number two. Rory McIlroy will make his second start in the Accenture and, despite suffering from a niggling back injury, he's confident of performing well in the tournament and his opening match against America's Kevin Na. "This was my first tournament in the States as a pro last year and I played pretty well," he said. "I keep putting myself in good positions to win golf tournaments and that's one of my goals this year, is to try to turn those good finishes into wins." Lee Westwood begins his campaign against fellow Englishman Chris Wood who is making his WGC debut. Wood narrowly gained his place owing to the non-participation of Woods and Mickelson. Another first for the tournament will be the inclusion of two brothers in the field. Edoardo and Francesco Molinari will be the first siblings to compete in a WGC event. Edoardo takes on Stewart Cink in round one while Francesco faces Zach Johnson. Other interesting first round matches include - Ian Poulter against 1997 Open Champion Justin Leonard, Dubai Desert Classic winner Miguel Angel Jimenez versus Oliver Wilson and the all British contest between Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell. Last season, Australia's Geoff Ogilvy claimed his second Accenture Match Play title by beating England's Paul Casey in the 36-hole final. Ogilvy had to come through tough early matches against Shingo Katayama, Camilo Villegas and Rory McIlroy to make it to the final. The Australian will be amongst the favourites again though this event is famous for upsets, particularly in the early rounds. It's not uncommon for lesser-known players to go all the way in the tournament - see the 1999 final between Jeff Maggert and Andrew Magee or the 2002 final contested by Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron. Venue: Ritz-Carlton GC, Dove Mountain, Arizona Date: Feb 17-21 Course stats: par 72, 7,849 yards Purse: $8,500,000 Winner: $1,400,000 Defending Champion: Geoff Ogilvy (beat Paul Casey by 4&3)

TV Coverage: Wednesday 17 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 7pm Thursday 18 - Live on Sky Sports 2 form 7pm Friday 19 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 7pm Saturday 20 - Live on Sky Sports 3 from 3pm Sunday 21 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 3pm

Player Watch: Lee Westwood - Despite losing out in a playoff for the Dubai Desert Classic, Westwood is riding the crest of a wave at the moment. He's in superb form though the draw may have been rather unkind to him as he could face some big names in the early stages. Martin Kaymer - A powerful and accurate player who's a match for anyone in the world when he's on his game. Could face McIlroy in the quarter-final. Paul Casey - Last year's beaten finalist has been showing signs of re-finding his best form. His bracket is, perhaps, the least intimidating of the four. Key hole: The matchplay format means any hole could prove to be the crucial turning point. Skills required: The long ball. The altitude of Dove Mountain means the ball will travel further but, at 7,800 yards, the Ritz-Carlton is a monster. The big hitters will have a distinct advantage here.

Fergus Bisset
Fergus Bisset

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and it was concentrated by his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?