The first World Golf Championships event of the season, the Accenture Match Play Championship, is a week away. With the latest Official World Golf Rankings released after Sunday’s finish of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, we can start projecting some possible first-round matchups.
The top 64 players in the OWGR are invited to play in the event, with No. 1 playing No. 64, No. 2 playing No. 63 and so on.
Although the field list won’t be finalized until Friday, here are the first-round matchups IF each of the top 64 players opt to participate. If any players inside the top 64 do not play, they will be replaced by the next highest players in the ranking. Should that happen, of course, it would change all the matchups. That’s why we put an asterisk on the headline.
But for now, this is how it stands for the first round:
|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.|
NOTES AND THOUGHTS (should the pairings hold up)
> Ian Poulter, the defending champion, won’t exactly be able to ease into the tournament. His first-round opponent is Stewart Cink, who in the last three years at this event has finished second (2008), third (2009) and reached the quarters (2010).
> Last year, Lee Westwood was the No. 2 seed and was knocked out in the second round by Nick Watney, who was the 31st weed. This year, Westwood is the No. 1 seed and could see Watney, who’s the No. 32 seed, again in the second round. Westwood would need to beat Toru Taniguchi and Watney would need to beat Anthony Kim.
> Of the 32 first-round matchups above, just five have American vs. American: Jim Furyk-Ryan Palmer; Dustin Johnson-Mark Wilson; Hunter Mahan-Sean O’Hair, Bubba Watson-Bill Haas and Nick Watney-Anthony Kim. Wilson, making his Accenture Match Play debut, will be seeking his third PGA TOUR win in 2011.
> Some of the other first-round matchups that intrigue us? Geoff Ogilvy, a two-time winner in this event, vs. Padraig Harrington; Reigning PLAYERS champion Tim Clark, who knocked out Tiger Woods two years ago, vs. Camilo Villegas, who reached the semifinals last year; and Rory McIlroy vs. Jonathan Byrd, who won the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
> Paul Casey is 10-2 in matches the last two years; he’s lost in the finals both times. His projected opponent, Richard Green, has never won a match in four appearances here.
> Just three of last year’s semifinalists are back in the field. The fourth, Sergio Garcia, has fallen to 81st in the rankings and did not qualify.
> Also not qualifying is Vijay Singh, who will not play in this event for the first time since 2003. Singh is ranked just behind Garcia at No. 82.