Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Luke Donald and Louis Oosthuizen will be the No. 1 seeds this week for the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Tucson, Ariz. The match play is played on the Golf Club at Dove Mountain, which can be stretched to over 7,700 yards. The winner will need to win six matches over five days in the Arizona desert.
Only the top 64 golfers from the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) are invited to this elite field event. Brandt Snedeker, ranked No. 4 in the world, was forced to withdraw with sore ribs. Phil Mickelson announced that he would not play in the match play and will plan to spend the week with his family instead.
Tiger Woods has won the match play on three different occasions in his career and is the overall No. 2 seed this year. 2006 and 2009 WGC-Accenture champion Geoff Ogilvy is the only other player that has won this event more than once.
A big question mark heading into the match play is the state of No. 1-ranked Rory McIlroy’s game. The last time we saw McIlroy, he was leaving Abu Dhabi after shooting 75-75 in the first two rounds and missed the cut.
He has not played competitively on any tour since Jan. 18. Has he ironed out the difficulties with his new clubs from Nike? Did he get them a nice Valentine’s Day gift?
McIlroy will face Shane Lowry who only got into the match play due to the withdrawals by Mickelson and Snedeker.
Watch out for this match. Mcllroy is coming off a long rest and is using new clubs. Lowry has nothing to lose and may just be able to pick off a No. 1 seed in the first round.
Tiger Woods is the No. 1 seed in the Gary Player Bracket and will play Charles Howell III in the first round. Howell has played well thus far in 2013 with three top-10 finishes including a runner-up and a third-place finish. He has won nearly $1 million already this year and is No. 7 on the 2013 FedEx Cup standings.
The last time that we saw Woods, he was hoisting the trophy from the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines for the seventh time in his career. His game appears to be solid and Howell may be catching an early plane Wednesday night back to Florida.
Luke Donald, ranked No. 3 in the world, is the No. 1 seed in the Sam Snead bracket. He made his 2013 PGA Tour debut last week at Riviera. He posted 69-66-70 to be among the leaders on Sunday, but a final round 75 moved him down to a T-16 finish. Donald will face Marcel Siem in the first round Wednesday.
Siem from Germany plays on the European Tour and is currently ranked No. 63 on the OWGR. He has not had a particularly good start to the year.
Donald should be able to get through this round to face the winner of the Paul Lawrie vs. Scott Piercy match.
Since Brandt Snedeker is not in the field, Louis Oosthuizen is the No. 1 seed for the Ben Hogan bracket.
Oosthuizen has one of the best swings in golf. He won the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews and was runner-up to Bubba Watson in the 2012 Masters.
Oosthuizen already has a win on the European Tour in 2013 and will play Scotland’s Richie Ramsey, who is No. 61 on the OWGR. Ramsey was T-9 in the Volvo Golf Champions, T-23 in Abu Dhabi and missed the cut in Dubai in his first three starts of the year.
Oosthuizen has to be the favorite to close out Ramsey and move on to the second round to face the winner of the Branden Grace vs. Robert Garrigus match.
Here are some other first-round matches of special interest.
Graeme McDowell vs. Padraig Harrington
This is the battle of the Irish. McDowell lost in the first round in this event last year and is coming off a missed cut at Riviera after a long layoff. Harrington was T-9 at the Waste Management but missed cuts in his last two events at Pebble Beach and Riviera.
Bubba Watson vs. Chris Wood
Watson and Wood are both tall, lanky and long. On this golf course it may be more enjoyable just to see who will outdrive the other.
Hunter Mahan vs. Matteo Manassero
2012 WGC-Accenture Match Play champion Hunter Mahan is coming off a great final round 69 to finish T-8 at the Northern Trust Open. Manassero has been playing very steady this year but his lack of length off the tee will hurt his chances of getting past Mahan.
Ian Poulter vs. Stephen Gallacher
European Tour Ryder Cup standout Ian Poulter won this event in 2010 and the 2011 Volvo World Match Play Championship. Poulter is always fun to watch in match play and would face the winner of the Brad Van Pelt vs. John Senden match.
Bill Haas vs. Nicolas Colsaerts
Bill Haas held the 54-hole lead at the Northern Trust but shot a one-over 73 on Sunday to finish T-3. He has three top-10 finishes in five starts in 2013. Colsaerts has labored for several years on the Challenge Tour and on the European Tour.
The long hitter made an impression on the golf world with his performance in the Ryder Cup at Medinah last fall, and he also won the 2012 Volvo World Match Play over Graeme McDowell. This could be a very good match.
The WGC-Accenture Match Play begins Wednesday. Match play is a unique event and there are sure to be upsets that will force higher-ranked players to make an early exit.