England’s Ian Poulter will defend his WGC-Accenture Match Play title this week in Marana, Arizona, against Stewart Cink, winner of the 2009 British Open and a man with a very good record in this tournament.
Cink was runner up in this in 2008 to Tiger Woods and finished third in 2007.
Poulter won the tournament last year after defeating compatriot Paul Casey 4-and-2 in the final, a win that confirmed Poulter as one of the very best match play players in the world currently.
His reputation for this form of the game was really made in the Ryder Cup of 2008, where he won four points from a possible five and followed that up with an equally good performance in the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales.
Another big performance should be expected from Poulter this week.
It had been hoped that the world’s top 64 players would contest the event but the organisers have missed out by one, with Toru Taniguchi having to pull out with injury.
His place will be taken by first reserve, Henrik Stenson, who won this tournament in 2007 and came third in 2008, but now has the task of playing world number one Lee Westwood in the first round.
Surprisingly, it is one of only two all European ties, the other being Martin Laird of Scotland against Edoardo Molinari.
The draw looks like this:
- Lee Westwood vs Henrik Stenson, Nick Watney vs Anthony Kim, Retief Goosen vs KJ Choi, Francesco Molinari vs Ryan Moore, Steve Stricker vs Matteo Manassero, Charl Schwartzel vs Ryo Ishikawa, Luke Donald vs Charley Hoffman, Edoardo Molinari vs Martin Laird.
- Phil Mickelson vs Brendan Jones, Rickie Fowler vs Peter Hanson, Matt Kuchar vs Anders Hansen, Louis Oosthuizen vs Bo Van Pelt, Graeme McDowell vs Heath Slocum, Robert Allenby vs Ross Fisher, Ian Poulter vs Stewart Cink, Alvaro Quiros vs YE Yang.
- Martin Kaymer vs Noh Seung-yul, Zach Johnson vs Justin Rose, Robert Karlsson vs Hiroyuki Fujita, Hunter Mahan vs Sean O'Hair, Rory McIlroy vs Jonathan Byrd, Adam Scott vs Ben Crane, Jim Furyk vs Ryan Palmer, Miguel Angel Jimenez vs Yuta Ikeda.
- Tiger Woods vs Thomas Bjorn, Geoff Ogilvy vs Padraig Harrington, Dustin Johnson vs Mark Wilson, Bubba Watson vs Bill Haas, Paul Casey vs Richard Green, Kim Kyung-tae vs Jason Day, Ernie Els vs Jeff Overton, Tim Clark vs Camilo Villegas
Not too surprisingly, the player with the best record in the tournament is Tiger Woods, who has three wins since its inauguration in 1999. Woods also reached the final in 2000, but was famously beaten by Northern Ireland’s Darren Clark, 4-and-3.
Paul Casey, in fact, was also runner-up in 2009, losing that time in the final to Australian Geoff Ogilvy, who was winning the event for the second time from three final appearances, all made in the last five years.
Clearly, the courses at Marana suits certain players, who appear to do consistently well in the tournament year in year out.
Woods, although not in the best form of his life, will clearly be a major force provided he avoids opening his mouth to spit or swear whilst playing, as will Ogilvy and Casey.
Another player to watch out for will be Stenson who is rapidly getting his act back together and always plays well on this course; he would probably represent good value to beat Westwood in the first round at long odds.
Players to look out for