WGC-Match Play Championship: Five Players You May Have Never Heard Of

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2010

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - FEBRUARY 07:  Alvaro Quiros of Spain during the final round of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the Majlis Course at the Emirates Golf Club on February 7, 2010 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Although the PGA Tour season officially began almost two months ago, the Accenture Match Play Championship marks the first time this year that we will see a true gathering of the top players in the world…minus numbers one and two of course.

While Tiger Woods is off doing, well, whatever it is he's doing, and Phil Mickelson is vacationing with his family, here are five young European Tour players you will get to know very well in the coming days, weeks and months.

 

Alvaro Quiros

If you think the likes of J.B. Holmes and Dustin Johnson are big hitters, just wait until you get a glimpse of Alvaro Quiros this week.

Quiros led the European Tour in driving distance in 2009 with an average of 314.5 yards, which would have also topped the PGA Tour in driving distance.

Quiros finished the 2009 season with a 24th place finish at the US PGA Championship and an eighth place finish at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

Although oozing with natural talent, Quiros has two notable weaknesses.

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First, he is a very emotional player and has a tendency to run hot for quite some time after hitting a bad shot.

Not the best attribute for a game of imperfections.

Second, like most bombers of the golf ball, Quiros struggles from inside of 125 yards. He is also not the best on and around the greens—he ranked 50th in putts per round and 74th in scrambling on the European Tour in 2009.

Quiros will be facing off against Mike Weir this afternoon in what should be a comical affair.

Come on now, how often do you actually see one professional golfer drive the ball 50 yards past another?  

 

Ross Fisher

Fisher is that guy who always seems to pop up on the leaderboards of the biggest golf tournaments in the world.

In 2009, Fisher won the European Open, finished fourth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, second at the BMW PGA Championship, fifth at the US Open, tied for 13th at the Open Championship, tied for 19th at the US PGA Championship and won the Volvo World Match Play Championship.

Needless to say, Fisher has demonstrated an ability to compete against the big dogs.

Fisher is a match play machine and will be an extremely valuable asset to the 2010 European Ryder Cup team, not to mention that he will be one of the favorites this week out in the Arizona desert.

Charl  Schwartzel

Meet the hottest golfer in Europe.

Schwartzel has won two out of his last four events and has finished inside of the top-five at four out of his last nine.

Schwartzel currently leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and has European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie wishing that the 25-year-old was from Europe and not South Africa.  

Perhaps Schwartzel is just on a hot streak…or perhaps he really is that good.

Time will tell.

Schwartzel will be facing off against Hunter Mahan at 11:52am local time.

 

Martin Kaymer

Kaymer has won three times in the past eight months, including a win at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship just four weeks ago.  

Although he missed the cut in the first two majors of the 2009 season, Kaymer tied for 34th at the Open Championship and tied for sixth at the US PGA Championship.

He has finished within the top-10 at five out of his last nine events, and at the age of 25, Kaymer is looking for a real breakout season in 2010, as well as a spot on the European Ryder Cup team.

The one thing that could separate Kaymer from the rest is his putting ability. He finished second in putts per round last year on the European Tour.  

Show me a truly great golfer who was not a good putter in his prime, and I’ll show you Tiger Woods moving into a seminary.

Kaymer will begin the WGC-Match Play championship as the number one seed in the Hogan bracket.

Chris Wood

This reigning European Tour rookie of the year is tall, lanky and hits the ball a long way.

The 22-year-old Bristol, England native first appeared on the radar screen when he tied for fifth at the 2008 Open Championship as an amateur. He then tied for third at last year’s Open Championship.

Can someone say horses for links courses?

Following the paths of Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, Wood decided to turn pro almost immediately after his performance at the 2008 Open Championship and earned full-time status on the European Tour this past November when he finished fifth at the qualifying school.

Wood is off to a solid start in 2010 with top-20 finishes in each of his first three events and will take on fellow Englishman Lee Westwood this afternoon at Dove Mountain.

One would assume that Wood’s first win is just around the corner. How large of a turn he will need to navigate is the big question for this still very raw talent.