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Field Set for WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship


The five-round WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is about to commence. The $8.5 million event tees off Wednesday at Ritz-Carlton GC, Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.

The tournament seeds are based on the players' position in the latest World Golf Ranking. Defending champion and the top-rated player in the world Luke Donald - whose victory last February helped propel him to a record-breaking season - is the No. 1 seed. He'll face off with three-time major champion and 64th seed Ernie Els in the Bobby Jones bracket.

Donald's closest match last year was a 2 and 1 win in the third round over Italy's Matteo Manassero. In the championship finale, Donald beat then top-ranked Martin Kaymer 3 and 2. But the 34-year-old Brit, who went on to become the first player to win the money titles on both the PGA and European tours, knows all too well that no match is a cakewalk.

"No match is going to be easy," said Donald, who needed just 89 holes in beating his six opponents last year and carded 32 birdies over five days.

"In match play, you have different strategies, different feelings, and every match you feel like it's do or die. Every match you feel like you're teeing it up with the last group on Sunday in the match. Over 18 holes anything can happen," added Donald, who's seeking to become the first player to win back-to-back Match Play titles since Tiger Woods - the event's only three-time winner - in 2003-04.

The other top seeds are also all Europeans. They include Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy in the Gary Player division; in the first match he'll face off against South African George Coetzee. Kaymer is the top seed in the Ben Hogan bracket; the German will play Aussie Greg Chalmers Wednesday. And in the Sam Snead 16-man bracket, England's Lee Westwood will face long-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium.

Of the 64 players in the field, only 20 are Americans; among those not entered this year is Phil Mickelson. Interestingly, Americans have won all seven of the events on the PGA Tour so far this year. But this is match play, and international players are much more familiar with the format than the stroke-playing Yanks.

Despite that lack of familiarity, Wisconsinite Steve Stricker is looking forward to the tournament. "This is always a special event," said Stricker, who turns 45 on Thursday. "I come here with a lot of anticipation, a lot of desire to play well. It's a fun format. We only play this one other type and that's at a team competition level, whether it's the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup. So it's fun.

"It's something different, something that, like I said, we don't get to do on a regular basis or weekly basis. It's tough. It's really hard. You have to be at the top of your game to move on here. And I think this tournament really brings out the best player for the week.

"Sometimes you can maybe slough through a match, have a down day where you don't play so well, but sometimes those days jump up and grab you, too," Stricker added. "So you have to play well all the way through to keep moving on and that's what's fun and unique about this event. You never know what's going to happen."

Despite being 64th-ranked in the field and going against Donald, Els knows anything can happen. "To be the last guy in and just to be lucky to be in is quite a nice feeling," said the popular player known as the "Big Easy."

"Obviously, this week every match you play is going to be a tough one, whether you play the No.1 player in the world, which is No.1 seed, or myself, which is the 64th seed, you know, you've got to beat the guy. So whoever you play you've just got to try and get through.

"It's 18 holes, you know," Els added. "It's not like I'm the worst match player in the world either. So I think I know what I need to do. You've got to keep the ball in play. You've got to keep it in play on every single hole, because he's going to be in every hole. So it's basically who can make the most putts and make the most birdies, I think. So we'll take it from there."

TV Schedule

The broadcast times (all ET) for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship are as follows:

Wednesday: 12- 6 p.m. (Golf Channel)
Thursday & Friday: 2-6 p.m. (Golf Channel)
Saturday: 12-2 p.m. (Golf Channel); 2-6 p.m. (NBC Sports)
Sunday: 9 a.m.-noon (Golf Channel); 2-6 p.m. (NBC Sports)

For all the opening round pairings, visit http://i.cdn.turner.com/pgatour/docs/2012_wgc_accenture_match_play.pdf.

For live scoring, visit http://www.worldgolfchampionships.com/leaderboards/current/r470/index.html.