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World Golf Championships

Accenture Match Play Champions This week we go from medal play to match play at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship from La Costa Resort and Spa. For those not familiar, 64 golfers tee it up in this tournament in head-to-head matches that ultimately decides the champion, similar to the NCAA Tournament. The top 64 available players from the Official World Golf Ranking are invited and this year only two, Sergio Garcia and Thomas Bjorn, are not in the field. Players are seeded and put into brackets and then the fun begins. This year the top four seeds are Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Reteif Goosen which is no real surprise. Being the top seed does not guarantee anything as these matches often come down to the last few holes so anything is possible.

Success in match play in the past is a huge advantage as is success in this tournament itself. Woods has the all-time best record here at 21-4 so he is once again the odds on favorite. Els will be playing in just his second tournament on tour this year but he is playing good and could be a surprise even though he is a top seed. The problem with him is that at La Costa, Els has never survived more than one round. He has not played the event the past two years after a first round loss in 2003.

One thing in his bag that helps is his experience in match play as he not only has a lot of it but also has had a lot of success in it. He has a tough bracket to get through before a possible showdown with Phil Mickelson. Singh has quietly gone about his business this year with no big flashes of success but no difficulties either. He has three top tens in four events while finishing 20th in the other. He has not gotten past the second round in any of his six starts here while skipping the event once in 2003.

He does not have a ton of match play experience which definitely hurts but Singh does have the mental game to prosper and should fare better this year than in years past. The final top bracket seed in Goosen and he is likely the number one seed that will go out first. Even though he finished third last season behind champion David Toms and Chris DiMarco, he does not have a good history here.

Add to that with this being his first tour event of the season, things could be dicey. He wasn't even sure about making the trip so his heart is another question. Prior to last year in his other five times playing in this event, Goosen has lost in the first or second round each time. Toms is 18-5 lifetime as he blew through the field last year culminating with a 6 and 5 win over DiMarco in the final match.

He and Woods are paired in the same Bobby Jones bracket so a matchup to advance to the final four is possible. The other number two seed that should be feared is DiMarco who not only finished second last year, made it to the sweet 16 two years ago and has the match play success of the President's Cup fresh in his memory. This is one of the most difficult events to predict since one shot can affect a whole match where in medal play, it doesn't do as much damage. Going strictly with the higher seeds is not the way to go since the lower seed has won 46 percent of the matches in the seven-year run of this event so unlike the aforementioned NCAA Tournament, the favorites do not always advance.

Even Woods has been upset twice, once in the first and once in the second round. Expect a great week of golf. .

By: Matt Fargo

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Olympic Winter Games
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