Date: February 20, 2007
Author: Alistair Hogg

Aussie assault on World Champs

By Alistair Hogg Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy heads to Arizona this week along with eight other Australians for the Accenture World Match Play Championships at Dove Mountain. World No. 3 Adam Scott is also playing along with the in-form Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby. Ogilvy&aposs triumph last year was the beginning of a breakout year for the Victorian who went on to capture the US Open in dramatic circumstances and rise to a career-high number seven in the world. His title defence begins early Thursday morning (AEDT) against another former champion, American Steve Stricker who defeated Pierre Fulke in the final of 2001. The title was only Stricker&aposs third as a professional and it also remains the most recent for the 40-year old from Wisconsin. Australian pair Richard Green and Stuart Appleby both drew tough opening matches against Phil Mickelson and Charles Howell III respectively. Mickelson started his season with a win at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am followed up with a second place in a playoff at the Nissan Open to none other than Howell. Appleby has traditionally struggled in this event having only made it past the second round once, when it was played at Metropolitan GC in 2001. Howell meanwhile also has a lacklustre record at this event. The 2007 Nissan Open champ was ousted in the second round of his 2002 debut and then fell at the final hole of his first round encounters for four consecutive years. Their opening round match makes for intriguing viewing. Allenby has started the season well collecting a third place at last week&aposs Nissan Open. The consistent Victorian faces South African Tim Clark who boasts a number of good performances, notably second in the 2006 US Masters but it yet to break through for a PGA Tour victory. The World Match Play Championship is broken up into four groups, each named in honour of a golfing legend. Scott is the first seed in the &aposSnead Division&apos and will be looking to quickly recapture the form that saw him collect the 2006 Tour Championship. The Aussie started his PGA Tour campaign last week with an average showing at the Nissan Open but will head to Arizona confident that he can overcome American Shaun Micheel in his opening match. Awaiting Scott in the second round may be fellow Australian Rod Pampling. The Queenslander must first overcome Korean Y.E. Yang if he is to set up a second round encounter with his compatriot. Pampling won the 2006 Merrill Lynch shootout with playing partner Jerry Kelly and is ranked 36 in the world. The 2006 Australasian Tour Order of Merit winner Nick O&aposHern has an opening round date with American Lucas Glover. The left-hander from Perth chipped in for a remarkable playoff victory over Peter Lonard in the 2006 Australian PGA Championship and will be seeking a good showing at Dove Mountain this week. Baddeley rounds out the Aussie contingent with a first-up match against Japanese Shingo Katayama. The 25-year old is in superb form at the moment having won the FBR Open at the Tournament Players Club, Arizona and boasting three Top-25 finishes already in 2007. Tournament top seed Tiger Woods begins his campaign for a third World Match Play title with a match against J.J. Henry. The world number one stormed home for a win at the 2007 Buick Invitational before taking a break to spend time with his family. Woods won this event back-to-back in 2002 and 2003 and will be looking to taste success in Arizona once more. Australian first round matches in the 2007 Accenture World Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain, Arizona. Jones Division Tim Clark (South Africa) v Robert Allenby (Australia) Nick O&aposHern (Australia) v Lucas Glover (USA) Shingo Katayama (Japan) v Aaron Baddeley (Australia) Hogan Division Phil Mickelson (USA) v Richard Green (Australia) Stuart Appleby (Australia) v Charles Howell III (USA) Snead Division Adam Scott (Australia) v Shaun Micheel (USA) Y.E. Yang (Korea) v Rod Pampling (Australia) Geoff Ogilvy (Australia) v Steve Stricker (USA)