The first WGC event of the year, a 64-man match-play bracket challenge, is the most unorthodox tournament of the PGA Tour season. WGC events always feature a bit of a closed and exclusive group, but the Accenture Match Play title typically draws almost every single one of the top 64 players in the world, as set by the Official World Golf Rankings.
Just not this year.
The 2014 WGC-Match Play lost a lot of momentum when Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Adam Scott all confirmed that they would not make the trip to Tucson for the big money, and big points event. It's a pretty rare and bold move to leave those opportunities on the table, but those three have made enough money and are secure enough in the world rankings that they can pass.
Woods was originally planning to go to Russia to watch girlfriend Lindsey Vonn ski in the Olympics, but when she had to pull out, he still decided to pass on Dove Mountain. Mickelson is the one player who has repeatedly skipped this event in recent years, opting to wind down after his usual busy schedule during the west coast swing. Scott's schedule was loaded up when most players were resting or appearing at silly season events at the end of 2013. The defending Masters champ played the Grand Slam of Golf, the two-man World Cup with Jason Day, and then the Aussie triple crown (and nearly won all three). When the start of the 2014 season rolled around, Scott said he would play the two opening stops in Hawaii and then take more than a month off before popping back up in Florida.
Aside from the schedule issues that Woods, Mickelson, and Scott cite, there's also the venue. The Golf Club at Dove Mountain is annually rated by the pros as one of their least favorite courses on the PGA Tour. Those feelings of enmity were turned up last year when sideways blizzard snow and freezing rain blasted the Tucson course, causing delays and generally unpleasant golf conditions. Tiger, who has won the WGC Match Play three times but never at this course, had also played poorly in recent showings at this tourney. The event had run its course at Dove Mountain, and this is almost certainly the last year it will host. There's speculation that the public Harding Park in San Francisco, which successfully hosted Presidents Cup matches in 2009, may be the next venue, and that would likely entice Woods to sign back up for this lucrative event.
So there's no Woods, Mickelson, or Scott, but fortunately for tournament organizers and the Tour, no one else has said they will pass. For awhile there at the start of the year, there was concern that maybe half of the top 10 would not show up. The qualifying portion for the tournament closed last Sunday, with only George Coetzee sneaking into the field via his win in South Africa. But a player on the outside could still technically jump in if another big name announces they're passing on next week. Players have until 5 p.m. on Friday to commit or withdraw, and it's unlikely we get any surprises. While the top 64 field is set based on last Monday's world rankings, the seedings will be shuffled in accordance with the next rankings release following this weekend's worldwide tournaments.
We will have an updated bracket with those new seeds, individual bracket previews, picks, and predictions early next week but here's the current field of top 64 players as that 5 p.m. deadline approaches:
|World Ranking (as of Feb. 10)||Player||Country|
|6||Rory McIlroy||Northern Ireland|
|15||Graeme McDowell||Northern Ireland|
|18||Charl Schwartzel||South Africa|
|34||Louis Oosthuizen||South Africa|
|35||Ernie Els||South Africa|
|39||Miguel Angel Jimenez||Spain|
|47||Branden Grace||South Africa|
|59||George Coetzee||South Africa|
|65||Richard Sterne (takes Tiger's spot)||South Africa|
|66||Scott Piercy (takes Scott's spot)||USA|
|67||Kiradech Aphibarnrat (takes Phil's spot)||Thailand|