Much of the golf world’s attention continues to center on the availability of Tiger Woods as the World Golf Championships - Accenture Match Play Golf Championship nears its official kickoff in Marana on Feb. 25.
Speculation on whether or not Woods will make his first tournament appearance since knee surgery in 2008 has reached a fever pitch in the sporting media.
Lost in the whirlwind are the other 63 qualifiers and their stories.
Since nobody but Tiger knows if Accenture will be his grand re-entrance to professional competition, (and no one will know until Feb. 20 at 3 p.m., when the registration deadline for contestants passes) here are profiles of players whose names might not be as familiar, but whose skills warrant attention.
Ranked sixth worldwide, the Swedish Stenson has more than a passing familiarity with match play. He won the tournament in 2007 and finished third last year. Stenson has also picked up his game in major championships as of late, finishing third in the Open Championship and fourth in the PGA Tour Championship in 2008 after missing the cut in both in 2007.
The 48-year-old Perry is the highest all-time PGA money winner to never have won a major championship. Currently ranked 10th in the world, Perry won three PGA Tour events in 2008 and contributed to the U.S. National team victories in the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. Perry has also already had desert success in the young 2009 season, winning the Jan. 29 – Feb. 1 FBR Open in Scottsdale.
Jeev Milkha Singh
It’s not just Vijay anymore. And actually, it hasn’t been for sometime. Jeev Milkha Singh’s last three seasons have arguably been his best. The first Indian golfer to join the European Tour, and the only one currently ranked in the top 100 (34th), Singh won 2006 European Tour championships in the Volvo China Open (also an Asian Tour event), and the Volvo Masters. Singh also won 2006 Japan Tour championships at the Casio World Open, and the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup. Singh was successful in 2008 at major contests, finishing 25th at the Masters and ninth at the PGA Tour Championships after being cut the previous year.
The Irishman is now a three-time major champion, with victories in both the 2007 and 2008 Open Championships in Britain, and a 2008 U.S. PGA title. He was the first Irishman in 60 years to win the British, perhaps golf’s premier title. The world’s third-ranked player, Harrington has played every match play since 2000. That year, remarkably, he came in with the 55th seed.
Always a fan favorite, the left-hander is particularly well-received in Arizona. He went to Arizona State University. Mickelson, now ranked fifth in the world, has a Master’s green jacket in the closet of a remarkable career.