Aside from maybe the final round at the Masters, US Open, or British Open, or the first time we get to play once the snow finally melts up this way, today is one of the best days on the golf calendar. If you relish the excitement and upsets of the NCAA basketball tournament, this week, and especially today, is for you. When the Match Play Championship begins in Marana, Ariz., 32 matches pitting 64 of the world's best golfers will be conducted. Plenty of recognizable names figure to be sent home, proof that the fickle nature of match play spares no star.
How different is this week? Players can play poorly and advance. They can make buckets of birdies and be sent home. It all depends on the draw, and how well the other guy plays. Unpredictable usually sums up the week, and almost always in the first round.
Without Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the top seeds are Steve Stricker, Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk, and Martin Kaymer. Furyk faces Scott Verplank today, while Kaymer -- a 25-year-old German -- takes on Chad Campbell.
As always, there are a number of interesting opening-round matchups:
Tim Clark vs. Vijay Singh. Clark took down Woods in the second round last year.
Ryo Ishikawa vs. Michael Sim. Combined, they've made just 40 starts on the PGA Tour.
Angel Cabrera vs. Adam Scott. Can Scott shake the slump that dogged him for almost all of 2009?
The field is reserved for the top 64 players according to the world rankings. Because of Woods and Mickelson choosing not to play, Campbell (65th) and Ross McGowan (66th) get in. And while a 16 seed has never beaten a 1 in the NCAA men's tournament, it's happened at the Match Play, giving all four 16 seeds reason to believe.