Golf Tidbits: Big weekend for match play lovers

This is a big weekend for match play fans. There are two separate match play tournaments and both have their own little twist.

Across the pond at Finca Cortesin in Casares, Spain, the Volvo World Match Play Championship includes four of the top 20 players in the world and 13 of the top 46.

The catch is that the 24-player field is broken down into eight groups of three. Each group will play in a round-robin format within its own group. After Friday's action is completed, the top 16 players, or top two players from every group, advance to the knockout round.

From there, it becomes a regular match play event. Win and advance, lose and you're out.

The biggest battles on Thursday included one between Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Alvaro Quiros, as well as former Ryder Cup teammates Graeme McDowell and Robert Karlsson facing off against each other.

Back in the United States, the LPGA Tour has its annual Sybase Match Play Championship in Gladstone, N.J.

There were four ways to get into the Sybase - the 2012 priority list, sponsor exemptions, a 36-hole qualifier and the 2012 LPGA official money list.

The field for the women's match play event is much stronger at the top, but the bottom end of the field is not nearly as strong.

Seven of the top 10 players, and 15 of the top 20, in the world are at Hamilton Farm Golf Club this week. Overall, 52 of the 64 players are ranked inside the top 100 in the world.

However, you slide much further down the world rankings to complete the women's field. Jeong Jang got into the field through the priority list, but is by far the lowest-ranked player in either field at world No. 312.

The best matches at the Sybase include a battle of U.S. Solheim Cup teammates, Brittany Lincicome vs. Ryann O'Toole in the Patty Berg bracket, and a match of Texans, Angela Stanford vs. Wendy Ward in the Kathy Whitworth bracket. The Mickey Wright bracket includes nine South Koreans, six of whom will face each other in the first round, and in the Annika Sorenstam bracket, two of her former Solheim Cup teammates will face off as Sophie Gustafson plays Karen Stupples in the first round.

Both events are a far cry from the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship, which saw 64 of the top 66 players in the world competing.

No matter which tour you follow more closely, those who enjoy match play over stroke play will have their fill this weekend.


In his own words, Keegan Bradley "was just an unknown rookie trying to keep his tour card" when he played the HP Byron Nelson Championship last year.

After a playoff victory, Bradley locked up his tour card for two years, and was able to draw on the experience en route a playoff win at the PGA Championship.

"A lot of very good memories, even just driving in the gates and walking up 18 again, kind of remembering how my life changed a year ago this Sunday for sure," said Bradley of his feelings upon returning to the TPC Four Seasons Resort.

Those words echo what pretty much every first-time winner would say upon returning to the site of his or her first victory. Bradley isn't your normal defending champion, though.

He went on to the win the PGA Championship later last year and thrust his name into the spotlight and rocketed him toward the top of the world rankings.

Bradley joked that last year he was signing autographs and people were "asking who I am?" He then added, "It was just completely different this time."

Winning this title wasn't the easiest thing as Bradley was one of just five players to finish in red figures.

Thanks to his two victories last year, Bradley has virtually locked up a spot on this year's U.S. Ryder Cup team.

If his continues to ride the wave that his win at this event started, not only will you see Bradley on many more teams, but you'll see him holding plenty of trophies in the years to come.


* I like the marketing the LPGA is doing, especially having players throw out the first pitch at baseball games. Maria Hjorth threw the opening pitch to Anna Nordqvist on Monday night at a Philadelphia Phillies game. I'll get a little nit-picky, though. How about using a couple Americans instead of a pair of Europeans?

* One of the other marketing ploys the LPGA will start at the LPGA Tour Championship is having players twitter handles on their caddies bibs. Excellent idea.