The Professional Golfer’s Association teamed up with Accenture and the Tucson Conquistadores to bring the Accenture Match Play Championship to the Ritz-Carlton at the Dove Mountain Golf Club the week of Feb. 20-26.
The Match Play Championship has been hosted in the Tucson area since 2007, and this year, features returning champion, Luke Donald, as the number top-ranked qualifier in a field of 64 of the world’s best.
“I’d like to thank Accenture for its sponsorship and continued support of this event,” said Gerald Goodman, PGA executive tournament director. “Having a first-rate sponsor like Accenture allows this tour to be successful in our commitment to local charities. I’d like to thank the Conquistadores, the backbone of this event.”
Goodman said tickets are still available, and proceeds will be donated back to the Conquistadores, a charity organization for children in Southern Arizona. The Conquistadores raised $1.3 million last year as a result of the golf tournament.
The PGA has more ticket outlets than ever before, partnering with 22 area Fry’s and 10 Costco locations, which are selling tickets for the event. Tickets can also be purchased on www.worldgolfchampionship.com.
Match Play will boast some new perks for fans in attendance. Cell phones will be allowed at the match, so long as they are kept on silent or vibrate, and parking has been moved from its previous location on I-10 and Tangerine Road to a closer location on Dove Mountain Blvd. and Tangerine Road.
Additionally, the PGA is offering fans a unique experience with its new “Follow the Leader” program on Feb. 26.
“It’s unprecedented in the PGA tour,” said Goodman. “We’re going to allow the final group to follow the leaders, the championship match, from inside the ropes, literally, through all 18 holes or beyond.”
The new program will give fans an up-close and personal experience, where they will be able to hear the golfer and caddy converse, and watch the golfer’s swing from a close distance. Anyone that purchases a Wednesday ticket will get the Sunday ticket for free.
Donald, who is coming off an impressive year, will likely find a number of followers. In 2011, Donald rose to number one in the World Golf Rankings, and was awarded PGA Player of the Year. In last year’s Match Play, Donald never trailed in a single event, and has never played the 18th hole. Donald posted 14 top 10 finishes on the PGA tour, and had five top finishes in three out of four PGA tour playoffs for the FedEx Cup. He recently became the only player to win the money title in both the PGA Tour and European Tour in the same season.
“We’re proud to have such an accomplished player as our defending champion, and even more honored that he has made time for us today to kick off the 2012 season,” said Goodman.
During the media day on Monday, Donald said it’s good to be back in Tucson.
“This is where it all started for me in the last year. I’m excited to be coming back next week and defending my title,” he said.
Donald said the Match Play event is a unique opportunity for golfers, since they typically compete in individual stroke play tournaments over the course of the year.
“It’s something different,” he said. “I certainly enjoy the challenge. It’s a tough format. Every match you feel like its do or die, and that makes it exciting for the players.”
Donald said he is trying not to let the pressure of his successful 2011 year roll over to the new year.
“I’m trying to approach 2012 with a clean slate,” he said. “I’ve got new things to achieve, and I’ll certainly take all the confidence that I gained from last year, and use that to my advantage, but again, I’m starting fresh this year.”
When asked which player he would least like to meet in Match Play, Donald said there are a number of players who will prove to be a challenge.
“Anything could happen,” he said. “They’re all really tough matches.”
The tournament will host some other familiar names, such as Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, and Martin Kaymer, ranked second, third, and fourth respectively in official World Golf Rankings.
Tigers Woods, currently ranked 18th, has also confirmed he will be attending.
Rafael Cabrera Bello and Nicolas Colsaerts earned late qualifications to fill the tournament bracket. Phil Mickelson qualified for the event, but publicly announced he would not be playing this year.
The 2012 bracket and tee times will be announced on Monday, Feb. 20 at 7 a.m.