Donald & Westwood head field for Match Play in Marbella

donald-westwood-head-field-for-match-play-in-marbellaLuke Donald has another opportunity to claim the world number one slot from Lee Westwood at the World Match Play Championship in Marbella on Thursday.

Top seed Westwood leads the field for the new format, with 24 players in eight groups of three and the top two progressing to the weekend’s knockout. Donald is hoping to become the first player to win two match play titles on both sides of the Atlantic. “I enjoy the challenge of one against one over 18 holes,” he said.

The 33-year-old beat Martin Kaymer in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February and has since been in excellent form, especially his superb short game. The Englishman has made 12 top-10 finishes in his previous 13 tournaments, surging up the world rankings to second behind Ryder Cup team-mate Lee Westwood, who goes into the tournament at the Finca Cortesin course on the back of successive titles in Indonesia and Korea. The match play event is returning to the European Tour after a 12-month absence.

“I think my records in the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup, the Match Play this year speak for themselves,” said Donald. “We play a lot of individual stroke play and match play is a different feel and mindset. It’s certainly nice to break it up.” World number one Westwood will be up against Dane Anders Hansen and Australian Aaron Baddeley, while Donald faces holder Ross Fisher and Ryan Moore. Englishman Fisher is hoping to emulate his success from 2009, when he beat American Anthony Kim to claim the title at the same course.

“To be the World Match Play champion for almost two years has quite a nice ring to it,” said the 30-year-old, who will not start his defence until Friday. “I’ve got good memories of this place, so hopefully they’ll come flooding back. I’ll just try to do the same things I did two years ago.” The tournament features five of golf’s six highest-ranked players and also the four reigning major champions in Louis Oosthuizen, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel.

They will be competing for a first prize of almost £700,000, the highest on the European Tour outside of the majors, World Golf Championship events and the season-ending Dubai World Golf Championship. The seeded draw based on world ranking positions means that Westwood could clash with fellow Englishman Ian Poulter for a place in the quarter-finals and McDowell could take on his Ryder Cup partner Rory McIlroy at the same point. In another change, there could be play-offs to see which players go through from their groups if they finish level on points after their two games. – bbc