(AP) – One measure of the rise in American golfers is the field for the Match Play Championship, which takes the top 64 from the world ranking. Thirty Americans are eligible to compete next week at Harding Park, the most since there were 33 Americans in 2004 at La Costa.
At first glance, it would seem the one-time move to the first weekend in May would contribute to the increase. The Match Play Championship typically is at the end of February, right after the European Tour has some of its strongest fields during the Middle East swing.
So what would have happened if Match Play had been in its usual spot on the calendar? There still would have been 29 Americans in the field. Then again, that list would have included Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
Stricker would have been No. 59. Now he’s at No. 74. Woods would have been No. 62, and now he’s at No. 106.
Then again, that increase in top American players hasn’t translated into another match play event held every other year in September.
The world ranking after this week will be used to determine the seeding for the five-day event. Unlike previous years, the top four seeds are irrelevant because of the round-robin format involving 16 groups of four players.
The top 16 players will lead each group. A random draw will fill out each group based on players from Nos. 17-32, 33-48 and 49-64 in the ranking. Players have until Friday to commit to the World Golf Championship. Luke Donald has said he would not be playing because his brother is getting married that week. That means Miguel Angel Jimenez (65) would get in.