Justin signals intent to play in WGC Champs

The beleaguered WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship finally received some good news this week, with US Open champion Justin Rose revealing he intends to play in the £5.5million tournament.

Justin Rose

World number one Tiger Woods, Open champion Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Adam Scott have all indicated they will not take part in the event, which is being staged at Dove Mountain in Tucson for the last time and may also be in need of a new sponsor.

A move to later in the year has been rumoured and, given the snow which disrupted last year's tournament and the high-profile withdrawals now, that could be in the best interests of all concerned.

Players have until 5pm EST (10pm GMT) on Friday to officially commit to the tournament, but Rose has said he fully intends to play assuming he does not suffer any reaction to the shoulder injury which sidelined him for two months at this week's Northern Trust Open.

Sadly, world number 12 Steve Stricker could also pull out of the tournament as he has far more serious health concerns to deal with.

Stricker's brother Scott, 50, is currently in intensive care in a Wisconsin hospital - where he has been since early January - awaiting a liver transplant.

"My plans next week are up in the air," Stricker told the Golf Channel. "I haven't pulled out, but it's not looking good."

If Stricker does withdraw, American Brooks Koepka will take his place in the field, which is limited to the top 64 players in the world rankings.

US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson named his second vice-captain on Tuesday, adding the vast experience of Ray Floyd to that of Andy North for September's contest at Gleneagles.

"What Raymond brings here is his experience and the respect of the players," Watson said. "When these players look at Raymond, they know he's been there, they know he's been successful, and they know he wants to win. I don't really need anything else."

Floyd's experience certainly cannot be questioned, the 71-year-old having won four major titles and appeared in eight Ryder Cups, as well as captaining the side at The Belfry in 1989.

Watson made Floyd the oldest player in Ryder Cup history when he picked him as a wild card in 1993, but the decision will hardly quell fears that the team's management is out of touch with its players.

By the opening day at Gleneagles on September 26, Watson, Floyd and North will have a combined age of 201. North will be 64 next month while September 4 is both Watson's 65th birthday and Floyd's 72nd.

In contrast, European captain Paul McGinley has been at pains to keep his own game in shape in order to compete with his potential team members on the European Tour.

And the 47-year-old has certainly impressed US Open champion Justin Rose, who will be looking to repeat his Medinah heroics in Scotland.

"He seems to be on it, on every decision," Rose said. "His thinking, he seems to be ahead of the game from a preparation point of view.

"He doesn't want to be bothering the players. He did quite a few things with us six, eight months ago because he didn't want to bother anybody the last four or five months running into it, just let us play and let us focus on getting on the team.

"So far I think he's done a great job as a captain."

The new Open Qualifying Series has been widely hailed as a success since its introduction at the end of last year, but could well have a minor flaw in the system.

In last week's Joburg Open, three places at Hoylake were available to the top three finishers in the top 10 who were not already exempt. George Coetzee claimed one of those with his victory at Royal Johannesburg, with England's Tyrrell Hatton, Korea's Jin Jeong and South African Justin Walters sharing second place.

Jeong and Walters got the Open places by virtue of their higher world rankings, meaning Hatton missed out despite shooting a final round of 66 when the pressure was on; Jeong closed with a 71 and Walters 73.



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