There are but 16 players in the select field; however, 12 countries are represented.
It starts with world No. 1 Vijay Singh of Fiji, and continues with world No. 2 Ernie Els. Els is joined by fellow South African Retief Goosen. The U.S. has the largest contingency, 4: Open champion Todd Hamilton, Steve Flesch, Jeff Maggert and Chris Riley.
Angel Cabrera (Argentina), K.J. Choi (Korea), Scott Drummond (Scotland), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain), Bernhard Langer (Germany), Thomas Levet (France), Mike Weir (Canada) and Lee Westwood (England) round out the participants.
Singh may be on top of the world, but Els is the man with the big bulls eye on his back.
Els is the two-time defending champion of this event. He knocked off Singh, who won in 1997, in the semifinals and then beat Thomas Bjorn, 4 and 3, in the final.
Only one player has ever won three consecutive World Match Play titles: Els. He did so from 1994-96, before losing to Singh in the 97 finals.
The event, which began in 1964, has forever been contested at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England (where Els just happens to own a house). But this year there is one twist. For the first time, the field has been upped from 12 to 16. The top four seeds used to get byes in the opening round, but will now have to play their way into Day 2.
Players arent selected at random to compete for the 1 million first prize (nearly $1.8 million).
In addition to the defending champion and the world No. 1, qualification is now based on performances in the four majors, as well as in four select European Tour events, plus the leading two European Tour players, not otherwise qualified, from the Volvo Order of Merit.
The four principle European Tour tournaments were the Volvo PGA Championship, Smurfit European Open, Omega European Masters and The Heritage. The two players (Drummond and Cabrera) accumulating the most world ranking points from these four events, who were not otherwise qualified, earned an invitation.
Obviously, not everyone invited to play accepted the offer, like Masters champion Phil Mickelson. He was one of eight players who declined to play.
That opened the door for others, like European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer, who lost in the finals in 84 and 85, both times to Seve Ballesteros.
This is not an official European Tour event; though, money earned counts towards the Volvo Order of Merit. Official World Golf Ranking points are also available.
All matches are 36 holes.
Day 1 Draw:
Match 1: Ernie Els (1) vs Scott Drummond (16)
Match 2: K .J. Choi (8) vs Angel Cabrera (9)
Match 3: Padriag Harrington (5) vs Chris Riley (12)
Match 4: Mike Weir (4) vs Thomas Levet (13)
Match 5: Retief Goosen (3) vs Jeff Maggert (14)
Match 6: Todd Hamilton (6) vs Lee Wwestwood (11)
Match 7: Miguel Angel Jimenez (7) vs Steve Flesch (10)
Match 8: Vijay Singh (2) vs Bernhard Langer (15)