In the final week before the field for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is finalized, relatively few players around the bubble are playing at this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. One player that appeared to be well outside consideration, though, may be able to vault into the limited-field event this week - from halfway around the world.
Two weeks ago, Richard Sterne was 165th in the world rankings, and a spot in a World Golf Championship event seemed like a pipe dream. After a runner-up finish at last week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic, though, the South African moved up to 94th in the world, and he now shares the 36-hole lead at the Joburg Open after rounds of 63 and 65.
Should Sterne win this week in South Africa, it would mark his first European Tour victory since 2009. The 22 world ranking points he'd receive would in turn move him to around 55th in newest rankings, with the top 64 players (now 65 with Phil Mickelson's decision to sit out) qualifying for the event later this month in Marana, Ariz.
It's likely win-or-bust for Sterne, as even a solo second-place finish would move him no higher than 68th in the rankings. The South African has played in the season's first WGC event twice before, losing his opening match to Hunter Mahan in 2008 and going down in extra holes to Stewart Cink in the first round the following year.