Marc Leishman, Matt Jones and John Senden are relishing rank underdog status at the World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship.
The Aussie trio all face formidable first up opponents in the tournament’s new round robin format at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco this week but have confidence they can defy form and rankings and come away victorious.
Defending champion Jason Day and former world No.1 Adam Scott round out the Australian tilt in the head-to-head matches contested between the world’s 64 best ranked golfers available (Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald and Tim Clark withdrew).
Having moved away from the previous straight knockout format to an initial group system, players have three matches over the opening three days before the group winners progress to the last-16 knockout stage.
Leishman (seed 56), Jones (seed 58) and Senden (seed 60) have all drawn world top 8 players for their opening matches, with Leishman getting last-start winner and world No.6 Justin Rose, Jones against world No.8 Dustin Johnson and Senden facing world No.3 Henrik Stenson.
“Just because they are in form and ranked higher doesn’t mean they are just going to get a match handed to them,” said Leishman, who has a 0-1 record in the event after losing in 22 holes in the first round to Sergio Garcia last year.
“I have every intention of having a good week and you are going to have to beat good players at one point or another so hopefully I get a big scalp right off the bat.
” Rose obviously had a big week last week but I know it can be hard to back it up after a win so we will see what happens.”
Joining Rose (7-9) and Leishman in the group are American 22nd seed Ryan Palmer (1-1) and India’s 34th-seeded Anirban Lahiri (debut).
Jones’s debut in the event looks especially tough given after Johnson (2-6) he must also manage his way past 2014 runner-up Victor Dubuisson (5-1) and also former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (6-6).
“I can draw from underdog status but I don’t have any fears playing against these guys,” Jones said.
“I am confident enough in my own golf game that, if I play how I know I ca,n it will be a contest in every match.
“They are going to be expected to beat me and it won’t bother me to carry that little chip on my shoulder.”
Senden (2-3) is aware Stenson (13-7) won the event in 2007 and was third in 2008.
“Anything can happen, whether you are playing No.1 or No.64, anyone can win,” Senden said.
“I just need to really let it go on the greens and feel like I am being aggressive because I know he’s going to be aggressive so I need to put pressure on him every hole.
“I expect he will make a lot of birdies so I will be trying to do the same.”
After Stenson, Senden faces Bill Haas (1-4) and Brendon Todd (debut).
Seventh-seeded Day (14-3) faces 49th seed Charley Hoffman (0-1), 24th seed Zach Johnson (7-10) and 38th seed Branden Grace (0-2).
Ninth seed Scott (14-12) must negotiate 64th seed Francesco Molinari (1-5), 25th seed Chris Kirk (0-1) and 36th seed Paul Casey (16-9).