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At least 17 players to miss World Matchplay

A total of 17 players from the world's top 64 have so far said "no" to the World Match Play Championship in Melbourne on 3-7 January – and 20 others have yet to make their intentions known.

Darren Clarke defends the title he won by beating Tiger Woods in the final in California in February, but among those who will definitely not be at the event this time are the world No 1 Woods, Phil Mickelson (4), Lee Westwood (5), Jesper Parnevik (11), Nick Price (13) and Sergio Garcia (16).

There has been widespread opposition to the date and venue from the players and the drop-out is even worse than it was for both the American Express World Championship at Valderrama last month – 12 declined to play – and last week's World Cup in Argentina, where Woods and David Duval won in a field in which they were the only representatives from the world's top 20.

Last Sunday was the cut-off point to decide the rankings for the Australian event, but those undecided have until next Wednesday to take up their places. The scratchings have already let in 68th-ranked Paul McGinley and 70th-ranked Andrew Coltart to compete for the £700,000 first prize, with Ryder Cup points also on offer. The draw will be made on 1 January, after which players will receive byes if their opponent pulls out.

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