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Michael Campbell unhappy at Match Play absentees

U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell says the absence of most of the world's top players from this week's World Match Play Championship "is a slap in the face to the sponsors".

World number one Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson have chosen to miss the elite 16-man event at Wentworth while six-times winner and world number four Ernie Els is sidelined by a long-term knee injury.

"It's a little bit disheartening that here we have the biggest (first) prize in the (golf) world and half the guys don't turn up," Campbell told a news conference on Wednesday.

New Zealander Campbell and his 15 title rivals are playing this week for a first prize of one million pounds ($1.82 million).

"Obviously they (sponsors HSBC) have the best players available this week and for certain reasons they are not here. To the public eye, it doesn't look good, I don't think," added Campbell.

"Here they are playing for a million pounds first prize and several players turned it down because it doesn't fit into the schedule.

"I find that quite strange. If you think about it, though, in America they play for $1 million every week, and a million pounds is obviously a little bit more than one million dollars, I think it's about $1.6 million.

"But it's not the money issue now. It's playing a schedule that suits you so that you can perform well every single week."

Fourth seed Campbell, who starts his campaign with a 36-hole, first-round match against Australian Geoff Ogilvy on Thursday, holds the World Match Play Championship in high esteem.

"With the history of it and the past champions, it's got to be right up there, if not equal to the World Golf Championships events that we play," he said.

"It's got more history behind it. The previous champions are all of the greats in golf (Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Greg Norman).

"I actually believe this is one of the fifth majors of the world."

World number five Retief Goosen, the highest-ranked player in this week's field, agreed the limited-field event was like a fifth major.

"Yeah, definitely," said the South African top seed. "You know, this event is a big victory in our books, it's been going for so long (since 1964) and a lot of great players have won it.

"It's a shame that top players don't have any desire to come and play and win this event.

"You're playing for so much prize money this week as well. But that's a question you'll have to ask them."

Twice U.S. Open champion Goosen, hunting his third tournament victory in successive weeks, faces rank outsider Kenneth Ferrie of Britain in the opening round.

The 36-year-old South African won last Sunday's German Masters after clinching the China Masters the week before.

World number 13 Angel Cabrera of Argentina, the second highest-ranked player in this week's field, takes on South Africa's Trevor Immelman.

In one of the most eagerly awaited first-round matches, third seed Luke Donald takes on Germany's Bernhard Langer, the Briton's non-playing captain when Europe beat the U.S in last year's Ryder Cup.

Another all-European clash features Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, who was beaten by Els in the 2003 final, against Ireland's Paul McGinley.

Britain's Colin Montgomerie, champion in 1999, takes on Australia's Mark Hensby while South African Tim Clark faces Hensby's compatriot Steve Elkington, runner-up to Els in 1995.


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