Tiger Woods, J.B. Holmes square off in first round of Match Play

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Tiger Woods was the last player to enter and
will be the No. 1 seed in the Accenture Match Play Championship,
which starts Wednesday in Arizona with a 64-man field and the
fewest number of Americans ever.
The surprise was Ernie Els, who has never advanced beyond the
second round of Match Play in America. He had said in interviews
and on his Web site that he would skip the tournament and not make
his PGA Tour debut until Florida, then changed his mind.
The field, determined by the world ranking, will not be set
until 5 p.m. Monday. If anyone withdraws after that, his opponent
will get a pass into the second round. For the second straight
year, it will be held at The Gallery north of Tucson.
Woods, who has lost only once in the first round in his eight
appearances, will play FBR Open champion J.B. Holmes, who is No. 65
and got into the World Golf Championship when Brett Wetterich
withdrew because of a shoulder injury.
Phil Mickelson (No. 2) will face Pat Perez in a match between
two players from San Diego. Steve Stricker (No. 3) will play Daniel
Chopra, a rematch of sorts from the Mercedes-Benz Championship,
when Chopra beat Stricker in a four-hole playoff.
Els is the No. 4 seed and would play Jonathan Byrd.
The 64-man field consists of only 20 Americans, the fewest since
this event began in 1999 and 40 Americans were in the field
(including Brian Watts and Andrew Magee, whose parents lived out of
the country when they were born).
Australia had 10 players qualify, with Adam Scott (No. 5) the
highest seed. He would face Brendan Jones of Australia in the
opening round. South Africa and England each had six players.
Eighteen countries are represented in the field.
The odd man out is Anthony Kim, who was poised to play Woods
until Els changed his mind and entered.
"It did surprise me," Kim said of Els entering the Match Play.
"But he deserves to go, and I don't. I just have to play better."
Players making their debut in the Match Play Championship
include Holmes, Chopra and Brandt Snedeker, who won the U.S. Public
Links Amateur in 2003.
"I've never played match play as a pro," Chopra said. "I
haven't played it since the India Amateur when I was 17 or 18 years
old. I lost the match on the last hole and said, 'That's it. I'm
turning pro."'
Henrik Stenson, the defending champion, is the 13th seed and
would play Robert Allenby in the first round.
Woods is the only player to have won the Accenture Match Play
Championship twice, in 2003 and 2004. He was beaten last year in
the third round by Nick O'Hern.
Els is a seven-time champion of the World Match Play
Championship in England, which is contested over 36 holes, but he
hasn't fared well in the 18-hole matches of this WGC event. The
only time he came close to winning was 2001 in Australia, when he
lost to Pierre Fulke in the semifinals.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)