World number one Rory McIlroy will play Ireland’s Shane Lowry in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain in Marana, Arizona.
Northern Irishman McIlroy, who clinched his second major title at last year’s PGA Championship by a record eight shots, was beaten 2&1 by Hunter Mahan in last year’s Match Play final.
“Match play is fickle,” said Mahan, trying to join Woods as the only back-to-back winners of this fickle tournament. “You can play great and go home in the first day. It’s really six individual tournaments against world class competition. You have to step on the first tee on the first day and play well.”
Mahan opens with Matteo Manassero of Italy.
McIlroy missed the cut in his only start of the season so far, the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. He’ll be making his American season debut and will be under extra scrutiny thanks to his off-season switch to equipment manufacturer Nike.
McIlroy is also a number one seed for the first time in the tournament. The top seeds have been eliminated in the first round twice in the last three years, with Luke Donald losing a year ago to Ernie Els and Steve Stricker falling to Ross McGowan in 2010.
Irishman Lowry, ranked 65th last week, gained his place at Dove Mountain when Phil Mickelson withdrew. Mickelson has opted for a family holiday over golf.
World number two Tiger Woods, a three-times winner of the elite World Golf Championships event, will meet fellow American Charles Howell III in Wednesday’s opening round. He lost to Nick Watney in last year’s second round. Howell is among four players who started the year outside the top 100 in the world and still qualified.
Third-ranked Briton Donald takes on Germany’s Marcel Siem. Donald won the title in 2011 to launch a stellar year that saw him gain the world number one ranking and win both the European and PGA Tour money titles.
South African Louis Oosthuizen, ranked fifth, faces Britain’s Richie Ramsay and sixth-ranked Englishman Justin Rose launches his campaign against South Korean K.J. Choi.
Fourth-ranked Brandt Snedeker pulled out last week because of sore ribs. His spot in the tournament will be taken by Swede Fredrik Jacobson, who tied for third at the Northern Trust Open on Sunday after bogeying the final hole. He'll meet South African Ernie Els in the opening round.
“I’m just excited to be a part of it,” said Jacobson, who has previously competed in the Match Play Championship in 2004, 2005 and last year. “I’m looking forward to it. I’ll deal with it when I get there.
Jacobson was in line to play McIlroy until he tied for third in the Northern Trust Open. That meant he went from the No. 64 seed to No. 45.
“You never know how much golf you get to play, but I know I’m going to get there and play some golf. It’s always fun. Anything can happen, we know that. It can be a quick exit or you can be there (in the tournament) for a long time.”
Graeme McDowell, who missed the cut at Riviera in his first competition in two months, opens against Padraig Harrington, who also missed the cut in the Northern Trust Open. Harrington has lost in the first round six times, including the last three years.
In another compelling first-round match, Adam Scott of Australia faces Tim Clark of South Africa, both good friends who use a broom-handled putter.
Europe has 29 players in the field, with the United States having 21 players.
Draw for Wednesday’s first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship:
Bobby Jones bracket
Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland) v Shane Lowry (Ireland); Rickie Fowler (USA) v Carl Pettersson (Sweden); Dustin Johnson (USA) v Alexander Noren (Sweden); Graeme McDowell (N. Ireland) v Padraig Harrington (Ireland); Bubba Watson (USA) v Chris Wood (Britain); Jim Furyk (USA) v Ryan Moore (USA); Charl Schwartzel (South Africa) v Russell Henley (USA); Zach Johnson (USA) v Jason Day (Australia)
Gary Player bracket
Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa) v Richie Ramsay (Britain); Branden Grace (South Africa) v Robert Garrigus (USA); Keegan Bradley (USA) v Marcus Fraser (Australia); Ernie Els (South Africa) v Fredrik Jacobson (Sweden); Justin Rose (Britain) v K.J. Choi (South Korea); Bill Haas (USA) v Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium); Sergio Garcia (Spain) v Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand); Matt Kuchar (USA) v Hiroyuki Fujita (Japan)
Ben Hogan bracket
Tiger Woods (USA) v Charles Howell III (USA); Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spain)v Francesco Molinari (Italy); Webb Simpson (USA) v David Lynn (Britain); Peter Hanson (Sweden) v Thomas Bjorn (Denmark) ;Lee Westwood (Britain) v Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spain); Martin Kaymer (German) v George Coetzee (South Africa); Jason Dufner (USA) v Richard Sterne (South Africa); Hunter Mahan (USA) v Matteo Manassero (Italy)
Sam Snead bracket
Luke Donald (Britain) v Marcel Siem (Germany); Paul Lawrie (Britain) v Scott Piercy (USA); Steve Stricker (USA) v Henrik Stenson (Sweden); Nick Watney (USA) v David Toms (USA); Adam Scott (Australia) v Tim Clark (South Africa); Jamie Donaldson (Britain) v Thorbjorn Olesen (Denmark); Ian Poulter (Britain) v Steven Gallacher (Britain); Bo Van Pelt (USA) v John Senden (Australia)
Files from AFP, Associated Press and Reuters were used in this report
THIS WEEK IN GOLF
WGC - ACCENTURE MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
COURSE: Dove Mountain, The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club (7,791 yards, par 72).
PURSE: $8.75 million. Winner’s share: $1.5 million.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Wednesday, noon-6 p.m., 7:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.; Thursday, 1-6 p.m., 6:30-11:30 p.m.; Friday, 12:30-5:30 a.m., 2-6 p.m., 6:30-10:30 p.m.; Saturday, 1:30-5 a.m., noon-2 p.m.; 6:30-10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 p.m.-3 a.m.; 9 a.m.-1 p.m.; 7 p.m.-3 a.m.) and NBC (Saturday-Sunday, 2-6 p.m.).
NOTES: Hunter Mahan won his second WGC title last year, beating Rory McIlroy 2 & 1 in the final. Mahan also beat Zach Johnson, Y.E. Yang, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar and Mark Wilson. ...Tiger Woods, the 2003, 2004 and 2008 winner, is making his third start of the year. He won at Torrey Pines in his lone PGA Tour so far this year. ... The top-ranked McIlroy is making his U.S. debut since switching to Nike golf clubs in the off-season. He missed the cut in his first tournament of the year on the European Tour. ...Phoenix Open winner Phil Mickelson and Pebble Beach champion Brandt Snedeker are skipping the tournament. ...The first-round losers are guaranteed $46,000.
LPGA TOUR - HONDA LPGA THAILAND
COURSE: Siam Country Club, Pattaya Old Course (6,469 yards, par 72).
PURSE: $1.5 million. Winner’s share: $225,000.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Thursday, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2-6 p.m.; Sunday, 1:30-6 p.m.).
NOTES: Top-ranked Yani Tseng successfully defended her title last year, birdieing the final two holes to hold off playing partner Ai Miyazato by a stroke. ...Miyazato, Suzann Pettersen, Juli Inkster, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lincicome are making their first starts of the year. ... Michelle Wie missed the cut in Australia last week with rounds of 74 and 73.
WEB.COM TOUR - PANAMA CLARO CHAMPIONSHIP
COURSE: Panama Golf Club (7,171 yards, par 70).
PURSE: $600,000. Winner’s share: $108,000.
CANADIAN CONTENT: Richard Scott, Roger Sloan,
NOTES: The tournament opens the tour’s 24th season. ...Edward Loar won his first tour title last year, surviving a triple bogey in the final round for a one-stroke victory.
SYMETRA TOUR - VISITMESA.COM GATEWAY CLASSIC
COURSE: Longbow Golf Club (7,003 yards, par 71)
CANADIAN CONTENT: Izzy Beisiegel, Kirby Dreher, Sue Kim, Danielle Mills, Samantha Richdale, Alena Sharp, Nicole Vandermade, Jessica Wallace
NOTES: This year’s Road to the LPGA will begin at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Arizona with the inaugural playing of this tournament. ...The winner of this event will receive an exemption into the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, the first domestic event on the LPGA Tour’s 2013 schedule. ...The top-10 on the season-ending money list will earn fully-exempt status on the LPGA Tour in 2014.
ASIAN TOUR - MYANMAR OPEN
COURSE: Royal Mingalardon Golf and Country Club (7,218 yards, par 72)
CANADIAN CONTENT: Ron Harvey, Jr.(alternate)
NGA PRO GOLF TOUR - KILLEARN COUNTRY CLUB CLASSIC
COURSE: Killearn Country Club (6,998 yards, par 72)
CANADIAN CONTENT: Stuart Anderson, Alexis Anghert, Marc-Etienne Bussieres, Max Gilbert, Mathieu Gingras, Spence Laurie, Louis-Alexandre Pitre, Christopher Ross, Sebastian Szirmak, Riley Wheeldon
eGOLF PROFESSIONAL TOUR - OLDFIELD OPEN
COURSE: Oldfield Country Club (7,142 yards, par 72), Callawassie Island Club (6,561 yards, par 72)
CANADIAN CONTENT: Cam Burke, Robbie Greenwell, MacKenzie Hughes
ALL-AMERICAN PRO GOLF TOUR - EVENT NO. 13
COURSE: Trilogy at Power Ranch (6,932 yards, par 71)
CANADIAN CONTENT: Richard Boychuk, Ryan Desharnais, Kent Eger, Tyler Frank (a), Craig Gibson, Wes Heffernan, Tyler LeBouthillier, Beon Yeong Lee, Tyler Mancini, Keith Martin, Thomas Petts, Cory Renfrew, Steven Shantz, Scott Stiles, Nick Taylor, Darren Wallace, Shayne Yoon (a)
THE LEGENDS TOUR - WALGREENS CHARITY CLASSIC
COURSE: Grandview Golf Course
CANADIAN CONTENT: Dawn Coe-Jones, Gail Graham, Lorie Kane