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)
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