Los Angeles: World number one Rory McIlroy and number two Tiger Woods will face familiar foes in the opening round of the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship on Wednesday.
As the top overall seed, Northern Ireland’s McIlroy heads the Bobby Jones quarter of the draw and will face 64th seed Shane Lowry of Ireland while Woods, top seed in the Gary Player quarter, will face fellow American and friend Charles Howell.
Lowry and Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson were outside the top 64 in the world when the field was set last week, but gained entry because Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker opted not to play.
Jacobson improved his seeding with his tie for third in the Northern Trust Open on Sunday and will face South Africa’s reigning British Open champion Ernie Els in the first round.
World number three Luke Donald, who 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 US money titles, heads the Sam Snead quarter and will open against Germany’s Marcel Siem.
South African Louis Oosthuizen is the fourth overall seed and top of the Gary Player quarter and will open against Scotland’s Richie Ramsay.
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 US season debut and will be under extra scrutiny thanks to his switch to equipment manufacturer Nike.
McIlroy lost last year’s final to American Hunter Mahan, who will launch his title defence against Italy’s Matteo Manassero.
Mahan had a disappointing finish at the Northern Trust Open, seizing a share of the final-round lead Sunday before dropping three shots in his last four holes to wind up tied for eighth.
Not surprisingly he wasn’t yet sounding pumped up about his title defence in the first of the year’s elite WGC events.
“I’ll get excited when I get there,” Mahan said, although he loosened up a little when reflecting on the idiosyncracies of match play in general.
“Match play is fickle,” he said. “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.”
Woods won the WGC Match Play event in 2003, 2004 and 2008. He lost to Nick Watney in last year’s second round.