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Woods-Price headlines first round of Match Play
by Associated Press

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) - The field was set Monday afternoon for the Match Play Championship. All that remained in doubt was when it would start.

Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen are the top four seeds in the 64-man field at La Costa Resort. The seedings were determined by the world ranking from a week ago; Ernie Els (No. 3) previously said he would skip this World Golf Championship for the second straight year.

The big concern Monday was the weather.

While the sky above La Costa was surprisingly blue, the golf course was a combination of green grass and brown rainwater that raged across fairways and covered bridges. As always, 75-yard sections in front of the ninth and 18th greens looked like ponds.

Heavy rain was in the forecast for Tuesday, and it might not be until Wednesday before tournament officials can say if the course is suitable for play.

The forecast for the rest of the week is mostly sunny skies, and there should not be any trouble squeezing in five rounds of 18-hole matches, followed by the 36-hole final.

A year ago, Thursday was washed out by rain, leading to 36 holes a day the rest of the week.

Woods will be trying to win his third straight title in the Accenture Match Play Championship. A year ago, he nearly was knocked out in the first round by John Rollins, then had no other serious threats the rest of the way until beating Davis Love III, 3 and 2.

Woods will play three-time major winner Nick Price in the first round.

"With the golf course being wet, it will be even harder for me," Price said. "But in match play, anything can happen. I certainly don't fear those guys. I just know I have to play well. It's a nice situation to be in, because nobody expects me to dust them. But whoever I play, I'm going to have to have my game in shape."

Singh faces Shingo Katayama of Japan, while Mickelson takes on Loren Roberts and Goosen will face Stephen Leaney of Australia.

Twelve of the 27 Americans in the field are in one bracket, headed by Singh. Ryder Cup teammates will square off in two matches, with Love playing Chris Riley and Stewart Cink going against Fred Funk.

This is one of the most fickle tournaments in golf, particularly because the early-round matches are decided over 18 holes. Traditional match play features 36 holes.

"I like this week," said David Toms, who faces Richard Green of Australia in the first round. "I've always enjoyed match play. Sometimes you have to play well to win, and sometimes you can dog it around and still manage to win."

The only concern was the weather.

Toms stood on the practice green at La Costa, looking out over storm water that stretched from the par-3 seventh tee all the way to the green, which is fronted by a pond.

"It's gotten better from what we saw this morning," Toms said.

Then again, a flood-soaked course is a common sight at La Costa. It can look like a small ocean one day, and be relatively back to normal the next.

"It seems like the last four or five years we've gone there, it's been a quagmire," Price said. "That place ... everything drains to La Costa."


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