LOS ANGELES (AP) – Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods will face some familiar players in the opening round of the Match Play Championship.
McIlroy, the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland, is the No. 1 seed at Dove Mountain north of Tucson, Ariz. He will play Shane Lowry of Ireland, who got in when Phil Mickelson chose not to play. Woods is the No. 2 and will play Charles Howell III, the first time they have squared off in this format since Woods beat Howell in the quarterfinals of the 1996 U.S. Amateur.
Luke Donald, who won the Match Play in 2011, is the No. 3 seed and opens against Marcel Siem of Germany. Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa is the No. 4 seed and will play Richie Ramsay of Scotland.
The tournament begins Wednesday.
McIlroy, who lost in the championship match a year ago to Hunter Mahan, is the No. 1 seed for the first time. 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.
McIlroy and Lowry is not the only all-Irish match on Wednesday.
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.
Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker, No. 4 in the world, have decided not to play this year. Mickelson said his kids have a school holiday, while Snedeker wants to let his sore ribs recover. That meant the top 66 in the world ranking from last week were eligible for the first World Golf Championship of the year. The seeds were not determined until the latest world ranking was published Sunday night.
Europe has 29 players in the field, with the United States having 21 players. The 64-man field is represented by 17 countries.
Howell is among four players who started the year outside the top 100 in the world and still qualified. Of those four, he is the only player who has not won this year. Fredrik Jacobson, the last man in the field, 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.
Mahan, trying to join Woods as the only back-to-back winners of this fickle tournament, opens with Matteo Manassero of Italy.