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“It’s basically who can make the most putts and make the most birdies,” he said. “So we’ll take it from there.”

U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy makes his PGA Tour debut this year by taking on George Coetzee, who is playing for the first time ever in America as a pro. Coetzee got in when Casey’s shoulder injury from snowboarding was not fully healed.

Lee Westwood is the No. 3 seed and will play Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium. Martin Kaymer, who lost in the championship match to Donald a year ago, is the No. 4 seed and opens with Greg Chalmers of Australia.

Match Play is loaded with examples of those who play good rounds and lose to someone who made one more birdie, and guys who can’t break par who are lucky enough to play someone even worse.

Only twice has the No. 1 seed lost in the first round _ Woods in 2002 and Steve Stricker in 2010.

Stricker, the fifth seed who opens against Kevin Na, is coming off a five-week break designed to keep his head fresh and build up strength in his left arm, a product of a neck injury.

No one knows how long they will stay. The smart players don’t even bother looking ahead in the bracket to see whom they might face in the next round. Ben Crane opens with Bubba Watson, interesting in that their caddies are sharing a room this week. One of them will be checking out Wednesday afternoon.

“If you get on a roll and you play well, you can run the tables here,” said Stricker, who did just that in 2001 as the No. 55 seed.

“I don’t think it really matters where you come from, to tell you the truth,” he said. “They’re all good players. There are 64 good players here, and they deserve to be here. They’ve shown that they’ve played well over the last year to be within that top 64. So you need to play well, just because everybody is good.”

Woods is a three-time winner of the Match Play Championship, yet this is the first time he has not been among the top four seeds. He shared the lead at Abu Dhabi going into the final round and tied for third, and he was in the penultimate group at Pebble Beach, four shots out of the lead, when he played with Mickelson and shot 75.

He is hitting the ball well. There are times when he is putting well. He is not yet winning.

As for the “beatable” comment? Woods said such things used to motivate him “quite a bit” when he was younger.

“But as I’ve matured and gone beyond that, it’s just an opinion,” the 36-year-old Woods said. “What matters is how I go out and play, and how I’m progressing in my game. At the end of the day when I’m retired, I think I’ll have mastered a pretty good record.”

Fernandez-Castano _ known as “Gonzo” by the European press _ won the Singapore Open last year for his fifth European Tour victory. This is his first appearance in the Match Play Championship.

Even though Woods no longer is not top of the world, the Fernandez-Castano is approaching it the same way so many others have before, that he has nothing to lose.

Story Continues →