- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 18, 2014

MARANA, Ariz. (AP) - Third-ranked Henrik Stenson is the top seed in the Match Play Championship with No. 1 Tiger Woods and No. 2 Adam Scott skipping the tournament.

Stenson will open Wednesday against Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat at The Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain. The No. 64 seed has beaten the No. 1 seed four times in the 14-year history of the event, including last year when Shane Lowry edged Rory McIlroy.

“It doesn’t really matter if you’re the No. 1 seed or if you’re No. 50,” Stenson said. “It’s going to be down to how you play and how you can get things working.”

The Swede won the World Golf Championships event in 2007 and was third in 2008, both down the road at The Gallery.

“I had two great years and then we changed courses,” Stenson said. “The record hasn’t quite been the same since. … We’ve been going home Wednesday afternoon every year since. I played poorly, once I was sick, and just haven’t got it going on this golf course.”

Last year, Stenson became the first player to sweep the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and European Tour’s Race to Dubai. Playing through a right wrist injury, he won the Deutsche Bank Championship and Tour Championship in the FedEx Cup playoffs and took the European Tour’s season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai.

“The wrist has been OK,” Stenson said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried that it could be an issue at some point, too, in the season. But it’s been holding up pretty good to this first month of the year and practicing. But I don’t think it’s the last time I hear from it. But as of now, it feels all right.”

He’s making his first U.S. start of the year after playing three European Tour events in the Middle East, the last early this month in Dubai.

“I had two nice weeks in Orlando, seeing the kids, seeing the family, bit of practice,” Stenson said. “Just feeling like we could put the suitcase down and relax for a little bit. So that’s nice. I’m feeling a bit fresher than I did when I came back from Dubai.”

Stenson was the last foreign winner on the PGA Tour. Since his Tour Championship victory, U.S. players have won the first 13 events in the wraparound season.


SUNNY FORECAST: A year after snow covered the cactus-lined High Sonoran Desert course, warm, sunny conditions are expected.

“To have snow the last two or three years, my boys expect it when we come here,” defending champion Matt Kuchar said. “I think they’re still planning on it snowing. I think the rest of us are awfully happy to see proper Tucson weather.”

A high of 79 degrees with wind gusting to 20 mph in the afternoon was forecast for the first round Wednesday. On Thursday, the forecast high is 74 with wind up to 15 mph. On Friday through Sunday, it is expected to be in the upper 70s with light wind.

“I think the ball is going to be flying this year,” 2012 winner Hunter Mahan said. “Should be going pretty far, especially off the last two weeks playing basically at sea level.”

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