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Tiger uncertain ahead of comeback

UNCERTAINTY has been a recurring theme at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and Tiger Woods is likely to experience that feeling more than most when he defends his title in Arizona this week.

The world No. 1 has been sidelined by injury since his astonishing US Open victory in June and has doubts about his game ahead of his comeback.

Asked by reporters last week whether he had any concerns, Woods replied: "I think it's whether or not my game's sharp. It's one thing to do it in a practice environment at home against some buddies but it's a totally different deal to do it in a PGA Tour event against the best players in the world."

Reconstructive knee surgery meant the 33-year-old American was sidelined for several months.

"I'm curious," said Woods. "Getting out there and competing again and feeling the adrenaline, feeling the rush of competing and playing again ... I haven't done that in a while. Hopefully I can get into the flow of the round very quickly. It helps it is matchplay and each hole is basically an individual match."

Matchplay is more unpredictable than strokeplay but Woods has a significant advantage over his rivals given he has already won the prestigious title three times.

"It pays to get off to a quick start and hopefully that's what I can do," said top seed Woods, who will face Australian world No. 64 Brendan Jones in today's opening round at Dove Mountain's Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Marana. "I'm really looking forward to getting back. Getting out there and competing again."

The vagaries of head-to-head golf are well documented and Woods's record in the elite 64-man event is a prime example.

The 14-time major champion, who was also an outstanding matchplay competitor as an amateur, has reached the final four times. However, he has also experienced early disappointment, losing to Peter O'Malley at the first hurdle in 2002 and to another Australian, Nick O'Hern, in the second round in 2005.

Left-hander O'Hern repeated the feat at Dove Mountain in 2007 when he beat Woods in the third round after 20 holes.

"More crazy stuff happens in matchplay than will ever happen in a strokeplay tournament," said Australian Geoff Ogilvy, winner in 2006. "Crazy stuff happens in the last six holes of a strokeplay event but crazy stuff happens all week in matchplay. You'll see guys chip in to go down to extra holes or you'll see a guy win four holes in a row or hole three 30-footers in a row."

Woods will have to contend with a different course this week as the venue switches from the Gallery Golf Club to the nearby Ritz-Carlton.

Spanish world No. 2 Sergio Garcia, triple major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland and fifth-ranked Fijian Vijay Singh are the top seeds in the other three groups of 16.

Garcia launches his campaign against South African Charl Schwartzel while Singh takes on Dane Soren Kjeldsen.


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