Rollins Gets Woods in First Round

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CARLSBAD, Calif. -- In the 16 months since John Rollins won the Canadian Open, he has never been paired with Tiger Woods in any round of a golf tournament.
 
That will change Wednesday in the Match Play Championship.
 
Rollins got into the $7 million World Golf Championship only when three players withdrew. As the last man in the 64-player field, he gets to play Woods, the defending champion, in the first round.
 
'I just want to play well and at least give him a good match,' Rollins said, already sounding like his week at La Costa won't last long.
 
Then again, all bets are off this week.

No other format in golf is more fickle than the Accenture Match Play Championship.
 
Woods is the defending champion, and the only top-10 seed to win the tournament. Three previous winners - Jeff Maggert, Steve Stricker and Kevin Sutherland - didn't even qualify.
 
'Getting through the first round is the hardest thing,' Nick Price said. 'We've seen great players get knocked out in the first round.'
 
Woods was one of them two years ago, losing to 64th-seeded Peter O'Malley of Australia.
 
Rollins figures to be the most wide-eyed.
 
He hasn't played well this year, missing his last three cuts. The last time he played this format was the 1997 U.S. Amateur at Cog Hill, where he lost to eventual winner Matt Kuchar in the round of 16.
 
And while his victory in the Canadian Open put him in pool of PGA Tour winners when first-round pairings are made at regular events, he has never played with Woods.
 
'I'd have to guess this match will be on TV,' said Rollins, who has never had a lot of television exposure. 'You've got to get an opportunity sometime. It's better in a head-to-head match than in stroke play.'
 
Therein lies the beauty of the week.
 
There are no sure bets. Someone could shoot 65, a round good enough to win any other match at La Costa, and go home if the guy he's playing shoots 64.
 
That's why dozens of players on the range weren't sure whom they were playing, nor did they care.
 
'You've just got to play good and make a lot of birdies,' said British Open champion Ben Curtis, who plays Charles Howell III. 'Match play at this level ... there are no secrets. You can't outthink or outstrategize your opponent. You've just got to play better than him.'
 
The field is missing two players ranked in the top 10.
 
Ernie Els withdrew last week because he wanted to spend time with his family in London before his 4-year-old daughter goes to school for the first time.
 
U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk has an injured left wrist.
 
The other player to withdraw was Kirk Triplett, who's going to his best friend's wedding in Hawaii.
 
Vijay Singh is the No. 2 seed and will play Japan's Shingo Katayama. Davis Love III (No. 3) faces Briny Baird, while Masters champion Mike Weir, coming off a victory in the Nissan Open, takes on former PGA champion Rich Beem.
 
The most intriguing match in the first round Wednesday is Phil Mickelson (No. 6) against Lee Westwood of England, particularly in a Ryder Cup year with Lefty playing before a hometown crowd.
 
Mickelson was among those on the range Monday, a rare sight. He usually practices away from the course, but he was grinding with coach Rick Smith at his side.
 
Some believe the Match Play Championship is easier to win than a stroke-play event, since players only have to beat six other guys - one at a time - instead of 70-plus players over four days.
 
Price says while some of the previous winners weren't among the highest-ranked seeds - Maggert (No. 24), Stricker (No. 55) and Sutherland (No. 62) - it was no fluke who won those tournaments.
 
'Six matches is hard,' Price said. 'If there's any chink in your armor, it's going to come out in six rounds. When you get to the third and fourth rounds, you're playing guys who are on their game.'
 
Rollins will be trying to get through the first match.
 
And as anyone can tell him, it doesn't get any easier after that.
 
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