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Tiger and Ernie Top Seeds for Match Play

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SAN DIEGO -- Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are the top two seeded golfers for the Match Play Championship, which came as no surprise Monday when the world rankings were released.
 
Getting them to finals will be the tricky part.
 
``Anything can happen in match play. We all know that,'' Woods said after winning the Buick Invitational, his first tournament since knee surgery on Dec. 12. ``It's very unpredictable.''
 
Els won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia, his fourth victory in five starts this year. The Accenture Match Play Championship, which starts Feb. 26 at La Costa, will mark the first time Els and Woods have played in the same tournament since the Tour Championship.
 
The top two seeded players have not advanced to the finals since the Match Play Championship began in 1999. Woods, seeded No. 1 every year he has played, has reached the finals only once, losing to Darren Clarke in 2000.
 
Phil Mickelson (No. 3) and Vijay Singh (No. 4) are seeded first in the other two brackets.
 
Woods said he'd love to meet Els in the 36-hole final, if only because ``that means we've won five matches.'' Woods will play Robert Karlsson of Sweden in the first round.
 
Karlsson tied for 15th in the Johnnie Walker Classic to move up one spot to No. 65. That makes him the last seed because Japan's Toru Taniguchi (No. 55) already withdrew from the Match Play Championship with an injury.
 
Ernie ElsLast year, Woods lost in the opening round to Peter O'Malley.
 
Els, who has never played well at La Costa, will play Jay Haas in the first round. The 49-year-old Haas qualified for his World Golf Championship.
 
Mickelson's first-round opponent is defending champion Kevin Sutherland, who is seeded 62nd for the second straight year. Sutherland shocked David Duval in the first round last year and wound up beating childhood friend Scott McCarron in the finals.
 
For the first time since the Match Play Championship began in 1999, there are more international players than Americans ' 35-29.
 
The brackets will not be completed until Feb. 24.
 
Among some of the intriguing first-round matches are Colin Montgomerie against Paul Lawrie, two Scots with one major championship between them. Lawrie won the British Open at Carnoustie three years ago.
 
Montgomerie threatened last year never to return to the United States after complaining that the gallery taunted him. He later changed his mind. If Montgomerie wins, he would play the winner of Scott Verplank and Charles Howell III.
 
Jim Furyk will play Nick Faldo, bringing back memories of their duel at Valderrama in the 1997 Ryder Cup, when Furyk holed two bunker shots to beat him.
 
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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