Janzen Leaps Into Match Play Field

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Lee Janzen, who hasn't brought home the hardware since his second U.S. Open victory in 1998, has used his quick start to the 2002 season to earn a spot in the field for next week's World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, Cal.
 
Coming into this year, Janzen was ranked 106th in the world with just 10 top-10 finishes since capturing the USGA's flagship event by one shot over Payne Stewart nearly four years ago.
 
He missed the cut in his first start of the season last month at the Bob Hope Classic. But the 37-year-old Janzen posted a tie for fourth at the Phoenix Open, a tie for third at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a tie for 11th Sunday at the Buick Invitational to move up to 63rd in the weekly golf rankings.

Janzen, whose first U.S. Open title came by two strokes over Stewart at Baltusrol in 1993, has never made it past the second round in his two match-play appearances.

The top 64 players in the world as of Monday determined the original field for the Match Play Championship, the first World Golf Championships event of 2002, although some tweaking has already been necessary with No. 23 Jose Coceres of Argentina and No. 24 Thomas Bjorn of Denmark withdrawing due to injuries.

That means 11-time PGA Tour winner John Cook, the world's 65th-ranked player, and European Tour veteran Peter O'Malley of Australia, currently No. 66, will get to tee it up when the first-round matches get under way Feb. 20th.

The way the field is set now, O'Malley would draw top-ranked Tiger Woods in the opening round. However, Scotland's Colin Montgomerie, who was forced to pull out of last month's Johnnie Walker Classic after aggravating an old back injury, hasn't committed to the tournament and may not want to jeopardize his health with the Masters on the horizon.

Should Monty opt out and barring any further withdraws, No. 67 Bob May would grab the final seed, setting up a rematch of the 2000 PGA Championship playoff between May and Woods.

Woods hopes to be rested for whomever he has to meet on the first day of the Match Play Championship. The six-time major winner decided to withdraw from this week's Nissan Open in an effort to shake the flu-like symptoms he's battled the last two weeks.

The match play tournament is the only one of the four World Golf Championships events that Woods hasn't won. He has captured all three NEC Invitationals that have been held since 1999, won the American Express Championship in 1999, and joined forces with David Duval to win the EMC2 World Cup for the United States in 2000.

Phil Mickelson, who returned from a five-month hiatus to win the Bob Hope Classic three weeks ago, remained No. 2 in the world rankings and will therefore get the second seed at La Costa.

The next seven players also held their spots from last week. The third-ranked Duval was followed by Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, David Toms, Retief Goosen, Davis Love III and Vijay Singh.

Phoenix Open champion Chris DiMarco moved up one spot to 10th, the highest position of his career. He supplanted Ireland's Padraig Harrington, who slipped to 11th.

Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, a surprising 4 and 3 winner over Woods in the match-play finals two years ago, climbed one spot to 12th in an exchange of places with Canada's Mike Weir this week.

Clarke was seeded 19th when he beat the top-seeded Woods in 2000. Jim Furyk and Germany's Bernhard Langer stayed put in 14th and 15th, respectively, while Scott Verplank rose one place to 16th and Bob Estes three places to 17th. Kenny Perry, Japan's Toshi Izawa and Montgomerie rounded out the top 20.

Estes, a two-time winner in 2001, finished alongside Woods in fifth place at the Buick Invitational. So did South African Rory Sabbatini, who vaulted 11 spots to 61st and will make his first appearance in a WGC event.

Dudley Hart and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez were the only players to drop out of the top 64. Hart fell from 64th to 68th and Jimenez from 63rd to 70th.
 
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