Woods makes anticipated return to defend Match Play title

Feb 25, 2009 - 11:20 AM PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Ticker) -- Tiger Woods is back and with him comes the real start to the PGA Tour season.

Woods will face Australian Brendan Jones in the opening round of the Accenture Match Play Championship on Wednesday.

The world No. 1, Woods will be making his return from reconstructive knee surgery at the event which features a 64-player field. It's not at all who Woods is playing that is of interest, but how he will play.

"It's great to be back, Woods said. "It feels great to be back out and get back out here in a competitive environment again, and it feels really good."

Woods is teeing it up competitively for the first time since he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. The tournament's No. 1 overall seed, Woods is joined by Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and Vijay Singh at the top of the draw.

There will likely be some rust in his game, but Woods has not altered his swing at all and appears ready to take the same approach he always has on the course.

"As far as my golf swing, I'm doing the same things I've been trying to do, but now I have a leg I can do it on," Woods said. "I didn't think it would feel this good before the surgery or even just after the surgery because I hadn't known what it's like to feel this way. It's been so long. So to have it feel this healthy and this solid and secure, man, it's a great feeling."

Garcia, seeded second, will face No. 63 Charl Schwartzel, while third-seeded Harrington takes on 62nd-ranked Pat Perez. No. 4 Singh will go head-to-head with 61st-seeded Soren Kjeldsen.

Harrington won the final two majors of the season in 2008, but is not taking anything for granted regarding his match with Perez.

"It doesn't matter who you play in the top 64. They can all play," Harrington said. "If Pat Perez plays good golf tomorrow, he's going to be very, very difficult to beat. Certainly I think in my mind Pat is a tough competitor to go against tomorrow."

Phil Mickelson, who defended his title at this week's Northern Trust Open, is the fifth seed and will take on No. 60 Angel Cabrera.

"We've certainly had tough matches in the past, and he's an incredible player," Mickelson said. "He won the U.S. Open. He hits the ball a long ways, great feel around the greens. I think that's going to be his strength. He's very good with his short game and with the putter."

There will be a total of 32 matches on Wednesday and 16 on Thursday. Friday features eight matches and the quarterfinals and semifinals will both be contested on Saturday.

On Sunday the championship match is scheduled for 36 holes with a consolation match to determine third place on the schedule for 18 holes.

The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain plays at par-72 and 7,466 yards.

First prize at the $8.5 million event is $1.4 million.

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