Els vs Woods showdown
could be next week
There's only one more week to wait.
One more week until Els-Eldrick.
That would be Ernie Els, of course, against Tiger Woods, who seldom goes
by his birth certificate name these days.
Next week's World Golf Championship Accenture Match Play Championship
in Carlsbad, Calif., will be the first tournament of the year with both
Els and Woods in the field.
Clearly, they are golf's two big guns at the moment.
Woods came off a two-month layoff after knee surgery Sunday to win the
Buick Inivitational in San Diego.
Els won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia by 10 shots for his fourth
win in five tries this year -- six of eight going back to last year. He's
an astonishing 100-under par in 2003.
And if the golf gods line up things ideally -- as opposed to the Match
Play's normally upset-filled ways -- perhaps No. 1 Woods will face No.
2 Els in the Sunday final of the event at La Costa, just north of San Diego.
Golf fans waiting for the first head-to-head, stroke-play clash between
Woods and Els will be tuning into the Golf Channel the week of March 6-9
in the Dubai Desert Classic, barring any schedule-altering developments
from the Middle East.
Els is playing Dubai because he's the defending champion. Woods is playing
because his appearance fee is the equivalent of a decent-sized oil well.
The first U.S. stroke-play Woods-Els meeting will be March 20-23 in Orlando,
when Tiger will be trying to win a fourth straight Bay Hill Invitational.
No question, getting Els and Woods on the same property is golf's most
highly anticipated event, at least until Martha Burk and Hootie Johnson
square off at the Masters or Annika Sorenstam tees it up at Colonial.
Living by his nickname, the "Big Easy," Els (who is taking
this weekend off) is downplaying any hype about a meeting with Woods.
"It's not me against Tiger or Tiger against me," Els said in
Australia. "I think it's us against the golf course and trying to
win golf tournaments."
Woods will play today in the Nissan Open near Los Angeles at Riviera
Country Club as a prelude to the Match Play, bringing up an unusual occurrence:
Woods is playing two consecutive tournaments he has yet to win.
Els hasn't played in the mainland U.S. (he won both Hawaii events in
January) since November's Tour Championship in Atlanta.
"I'm just doing what I'm doing," he said. "I'm just trying
to play better golf."
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