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Draw for Match Play Championship decided

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland boosted Europe's strength by narrowly slipping into the top 65 in the world ranking Monday and qualifying for the Match Play Championship, where he could meet Tiger Woods in the first round.

The world ranking determines the 64-man field for the World Golf Championship, which begins Feb. 22 at La Costa Resort north of San Diego. Sergio Garcia, No. 6 in the world, has said he will not play.

McDowell gives Europe 18 players in the field, while the United States will have 25 players -- its lowest number since the Accenture Match Play Championship began in 1999. The field will not be set until 5 p.m. on Feb. 20, although the PGA Tour does not anticipate anyone else pulling out.

The top four seeds would be Woods, Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els, who has skipped the tournament the last two years and has never advanced beyond the second round when it has been played at La Costa.

If no one withdraws, defending champion David Toms would face newcomer Lucas Glover in the first round. Other matches involving top seeds would be Singh against Paul Broadhurst of England; Goosen against former Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer; and Els against Charles Howell III.

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman also made the field, and would face Davis Love III in the first round.

Last weekend was the final chance to get into the $7.5 million event, with the biggest move coming from Arron Oberholser. His five-shot victory at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am moved him up 40 spots to No. 41 in the world, scrapping his plans to move into a new house that week in Scottsdale, Ariz.

He would play Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain in the first round.

Ian Poulter of England, who reached the semifinals at La Costa a year ago, tied for sixth at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Australia and moved up eight spots to No. 59 to get into the field. He is scheduled to play Chris DiMarco, the runner-up at the Accenture Match Play Championship last year.

For Craig Parry, timing wasn't everything.

The Australian was holding down the 64th spot in the ranking last week, narrowly ahead of McDowell, and tied for 18th in the Johnnie Walker Classic while McDowell missed the cut at Pebble Beach. But Parry lost points from his victory in the Heineken Classic a year ago, and McDowell was able to pass him.

February 14, 2006


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