From Brian Keogh in Tucson
Desert fox Padraig Harrington admits that he faces a dynamite duel with matchplay ‘tough guy’ Lee Westwood in Arizona.
The Dubliner must take out his Ryder Cup team mate in the first round of the WGC - Accenture Match Play Championship amongst the cactii of The Gallery Golf Club near Tucson tomorrow.
And he knows that Westwood’s incredible record of just eight defeats from 25 Ryder Cup matches will force him to fight all the way to survive.
Harrington said: “It is a tough opening round without a doubt, given his matchplay record. It is a different atmosphere to the Ryder Cup but he is obviously very good at matchplay and he’ll be difficult.
“Whether I got him or Zach Johnson it was going to be difficult. But all opening rounds are tough and we will just have to give it our best. You can’t expect to get any easy ones.”
Darren Clarke has lost in the first round the last two years and he will have a battle to avoid another early exit against Sergio Garcia, another inspired Ryder Cup performer.
The pair have met just once in matchplay combat but halved their singles in the inaugural Seve Trophy at Sunningdale in 2000, where Continental Europe came out on top by one point.
But their meeting is not the only case of brother against brother with Tiger Woods and Chris DiMarco facing American Ryder Cup rookies JJ Henry and Brett Wetterich respectively.
Westwood certainly knows that he’s in for a fight after watching Harrington open with a 63 in the Nissan Open at Rivera before slumping a disappointing seventh place finish on Sunday.
After leading for the first two days, the Dubliner closed with a two over par 73 to finish six shots outside the play-off for the title that saw Charles Howell beat Phil Mickelson at the third extra hole.
Asked about his chances against Europe’s No 1, Westwood said: "Well, you have to play good players if you want to win this so you might as well get it over and done with in the first round.
“I've no real thoughts or opinion on it really, I just have to play whoever is in front of me and get on with it.
"I've played all right this season. I was okay in Dubai (25th) and just had one bad day and not too bad in Malaysia. I like playing in the desert and I don't think any of us are really used to it.
“The conditions are firm here so it is nice to get away from the bog of La Costa. It was so wet when we played there. The good thing is that no-one has played here. It is like a brand new tournament.
“Padraig has come out strongly and that 63 in LA was a really good round. But it is still early in the season - too early to be making any assumptions or predictions.”
Harrington did not dwell too long on his disappointing weekend in LA, where he made just four birdies compared to the ten he amassed in that amazing opening 63.
He said: “Sunday was a funny day. I didn’t play too badly but the wind was gusting a little bit and a few times I pitched at the flag and went over the green and a few times I came up short. It is just the nature of the day.
“I was happy with how I played and approached the day. These are very much warm up events in the schedule and there were a lot of good positive things to take from the week.
“Just being in contention was a plus - it is always good to be up there in contention. But it is very early season and I am rusty.
“It would be a lot easier if I was in the middle of the field and I wouldn't be quite in the spotlight. But I'll take my chances any time I am up there in contention so I am happier about that.
“But life is easier at the start of the season when you are not in the spotlight. I just wasn't ready for it at this stage of the year - it's that simple.
“At the end of the day, 16 under par was a reasonable total to get to but it wasn't to be. A couple of things didn't go my way and that is the nature of the game.
“I am still very rusty, still not quite there and bedding in a few things. But I will get there so I am happy about that.
“Matchplay makes it harder in this situation. You can play well and still go out in the first round. Let's just wait and see how it goes.”
Both Harrington and Westwood are happy with change from weather-stricken La Costa in California to arid Tucson.
Harrington said: “I didn’t like La Costa, even though I performed well on it. This is a totally different venue though I don’t really know much about it.
“I saw a little bit on the golf channel and it is a long-hitters golf course so we will wait and see how that goes. I like the look of courses in the desert, so that is a good sign.”
Draw (seeded positions in brackets):
(1) Tiger Woods v (64) JJ Henry; (32) Tim Clark v (33) Robert Allenby; (16) Nick O'Hern v (49) Lucas Glover; (17) David Howell v (48) Rory Sabbatini; (8) Luke Donald v (57) Miguel Angel Jimenez; (25) Shingo Katayama v (40) Aaron Baddeley; (9) Henrik Stenson v (56) Zach Johnson; (24) KJ Choi v (41) Carl Pettersson
(4) Phil Mickelson v (61) Richard Green; (29) Michael Campbell v (36) Justin Rose; (13) Sergio Garcia v (52) Darren Clarke; (20) Stuart Appleby v (45) Charles Howell; (5) Ernie Els v (60) Bradley Dredge; (28) Ian Poulter v (37) Bart Bryant; (12) Trevor Immelman v (53) Thomas Bjorn; (21) Chris DiMarco v (44) Brett Wetterich
(2) Jim Furyk v (63) Brett Quigley; (31) Angel Cabrera v (34) Chad Campbell; (15) Davis Love v (50) Ben Crane; (18) David Toms v (47) Arron Oberholser; (7) Vijay Singh v (58) John Rollins; (26) Robert Karlsson v (39) Stephen Ames; (10) Padraig Harrington v (55) Lee Westwood; (23) Stewart Cink v (42) Jeev Milkha Singh
(3) Adam Scott v (62) Shaun Micheel; (30) Yang Yong-eun v (35) Rod Pampling; (14) Paul Casey v (51) Mike Weir; (19) Colin Montgomerie v (46) Johan Edfors; (6) Retief Goosen v (59) Scott Verplank; (27) Joe Durant v (38) Niclas Fasth; (11) Geoff Ogilvy v (54) Steve Stricker; (22) Jose Maria Olazabal v (43) Paul Goydos